A martyr to the cause of love of neighbor

Félicité had the opportunity to escape before. One of her brothers, the lieutenant colonel Alphonse Nzungize, was in charge of a military camp close to Gisenyi, the Centre d’instruction commando of Bigogwe. Knowing that the centre where his sister worked would eventually be attacked, he sent her a car and escort. Félicité answered her brother with a letter, which became famous:

My dearest brother,
Thank you for wanting to save my life. But instead of living and letting the 43 people I invited die, I choose to die with them. Pray for us to reach God and bid farewell to my old mother as well as my brothers and sisters. I will pray for you once up above. Hold on and thank you very much for having thought of me. And if God saves us as we hope, we will see each other tomorrow.
1
 

Nine days later, the 21st of April 1994, after lunch, some were peeling potatoes, others praying at the chapel. This is when the Interahmawe entered the centre. They entered all the houses, got all the people out with kicks and beating, and gathered them by force in the minibuses. Félicité begged them: “Where are you taking my children? They are innocent!” A militiaman answered back: “These are the real and famous Inyenzi2”. Aware of the fate awaiting them, she insisted and offered to be taken instead of them. The Interahmawe refused.

Félicité decided to go with them. In the vehicle taking them to the “ red commune” – this was the name of the place of their agony- she struck up a chant, “ Come, Lord sun of my heart…” and told her companions to “prepare themselves to testify”. On the way, the militia asked her to get out, but she refused again. At “the red commune”, mass graves were already dug. Till their last breath, Félicité helped the people to sing and pray. Thirty people, including six other Auxiliaires de l’Apostolat, were coldly slaughtered; Félicité was the last one to be shot3. All bodies were thrown and buried in the graves. The next day, her military brother dug up the body of his sister to give her a personal tomb next to the mass grave. This way, Félicité will never leave the people she protected4.

 


1 You can see at the bottom to the right of the letter “received the 12/4/94”.
2 The extremists often called the Tutsi “inyenzi” which meant “cockroach”. This expression can particularly be found in anti-Tutsi propaganda spread in newspapers or in Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines.
3 In 2000, Omar Serushago, was sentenced on appeal to 15 years in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, among others for the assassination of Félicité and the people accompanying her on the 21st of April 1994. He surrendered voluntarily to the Ivorian authorities, and pleaded guilty during his trial. In 2012, he benefited from an early release after having served three quarters of his sentence. He died a few months later.
4 Having become a national heroin, the authorities made her a glorious tombstone in the cemetery of the heroes, in Kigali. But there is only her picture, the body was never found. The people of Gisenyi are pleased saying: “Even dead, Félicité refused to abandon us!”