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Eyewitness Testimony: Norah Bagarinka


When we reached the roadblock, I found that the guy who was my gardener was the head in the roadblock and what they're telling that, “Tutsi here, Hutu here. If you know you are Tutsi, this side. If you know you are Hutu, this side.”

But then I started to ask myself, "What do I count myself? Do I go to my husband's side since I'm married to a Hutu? Maybe I had the right to stay on his side." But then immediately someone, one of the local people on the roadblock, came and pulled me, said, "Hey! You don't belong to that side if you're married to him — just here." So I was pulled to that side and they started up with a machete coming towards me. What I did, I raised up my hand and I said "Please, please don't kill me."

As I was putting my hands up, my gardener came, I can't remember whether this was a slasher or — it was something sharp because it cut my hand. And I fell down, and blood started shooting up, so my mother was trying to pull me up. They said — they hit her hard, she fell down, also, and the gardener came and said, "Okay, please," he pulled me up, said, "Leave her alone. I'm the one going to kill her because she was — I was digging for her and she was a very bad boss to me. She never paid me well. She never gave me food." In my mind, I thought I was going to be killed by him. He took us, like, my mother and other three ladies and took us aside on the other bush.

When we reached there, he got some leaves and bandaged my hand, and he told us, "Run! Run for your safety." And he apologized. He said, "Please, forgive me. This was the only way I could spare your lives.”

Norah Bagarinka, Survivor, Rwanda

Norah Bagarinka, a Tutsi, was targeted during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. She survived, as many Tutsi did, by running and hiding for more than 100 days.

At one point during her ordeal, she was stopped at a roadblock where militiamen—including a man she recognized as her former gardener—separated the civilians.

Her gardener announced that he would kill her, then forced Bagarinka and several other women behind some trees. Once out of view of the roadblock, he explained that this was the only way he could spare their lives. "Run!" he told them.

Bagarinka managed to stay hidden until the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a Tutsi-led rebel group, defeated the perpetrators of the genocide.

In 2005, she moved to the United States, where she counsels victims of domestic abuse.