'I lost my husband, siblings and mother' - Cork-based woman who survived Rwandan genocide pays tribute on 25th anniversary
A WOMAN living in Cork who survived the Rwandan genocide has paid tribute to Irish people on the 25th anniversary of the 1994 event.
Chantal Mutesi (51) moved to Ireland with her baby after the horrific genocide that claimed the lives of over 800,000 people.
She survived alongside her three-week old baby, who has grown up in Cork and who will go to her homeland for the first time next month at the age of 25.
Ms Mutesi said she was "deeply touched" by the support of the Irish people when she first moved here.
"I was twenty-six when it happened. I was there. I lived through it. I survived it with a baby who was only three weeks old when it started. Memories don't fade despite people saying time is a healer. It's not really it just you learn how to cope," she said at a special commemoration with aid agency Bóthar today.
“Memories are still fresh. Seeing the next morning was a bonus. I lost my husband, brothers and my sister. My mom. My grandmother. And my cousins my aunties my best friends and my you know. The whole life was changed overnight.
"Commemorating, remembering our loved ones today and the same time acknowledging what’s happening; the courage, the faith and the progress we've made, I couldn't be prouder."
Fellow Rwandan Edwige Roussard said the commemoration, held near Bóthar's headquarters in Limerick, meant a lot to those who lived through it.
"I left Rwanda when I was five but it's my home country. And I have family there and I also lost some members of my family.
"I'm really glad to see how the Irish and Limerick people are dedicated to remember what happened in Rwanda.”
The pair were joined by Mayor of the City and Council of Limerick James Collins at O'Brien Park to plant a birch tree, known as a symbol of hope and new beginnings.
The 100 days of slaughter began on April 6, 1994, after President Juvenal Habyarimana and his counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi - both Hutus - were killed when their plane was shot down over the Rwandan capital.
Niamh Mulqueen, Bóthar Chief Operating Officer said that despite the agencies 20 plus years of work in Rwandan,the genocide still shows "how cruel life can be".
"When we hear the stories that we've heard today it can actually stop in your tracks," she said.
"However, I think an important message to take away from today is to show the positivity that is in Rwanda now 25 years later, the hope that they have. The resilience that they have. I think the whole world could learn from them."