Rwanda Genocide Survivors Share Memories with US Students

    23 April, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

    During 3 months in 1994, 800,000 Rwandans were killed in attacks led by ethnic Hutu militias. Most of the victims were ethnic Tutsis. Many organizations around the world are observing the 20th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide.

    One of these groups is Shoah Foundation Student Association at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. It invited survivors to share their memories of the horrific event.

    Rwanda Genocide Survivors Share Memories with US Students
    Ethnic groups of Rwanda in 1994.

    Yannick Tona has been traveling the world to talk about the genocide. He spoke about his experiences to a crowed of students at USC. He told them what happened in his country, and what happened to his own family. 

    "I remember the first time I saw the killing. The first time I saw people been killed. The first time I saw bodies," said Tona.

    He was only four years old at the time. He said he hid in bushes and heard screaming. He said he saw big bloody knives and bodies on the street everywhere. Mr Tona's one-year-old brother and his grandmother were killed.

    Rwandan Edith Umugiraneza said she struggled with the guilt, she fought for surviving when her mother, brothers and many other relatives did not.

    "Because I was blaming, 'Why did I survive why I did not go with others?' I had the question, 'Why, why?' all the time," said Umugiraneza.

    Ms Umugiraneza now lives in the United States. She said prayer and sharing stories with other survivors has helped her to heal.

    "It happened and we can not bring back our people so we have to move on and we have to help each other," she said.

    Her story is a part of the video records at the Foundation's Institute for Visual History and Education. The Institute has been collecting stories of genocide survivors from several countries. It hopes to gather 500 stories for Rwanda. It has collected 65 so far.

    The Institute is also involved with Kwibuka20, a series of events to observe the 20th anniversary. Stephen Smith leads the group.

    "People all around the world are coming together as a world community to reflect on what happened, but also to leave their voice and to make their point of view very clear about genocide in the world today what we can do about that how we can be involved," said Smith.

    University student Gregory Irwin says he has wanted to do something about genocide, even since he visited Rwanda. He met survivors there and heard their stories.

    "I have been more driven to do something about genocide than ever," said Irwin.

    Student Nora Snyder also visited Rwanda.

    "Things like what happened in Rwanda are still going on in the world today and things will continue to happen unless we take the time to remember," said Snyder.

    And that's the Education Report from VOA Learning English. For more stories and video reports about education and other subjects, go to our website You can send us comments on the story. Our email address is I'm Jerilyn Watson.