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The killing fields of Africa; ++ HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY ++ They were all out to get us, they were so determined to have us killed.

Byline: By Cara Simpson

APPOLINAIRE Kageruka now lives in Coventry.

But he remembers all too vividly how he took cover in bushes and banana plantations to escape the people who wanted to kill him during the genocide in Rwanda.

He lost his entire family in the atrocity and admits it is still a daily struggle for him to come to terms with the loss which he still feels so deeply.

It was only by the power of God that he survived, he says.

The 42-year-old, of Grafton Street, Lower Stoke, will speak at the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at the Belgrade Theatre tomorrow. He was able to leave the country of his birth for Britain five years ago, after his mother, father, older brother and younger sister died - all victims of the genocide in 1994.

They were among an estimated 800,000 Tutsi minorities killed in the space of 100 days by the Hutus, an ethnic group who make up the majority of the Rwandan population.

"They would come at us with guns, machetes and spears we used to kill cattle with," he said. "Anything they could use to kill us with they would, and that includes women and children.

"They were all out to get us, they were so determined to have us killed."

At the age of 27, when the genocide was over, Appolinaire went on a heart-breaking search for the bodies of his dead relatives.

His mother Mary and father Bernard were found dead near their local church, where they probably knelt in prayer for safety while the killing spree took place. Appolinaire's brother Peter, who was 28, was found dead in his house. His sister Lethia died aged 25, but her body was never found.

Of six Tutsi primary school teachers at the local school where he taught, Appolinaire was the only one to survive the horrendous events. It was thanks to the generosity of a Hutu friend, who offered him a room and promised never to tell where he was, that Appolinaire was able to escape the initial efforts of Hutu civilians who wanted to see every Tutsi killed.

From April to June while the genocide took place, he went in hiding in the homes of loyal Hutu friends.

When he no longer felt safe living in secret and sensed enemy Hutus closing in, he took cover in bushes and banana plantations.

"It was a very sad time," he said. "In a way I can't even begin to describe.

"I couldn't go out the house without being fearful for my life because I knew people would try to kill me.

"I lived in fear of friends betraying my trust and telling the Hutus where I was, of being found and killed."

After months of bloodshed, the Rwandan government collapsed, a ceasefire was declared and the Tutsi who fled to neighbouring countries were invited back to Rwanda to live. That was when efforts began to identify the dead.

Appolinaire, a warehouse worker, said: "I foundmy parents in a large communal grave near the church where 600 people were buried, tossed into a big ditch like they were animals. We searched through the bodies to find anything we could to identify them. I found my mum because of the shoes she was wearing and my dad by his watch.

"Even though the genocide happened in 1994, bodies are still being found and funerals for the victims are being held even to this day." In 2003 he came to Britain when he felt the Rwandan political situation was becoming uneasy and he feared a repeat of the genocide that butchered his family.

He feels lucky to be alive when all those close to him had died, including a large extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins.

Appolinaire said: "Even though I have a life here in Britain where I'm safe, I find it very difficult to forget, I can't forget and I won't forget all my relatives, my mother, father, brother and sister, my friends and neighbours. They were all innocent victims of bad politics.

"I only survived by luck and the power of God, not any intelligence on my part."

Appolinaire is chairman of the West Midlands Rwandan Community Association and felt able to move on with life when he married his wife Kananga, 36, in 1999.

He also finds strength in their daughter Brenda, aged nine, and son Brandon, six, but admits at times he finds it a struggle when he remembers all those he has lost.

stand upto hatred

Coventry is at the centre of this year's national Holocaust Memorial Day events which are remembering the victims of recent genocides as well as the millions killed by the Nazis.


SOLE SURVIVOR... Appolinaire Kageruka lost his entrire family to murderous gangs during the horrific scenes in Rwanda in 1994.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jan 24, 2009
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