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Burundi

Kurubusangw Gaspard, 64

Rwandan refugee from Butare, now living in Burundi.

I began driving for prime minister Agata [Uwilingiyimana] in 1993. It was a good job, I would drive her to her home and to RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front] meetings. When President Habyariman was killed the presidential guard came to kill her. I was sad when I heard she was dead, there was nothing but sadness at that time.

When the genocide started no one was allowed to leave their house. This was so they could find Tutsis in their homes – they knew where they lived. I didn’t leave the house, I was staying with relatives at the time. As soon as I could I went back to my home in Butare. On the road there were many checkpoints, they were looking for Tutsis. In Butare I stayed with my family during May and June, but then the RPF came and started shooting people. I left for Gikongoro with my family on the third or fourth of July because it was protected by French soldiers. I spent one month in Gikongoro and then went back to Butare, which is when I was arrested.

The RPF had told us no Hutus should fear going back home. Those who have nothing to be accused of should have no fear of going back. As I had nothing to do with the genocide I wasn’t afraid of going home and meeting the RPF. When I arrived back in Butare we were told to go and register at the local government office. The only thing they asked was whether you were Hutu, and if you were they took you away. I was put in jail for nine years.

When the soldiers arrested me they had no case. I wasn’t the only one, there were many of us. I spent the next nine years asking why I was in jail but I was never given a reason. It was only a few months before my release that I was told I was accused of participating in the genocide. I would have remained in prison if it wasn’t for my wife asking the authorities to resolve my case. They eventually heard my case in court and as they couldn’t find any witnesses I was released without being charged. When I got out I looked for a job but it wasn’t easy because everywhere I went I was accused of being Interahamwe (Hutu militia). A friend gave me a loan to start a small shop but it was sabotaged. Then I switched to raising some livestock and planting a few crops to feed them, but they were destroyed. I saw people coming to search for me, luckily they didn’t know what I looked like. I felt that these people could kill me so I decided I had to flee.

I fled to Burundi in July 2009. Whenever my wife has something to spare she sends it to me. I was selling cigarettes and fruit but I got arrested by the secret police and spent 12 days in prison. They were going to send me back to Rwanda but someone from ONPRA (National Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless) found me and took me to this centre. I am waiting to be brought to a refugee camp. There is no real life here but instead of going home and being killed, I prefer to come here and die on another day.