The poem below was written on the occasion of the 26th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
Inspired by Historical events, the story in this poem is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
© 2020 A. Happy Umwagarwa
All Rights Reserved.
Do You Remember Them?
Do you remember my brother?
You used to play with him in our backyard
Today he plays with angels in his graveyard
He was a Tutsi and the sentence was death
That genocide we remember as a megadeath
Lucky you, you were not among the hunted.
Do you remember my sister?
You sat with her on the same school bench
Recall her funny attempts to speak French
Little did she know her life was to be brief
She was murdered by the men who raped her
Lucky you, you were just an innocent girl.
Do you remember my father?
He used to share beer with your father
Their Intore cigarettes meant being together
But one day your father chose to be in a corner
Watching my dad being slaughtered by the other
Lucky you, your father is a politician in exile.
Do you remember my mother?
Like yours, she was a teacher at our school
You used to say she always spoke so cool
When she was being slaughtered by those so cruel
Your mother only saved the jewel from her neck
Lucky you, your mother is now a peace activist.
I did not forget who you are,
We played ikibariko and other games of mystery
A childhood friend I lost because of our history
Even though I sometimes judge your sophistry
Never shall I doubt the truth of your own story
But, please let’s talk about my story today,
I did not forget your brother,
He used to listen to French songs with my brother
Before my brother joined the armed patriots
And your brother joined the militia compatriots
When I learnt about your brother’s death I was sorry
My brother is now called an army casualty.
I did not forget your father,
A man in a suit and a tie with big eyeglasses
I can only imagine his discomfort with the masses
In refugee camps with neither food nor houses
I’m sorry he is traumatized by the experience
My father was tortured before he was killed.
I did not forget your mother,
Her hair style with a chignon without lines
Elegance of the elites’ wives of those times
Maybe she committed only petty crimes
And she should not be judged as a murderer
My mother was innocent but murdered.
I’m a poet, not a judge
All I do is telling stories and reciting poetry
The genocide we commemorate every year
The memories we keep every second of our lives
The society of broken hearts and puzzled minds.
You and I, are products of this history.
Yes, I know you also have a story to tell,
A story of how your relatives lost their lives
I believe I need to also listen to your story
But today, I have a question for you to answer
Do your remember my siblings and parents?
Please, tell me you remember them.
Today, it’s 7 April again,
All signposts read ‘Kwibuka’, Remember,
Please, let’s remember our compatriots
Those innocents killed by their own neighbors
Their sin was a name they never signed for
Yes, I’m sure you can remember.
Let the politicians make their speeches,
Let the scholars present their research findings
But nothing shall ever explain that tragedy
When millions of ours killed millions of ours
Please join me in the remembrance
Both of us say Never again to Genocide
My name is Umwagarwa