Surviving Genocide: Emmanuel’s Story

At Lahash, we are privileged to partner with courageous African leaders and the local ministries they have established to serve the vulnerable within their own communities. They inspire us to love more deeply and to continue following Jesus in caring for the orphaned and oppressed. We want you to meet Emmanuel Sitaki, the founder of our ministry partner Rebuilding Rwanda. Here he shares the story of how God saved his life during the Rwandan genocide.

My name is Emmanuel Sitaki Kayinamura and I am a Rwandan.

I was born in Ngoma-Butare in Rwanda, Central East Africa. I was raised in a Roman Catholic family in a country that has been historically divided. In 1982, I received the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and became a true Christian. Often times I was beaten and often kicked out of the house. Ultimately, those circumstances helped me grow spiritually and mentally.

In 1982, I had to pursue high school studies in a different African country, Congo Kinshasa, because of the Tutsi tribe I was from. Rwanda had established laws prohibiting minority children (from the Tutsi tribe) from pursuing further educational studies. I finished high school and went on to obtain a B.S. degree in Computer Management at the University of Kinshasa’s Institute of Statistics in 1992.

While studying for a graduate degree, I decided to take a trip home to visit my family. This was in early 1994. As soon as I re-entered my country, I immediately sensed a hostile situation. I was totally unaware of the growing situation on the ground in Rwanda and I quickly realized my life was in danger.

My brother, who was working with the UN at the time, explained what was going on and urged me to leave immediately. He was able to make arrangements for me to get a French UN staff to escort me to the airport. Along the way to the airport, I saw thousands of men, women, and children gathering at a local stadium. I asked the driver if he knew what was going on and he told me his orders were to take me to the airport, not to answer questions. I later discovered that those people were ushered to the stadium to be slaughtered.

Upon arriving at the airport, I was nervous. I was leaving my family and escaping a massacre. I was a Tutsi and I knew I would have to present some sort of identification. At that time in Rwanda, your identification card states what tribe you belong to: Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa. “Your ID card?” asked the officer. I reach in my shirt pocket, and my thumb pulls out my Congo student ID card. “You are not Tutsi, you are Congolese, go!” Before I could explain or show him my real ID card that says I am Tutsi, he shuffles me along. I walk away in a panic and board a plane. As I take my seat and gather my thoughts, I realize I am the only passenger escaping certain death. The flight attendant tells the pilot there is just “one man” and we depart.

In a 100-day period beginning in April 1994, over one million people (children, women and men) were killed during the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. I lost 35 of my close relatives during the genocide. By God’s grace, my mother and I were protected. I found out that during the genocide my relatives had been buried alive in a mass grave, so I had to make arrangements to have them reburied officially. God has given me a forgiving heart.

I have forgiven those who killed my relatives. I am an evangelist preaching the good news of salvation and repentance. I am a Rwandan, and I survived the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi tribe.

Click the link to learn more about Emmanuel’s ministry Rebuilding Rwanda and meet the kids in need of sponsorship.