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  • Have I Told You Enough How Much I Love You?
  • Benjamin Abtan (bio)

My dear Immaculée, my dear daughter, have I told you enough how much I love you? Now with the life draining out of me, I fear I'll leave you alone again, like when they took me away from you.

Yes, I know, the government does not want us to tell the story of what really happened here in Rwanda in 1994, but in a little while I will be no more than a memory, and a daughter needs to know the truth about her mother.

I know what the neighbors secretly say about me among themselves, what they call us, how they sneer at us. Their polite and proud greetings on the main road do not trick me. I know that if it were only for them, I would still be in jail. Fortunately, Jesus has listened to me, and the judge has not acted in the way they expected.

I look at you and your beauty strikes me. I am so sorry that I could not be at your side all those years when you needed me, and I needed you too. In spite of them pulling us apart, everyone says that we look alike. This is a great consolation to me. You look as I looked back then.

Don't say this, you should be proud. Don't believe what they say about me; the truth is I have saved your life.

Yes, he may have done bad things to you, as all of them did. In the final period before it happened, when he came back from the cabaret late at night, a strange light was in his eyes. Sweat came over my body. Of course, I did not tell him anything, but I spoke with the other women in the fields, and we could recognize what the radio was warning us about. I feared greatly, for you and for me.

Feared what? I understand that they are now trying to hide what they were preparing at the time. The radio is not here anymore to give information to the population. I know I should not tell you this, but I have nothing to lose now: look what they are doing in Congo. Here, even if we are weak, we are still too numerous for them to do it publicly.

You don't need to believe me, but you need to listen to me. You will [End Page 31] understand later. After all, I am your mother, and I saved your life.

Because I did not do what the interahamwe [the young fighters] wanted me to, at least regarding you. Of course, when they came to ask me to go along and work with them, I had to do it. I was young too, and I was also a worker. Even if I was not part of them (it was only for men), we were all proud of them, and we counted on them to protect us. I must say, as I told the judge, that if I had not followed them, there were rumors which said that they could punish us by seizing our land. We needed this land, to grow sweet potatoes and beans. If we had lost it, we would have become even poorer.

Well, so I just followed them, yes, not knowing what they would do, although we were all aware of what we had to face. I listened to the radio, I spoke with the women, death could come close to us. To avoid infiltration of spies, they had built barriers. I was asked to help them, simply by inspecting the papers. They were tired, they worked a lot, and I thought of our land, and of you. I accepted.

Yes, of course, some mistakes were made. Who makes no mistake? I remember Jean-Pierre, for example. He was the youngest son of the former burgermeister, at the time of my parents. I think he was not one of them, but he had tried to force through the barrier, or to help his cousin—a tall man said to be dangerous—go through...


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pp. 31-36
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