Skip to content

VOA Series Helps Rwandans Find Missing Pieces of their Past

For decades, Christine Uwimana was unable to complete any documents requesting the name of her father. Either she left the space blank, mirroring her uncertainty, or she inserted the word “unknown.” Nor was she able to conjure up much more than the name of her biological mother, from whom she was taken as an infant in Rwanda. Now, at 48, Uwimana finally can supply the name of her father, Godefroid Nyilibakwe. She also has more details about her mother, Agnes Kabarenzi. Her newly completed family tree is “the most distinguished diploma I have ever had,” said Uwimana, a psychiatrist in Lausanne, Switzerland. Both of Uwimana’s biological parents died in prison following a 1973 military coup in Rwanda. Details about their lives and deaths have emerged as part of a VOA Central Africa Service radio series examining the coup and the relative silence enshrouding its victims. At least 56 people allegedly perished in the coup’s aftermath, according to an Amnesty International report, and an official charged with notifying their families after a Rwandan court ordered the government to provide financial compensation for their deaths. Their contributions cast light on a shadowy chapter of Rwandan history, creating an opening for more discussion and investigation, said James Gasana, a former Rwandan politician who listened to the VOA series.