Genocide survivor gives lesson of forgiveness
YACINE SIMPORÉ Special to the AmNews | 10/19/2011, 11:59 p.m.
Some testimony can change anyone's perception of life. Marie-Claudine Mukamabano was born and raised in Kigali, Rwanda, and survived the genocide there when she was barely 14. She lost everyone and everything she had in the senseless massacre.
"My grandparents, my father, my uncle and his children were killed. My auntie was killed with her children. My sister was killed after being raped and cut with a machete. My mother was the last killed with me at the refugee camp. I survived, but I was more than devastated."
She said that at the time, she wanted to be far away from everybody she knew. "Both Hutus and Tutsis-I hated everyone for a while and wanted to go very far from the place. They took my mother, the last person that I had."
Her hometown of Kigali was ravaged; Mukamabano said she remembers jumping over bodies to get from one place to another.
After the disaster ended, she said she asked herself whether to seek revenge or forgive the perpetrators for what had happened to her. She chose to forgive.
"To forgive is not to sympathize with someone who did wrong, it's about moving ahead in your life," she said.
After a dark period, Mukamabano decided to dry her tears and move forward.
"I didn't have anybody, but I wanted to be somebody," she said. There was no time for complaining or feeling defeated-she decided to go back to school and asked relatives to help pay her tuition fees.
Mukamabano credits her mother for the education she had at a young age, which helped her overcome the dramatic moments in her life.
"My mother did a wonderful job," she told the AmNews. "Since I was 5 years old, she instilled me all the values that I would need in my life." In Kigali, she studied the basics as well as activities such as music, dance and acting in order to gain confidence in herself.
"For all the trust my mother had in me, I hadn't the right to be miserable. I decided to make her proud of me. This was and still is my challenge."
After pursuing a master's degree in business, Mukamabano opened a wedding planning firm in Kigali, which had a lot of success.
"People were surprised each time I said that I was only 22 years old. I was leading this successful company that was also well-known in neighborhood countries," she said.
Even though she was just in her 20s, she didn't take her success for granted and felt she still had many dreams to fulfill.
"My dream was to come to America. I wanted to act, and I thought that all American citizen were actors, so for me I would have became one as soon as I landed at the airport," she said, with her bright eyes shining.
Her dream soon became true, when Mukamabano won a scholarship to come to the United States as a stage designer, dancer, singer and actor. Her scholarship application had been chosen from among 600 others worldwide.