Book Talk: How I Survived the Genocide Against the Tutsi: My Long Journey to German Darkness and Bac
A hasty flight from a nation tearing itself apart, and the years after spent away from home, in a strange land with its own share of challenges, all in all, an ordeal, a trial to survive. This is Rwandan ethnic cleansing-survivor Thomas Mazimpaka’s story, “How I Survived the Genocide Against the Tutsi: My Long Journey to German Darkness and Back.”
With this testimony, readers see the fate of a young man who escapes certain death in the Rwandan genocide and fortunately makes it to Europe, only to be caught in a legal-political system for almost 8 years. His refugee status is akin to being a prisoner, putting him in purgatory, away from his home that has been wracked by ethnic cleansing, yet unwanted in the land he now resides in.
Across this ordeal, readers will see the terrible conditions the Tutsis lived in for decades, whether they fled Rwanda in the late 1950s or remained in the country. Mazimpaka paints a portrait of massive persecution at home and abroad, of overwhelming anxiety and fear of being butchered, and then in the author's case a desperate flight to Germany, only to be bogged down in bureaucracy, racism, and isolation. The life of asylum seekers isn't easy, as the daily fight for survival ensues, a different crisis from avoiding genocide, with its own kind of drudgery. Mazimpaka struggles to avoid abandoning himself and takes solace in the goodwill of some Germans who help him from sinking into depression.
In the end, we see Mazimpaka withdraw his asylum application after eight fruitless years. He returns to his country after that slaughter, in which more than a million Tutsi lives were ended within a hundred days. This bittersweet homecoming marks the start of his participation in Rwanda's reconstruction. There may be healing, but the scars will always remain. After everything, Mazimpaka and the rest must pick up the pieces and carry on, hopefully creating something new and better for themselves and those who will come after them. This is the burden of those bearing the past’s pain, those who share their testaments.
"I aimed to inform the Germans about a system they seem not to know in their own country," Mazimpaka says, pointing out how even the supposedly more advanced nations are not entirely different. The lessons he learned thus apply to Rwandans and those in ostensibly better-off societies. "But at this very moment, as young Africans continue to drown in the Mediterranean Sea, this book aims to disillusion these young Africans who think that Europe, and certainly the Western countries, is paradise."
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Thomas Mazimpaka was born in 1958 in Nkamba, Rwanda. He is a writer (in three languages: French, English, and German), a human rights activist, a teacher, a freelance translator, and interpreter. He completed his secondary education at the College du Saint-Esprit in Bujumbura, Burundi, followed by his university studies in Finance Management at the Institut Supérieur de Commerce of Kisangani, Zaire (DRC).
Afterward, he worked in different companies in finance departments in Rwanda or as an external auditor. When the war broke out in October 1990, he fled his country and lived in Germany for almost eight years as an asylum seeker.
On his return to Rwanda, he worked as a director of a computer company. Then he worked in the German Development Service (DED) in Kigali.
He is the founder and president of the association Action Solidarité Nord-Sud which supports orphans and other vulnerable children.In 2006, he completed his degree in sociology at Kigali Independent University.He has also co-founded a language teaching school in Kigali, with a German friend.