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January 20, 2023

Thanks to Haguruka, I found my voice after years of deep trauma’- a survivor’s story

James Rutaburingoga was 11 years old when the Genocide against Tutsi happened. He was born to a Tutsi father and a Hutu mother, and was the first born of six children.

With his own eyes Rutaburingoga witnessed his mother’s family take part in killing Tutsis. His uncles to be specific, killed his father and relatives.

As children who belonged to parents from different ethnics, they were considered Tutsi because they took after the father’s side.  As such, Rutaburingoga and his siblings had to run for their lives if they were to survive.

As all Tutsis during that hectic period, they fought to survive, hiding and running away from perpetrators day and night.

Fortunately, Rutaburingoga and all his siblings survived and reunited with their mother when the genocide ended.

However, due to the horrifying incidents he had witnessed as a child, Rutaburingoga lost his voice, he could no longer speak.

He said: “I hated the sound of my voice. I could not speak; I could not cry even though my heart was shattered.”

Yet amidst all that emotional turmoil, survival as a family was very hard. His family’s property had been confiscated by a prominent military person. They hardly got food, and all basic needs and this worsened his pain.

When he joined school again, he could not focus due to the trauma. The head teacher of the school learned about his issue and took him to Haguruka.

At Haguruka, Rutaburingoga received counselling that lasted for a long period of time. There he learnt how to speak again, to cry and to express his emotions. That’s when his healing journey began.

More so, Haguruka referred him to Genocide Survivors Assistance Fund (FARG), an organisation that supports genocide survivors and it supported him with his education. Furthermore, Haguruka conducted a mediation session with the military person who had taken their family’s property and accepted to give Rutaburingoga an equivalent in cash.

He then bought pieces of land, built a home for his mother and himself and used the rest to support himself and his siblings through school.

In 2017, he graduated with a Bachelors in Accounting. He is now a coordinator for youth volunteers in Eastern province and openly shares his testimony.

“If it had not been for Haguruka, I don’t think I would be where I am today. Thanks to Haguruka, I found my voice, learned to love myself, and gave myself and my family a better life,” he said.

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