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Reform Magazine | November 29, 2023

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I am… a Rwandan refugee

I am… a Rwandan refugee

Alphonsine Kabagabo tells of her escape from Rwanda

When we learnt about the death of the Rwandan President, Juvénal Habyarimana, on 7 April 1994, we knew that it was over for every Tutsi person in Rwanda. On that day, I was with my six-month-old daughter and other family members. We decided to gather in a small house in the garden of my parents’ house hoping the militia would not find us.

But a few hours later, some soldiers came to our house. They said, ‘We are going to kill you.’ My dad gave them whatever he could find and they left. Two hours later they came back. My dad begged them, ‘Please don’t kill my children!’ He gave them the rest of his money and asked one of them to take us to the church. He could have killed us, but instead he took us to the church.

There were so many people there – some injured, others dying. We were all so scared. I was the teacher at the school next door, so I knew of a small house where some other teachers lived nearby. We went to hide in this house with a few of my colleagues.

An hour after we had left, the militia came to kill the people in the church. My mum, dad, nephew and niece were there, so we thought, ‘That’s it, they are dead.’ But during the night the priest brought my dad and my nephew to the house. We could not believe it! But my mum and my niece, Yvette, were not with them, and we cried because we were sure that they must have been killed.

A week later, the priest called my dad and told him that someone was looking for him. We thought we were going to be killed but then we left our hiding place for the first time in seven days and we saw my Belgian brother-in-law, Guy, standing there! It was like seeing God himself appearing!..

Alphonsine Kabagabo is the Director of Women for Refugee Women. This article first appeared on


This is an extract from an article published in the November 2021 edition of Reform

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