Oral Testimony of MPYISI Esdras

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  •  Testimony of MPYISI ESDRAS 
  •  Mpyisi: My name is MPYISI Esdras, I'm a pastor in the Seventh Day Adventist church. I was born in 1922. I saw a lot on what happened in Rwanda. 
  •  Musinga was expelled from Kamembe in Kinyaga; I was in my first born-days by that time. We lived near Nyanza. He was carried away, him and his standing army. I was still a young boy; I had no idea on what was going on. 
  •  When I reached home my father told me the whole story, for him he knew. He told me the reason behind the expulsion of Musinga from his country. This is what I am going to tell you. This is what led to this Genocide. 
  •  There is no way we can talk about Genocide without talking about Rwanda, the genocide – stricken country…. and talking about Rwanda, we must start from its background not only the Rwanda of nowadays because everything got roots. 
  •  First, we must make sure of the fact that there was Rwanda, Rwanda means Rwandese, country of Rwandese. Rwandeses were intelligent as they are God's creators; their creator created them with a certain level of intelligence. They had their way of living. Those people wouldn't cohabitate without a certain civility. There were elders and youngsters, children and parents. As far as concerning human society on earth, there were to be rich and poor people, leaders and followers, without this civility, things would go worse. 
  •  First and foremost, Rwandese worked out on what sort of people they were by establishing different categories. These categories starting from their home cells.The man was the head of the family and his wife was to stand by him always to help. Children born from that home knew the father & the mother to be their parents and are the ones to take care of them.Parents also knew that their responsibility was to take care and look after the kids until they are gown up. In their turn, children when grown up were to help their parents when old. 
  •  One would give birth to rejoice in seeing oneself in one's children, and for children, time would come to make their parents happy. The man and the woman were to get married, rejoice in their marriage and this was God's plan first and foremost creating Adam and Eve. This is even the base of this way of living. There was the father, mother and children and even relatives staying in that home. The relatives staying in that home had to follow certain regulations of the home. The father was the head, helped by his wife and would not do nothing wrong in the sight of their children. They had to serve as example to their kids in order to correct their ways once they are wrong. 
  •  When they were to discuss a serious issue, they could discuss from a safe and silent place as elders. That's the organization that started from home. 
  •  As I said, there were Rich and Poor people, the poor person worked for the rich one to gain something whether a cow or just working for his survival. He stayed there all of his born days. He respected the home members and them in return also respected him.Things can't help in any way! Unless you got people to use them.You could give him what you had in order to gain his work force and hence the family extends. 
  •  It would happen that a poor loses a member of their family then the rich would help them getting over the loss because it was counted as one of the family. When the rich lost one of his family members the poor helped him also to get over the loss. This was the whole logic behind the family way of life. 
  •  Another positive issue, children were in hands of their parents, they grew up from there, parents were to correct their ways to show them the right way.Yeah, schools are part of development but have also contributed as set back in many ways. Nowadays, a child starts schooling at a very low age, receives no education from the parents. One just imitates the lifestyle of their school society. Schools are part of development but have also ruined and pulled down our culture because those kids won't be having none from their culture, as the culture is taught by the parents yet those kids are never with them. 
  •  Those home cells were to be coordinated somewhere, they appointed different levels of leadership, they appointed something they called a king. The king had Governors under him these last having also leaders under them. They had someone representing what they called umukenke, those in charge of lands. 
  •  One had his land another with his, and they had leaders in charge of forming boundaries of lands. Without this, one would occupy as big territory as he wanted and this would contribute a lot to wars. 
  •  We had this organization and our way of living before the arrival of whites, either at home on in the leadership. 
  •  For the king to be of high worthy and merit, they obeyed him according to their level of understanding, he had also something related to their religion of taking up God's position on earth. ‘If you disobey the king in any way, you will face dire consequences' they used to say. But this didn't mean that he would face dire consequences, it's just a way of heightening its value. 
  •  The king had rules and regulations to follow; if he did not serve his people in the right way he was to face dire consequences. Each and everyone had a limit in the doing even those in high levels of leadership. It was the Governor's duty to be there for the king, as he wasn't able to tour up and down the whole country and the Governors also had leaders under them to look after the people up to those who are down to earth. 
  •  You now say that you got democracy; Rwanda had democracy since ever. The king would not reign anyhow. He had advisors; he had magi that would tell him ‘if you do this you will face dire consequences'. Nowadays democracy is all about ‘it's up to me'. The Governor wouldn't lead or rule over the people anyhow, because he was leading king's people, not his people. Each and everyone were free to reach the king, once he is mistreated. The Governor was to follow king's orders and leaders to follow the Governors' orders. In the mankind nature, if you have no authority or power on top of you, you just do anything on your own and mess up everything. 
  •  Taking that on the religion side or point of view, one was to respect that on the religion side, not anyhow.For example, children had to respect their parents. In order to teach the daughter-in-law to respect the in-law parents they told her that it's forbidden to call them by their names, and once you call them by their names, you will give birth to crippled or disabled children. 
  •  This was not true that she could give birth to disabled children. It was just a custom that dated long time ago, later it become a church tradition.Later at the arrival of whites, taking a census they obliged the daughter-in-law to tell the name of her in-law parents, it couldn't happen. 
  •  It's now said: ‘the Church hallowed taboos' but the church also got its own taboos. They made holy our taboos, misled us and we could die once we do beyond their taboos. we miss the religion of our ancestors, we miss the church brought by foreigners, this is what led to this Genocide! I do not mind, I'll tell you this nothing will happen. 
  •  The monarchy was organized; it had an army to fight when they declared war on other countries. How do you think our Rwanda come to extend? You can see how big Rwanda is now. How did it happen? This name ‘Inkotanyi' was name dropped from the king's army of that time. Those who don't know might think of it as something new. For them [Inkotanyi] they know it's not something new, it dates from long time ago. 
  •  Rwanda extended, kept on extending. The king came to thrash over the whole Ankore and reached Masaka. He reached Congo, Benin, he went up to Karagwe. 
  •  Butare was formerly a Burundian province, it became a Rwandan. This young full generation doesn't know this; it will cost them much to work for their country. This is the organization of Rwandan monarchy of that time. 
  •  What helped them is their sense of respecting each other. When people don't respect each other, this is when hatred is incurred among people, guess what the consequences are? That is the lifestyle of our Rwanda of that time.The elder deserved respect, and him also, was to respect youngsters because if he didn't, he was to take consequences. There is a huge number of examples. 
  •  The world is becoming worse and worse, before people would kill each other but not Genocide… When it happened for one to kill another person, that person was called ‘Inzigo'. They couldn't go and kill the whole family. The crime is personal; to mean the killer was the one to face the revenge. 
  •  ‘If we don't revenge for the dead, the ghost will trouble and torment us' they thought. You might take them to be pagan or heathen! No, that was their way of thinking in their relationship with God! 
  •  They had to revenge for the dead, they killed the one who killed him, and After the revenge they gathered together: drink, eat and dance celebrating that the aversion is finished.' Both sides gathered together and befriend again.They thought that hence they have removed whatever would cause the ghost to come and trouble them! Thus people befriended again. 
  •  Later, they could realize that whole family is perishing.We killed the one who killed and if it happens for another one to kill we will kill him, finally we will finish the whole family. They were free to go to the king, ‘we have a problem they could tell the king,' a relative killed a relative! What do we do?' we are about to finish the whole family. 
  •  The king had his magi to tell him what to do; they had to ask their God they trusted! You might say that they were heathen; don't we, us, ask valueless things to God? Do we have magi? 
  •  They asked their God ‘Do this man merit death? If he doesn't die, will these people continue to kill each other?' It was for the king to say if the aversion is broken; the one who was to die is then saved and they start a new relationship and befriend again. 
  •  Time to time, they realized that killing is not only harmfully but is also difficult. They could take a banana tree on top of a mountain, both sides ( the side of the killer and the side of the dead), call up on the dead with a loud voice and tell him they are revenging for him. 
  •  They cut the banana tree into a million pieces as a gesture or symbol of revenging.They cried and after celebrated that the aversion is finished, yet the family is not finished… 
  •  Don't you find organization in all this? They respected the King; him also, couldn't do anything carelessly as he knew that if he did wrong he was to face the consequences. They first had to ask their God. The difference is that we got different ways of talking to our God according to our faith. 
  •  That served and helped a lot to the point that even when people hated each other, they did that in a polite way. It would happen for some to be criminals but they were punished as criminals. That's our Rwanda of that time. 
  •  Those who brought us religion and churches found us with our religion, we had our religion! Those who came to rule found us with a based realm and kingship with an army, with leaders and obedient followers. They now say that people made offerings to the king. Do you think that offerings took an end? the taxes we pay are like offerings. If you don't make offerings to the king, how do you think the leaders, district prosecutor will survive? It's only the system that changed; instead of offering beans, we give money. Other ways nothing changed. 
  •  Others complain that the king was carried in a carrycot. Do you want the king to be like you? How can he tour up in his country if not carried in a carrycot? The taxes we pay contribute in buying the cars of the leaders. What is new? Instead it's just the system that changes as the world changes but nothing is new. This is to convince you that Rwanda was there, existing with a certain honor. 
  •  This was time for Rwanda to change. I am just giving a brief view, without talking much. One can use this to achieve a lot. They had their king on top, as we have the president. America has a president; All Africa nations got presidents. Their presidents are like kings. It's only the name that changed.The king is the president, the president is the king. 
  •  Time came when The Whites came to Rwanda; Germans came first to Rwanda. The Whites did not come in Africa with an intention of developing the continent, they just came to drive people into their slaves; they wanted people to work for them to grow richer; They didn't care for the slaves, dying or their survival was up to them. 
  •  We got a lot proving, as we hear from elders and tales, Germans [whites] came from Tanganyika. Tanganyika is the name of that time, it's now known as Tanzania being united with Zanzibar. 
  •  At their arrival, they found in place Abahinza. Umuhinza is not a king, he's like a symbol of a king. They didn't have any civility or organization; they didn't have any law to follow like Rwanda did. And each area in Tanzania had its own Umuhinza but Rwanda had 1 king and before sitting enthroned he also found in place Abahinza and overthrown them. Rwanda had one king. Only Rwanda and Burundi had one king as it was in European and white countries! 
  •  You can't imagine how distinguished we were! We could even contribute in the organization of those The Whites so called ‘developed'! In countries that had or still have kings, do any has 2 kings?We had one king ruling over the whole country and now we have 1 president. It Can't happen if we had two presidents in Rwanda? Don't you realize that the king had his strategies to thrash over abahinza? This is the reason up to now many parties come in competition and lose; only one comes to win! The losers agree to cooperate. If Umuhinza was overthrown he easily submitted to the winner and co-work together. The law-breaker was punished. That's Rwanda!! 
  •  The Whites came, thrashed over Abahinza of Tanzania. Seems like there was a wise priest who advised them before coming to Rwanda. You have to be full of attention for the country you are going to. he told them. They are not Abahinza like others you use to know. 
  •  He's the chief commander of the army, he has an organized power, you are going to fight. ‘How do we do?' The Whites asked. Go, but just be submissive and submit to his authority; Go asking them to co-habitate. That's how Germans came. They changed later on, but to enter the country they brought offerings, brought clothes and the king welcomed them. That's why you will hear elders saying that Germans were our friends, but as ill luck would have it, Belgians came as our enemies. 
  •  He came submissive, peaceful and quite with a will of ruling over after. He was welcomed, befriended the king and Rwandese, cohabitated and did well. 
  •  They ruled over the country and the king found in them some strength that the wanted to co work with them. But Germans kept on changing time to time, changing their doing but by that time Rwandese were still in the darkness. They would have revealed that and drove them out. But he was wise enough to befriend them. 
  •  Germans had taught Rwandese to shoot with guns. Things changed, the world war threw up, and Germans had to fight with the whole world. Germans were drove out of the countries they ruled, apart from our Rwanda. Belgians attached them and had to fight. If you heard a piece of poetry on how Rwandese fought on the Germans' side, it's a miracle perform. They helped them in an unbelievable way! 
  •  In that part near Kivu, there is a place where they were fighting near Kibuye, Belgians fighting with Germans. Germans realized that there was no way out for them to win the war. Rwandese told them:' Go, we will stay here shooting, they will still think that you are here, but go.' Rwandese kept on fighting with Belgians, using German's Guns, their friendship is obvious. 
  •  Germans went. Not after a short time Rwandese realized how powerful Belgians are. They fired where they were. Belgians easily thought that it's their guns that had fired the place. They came slowly by slowly, shooting no one, but found no one [Germans had left]. They only found Rwandese in place, but brave Rwandese had gone escorting Germans. They left others having told them to submit to the Belgians authority once they are overthrown. This is what they did. ‘We were Germans servants, and they left us' they told Belgians. We submit to your authority, use us in any way you want. What fired this place?' ‘Your guns'. They answered. ‘And you didn't die?' We were hidden up there. Germans got saved by Rwandese. 
  •  Those who went with Germans left them at Bukoba, that's where they disbanded and branched off. That's how Belgians conquered Rwanda. 
  •  When they conquered Rwanda, Rwandese never submitted to the Belgian authority. For real, Germans had developed a tight friendship with Rwandese. Rwandese, their king, never submitted to the Belgian authority just because Belgians had turned out their good friends. 
  •  By the time, Belgians discovered how Germans were helped by Rwandese. ‘These can't be our friends' Belgians wondered. This is why elders used to say that Germans were foolish.‘We are going to reduce Rwanda to ashes' they could say [the Belgians]. Our ancestors didn't know neither to write nor to read but always told us that. 
  •  Rwandese, their king, never befriended Belgians because they had driven out their good friends. There was no good reason to continue fighting, later they submitted to the Belgian authority but before they never befriended, and Belgians knew.That's why at the arrival of Belgians no Rwandese would join the police or join the army. They recruited soldiers from Congo under a plea that Rwandese unable. ‘They can't manage shooting' they said. But they thought that: ‘once we give them guns, they will turn us out as it happened to Germans.' That is the hatred between Rwandese and Belgians. 
  •  Later,(we are now starting with enemies) religious came. Belgians told religious, holy priests in particular, [named up to their association] ‘These Rwandese', Belgians told priests and other Religious, ‘help us ruling over Rwandese without fighting'. 
  •  They took up other strategies and told Rwandese ‘this is the new religion we are bringing for you'. Follow Jesus, follow God and if one obeys God, no way he can disobey his master. And the master they meant was the white, the priest. Musinga asked ‘who is that God you are bringing us?' they told him that he's called God or Dieu. What does that mean? He asked. It means God. They discoursed and end up with a conclusion that it meant God [He was God for sure] Musinga told them: ‘if that's the God you are bringing, we already have one'. 
  •  We say Habyarimana [God is the one who provides children], Hategekimana [God rules], Kubwimana [with God's help], don't you realize that we also prayed and for real Rwandese prayed their God. They could use their witch craft and sometimes fail;' the remaining hope is God's help' they said once they failed. 
  •  The king you hear was considered as God, no, it's not true. They ever told him :"Nyakugirimana [be with God]". They knew their God but had no clear view. The king persisted on his Religion, priests ordered him to get baptized.If you don't get baptized, you're trouble ‘priests told him.You want me to desert and forsake my religion to join yours? My God can't allow me that! He refused. ‘You are in trouble' they told him. 
  •  Belgians delighted the king: ‘Forsake Rwanda and sign for giving out your country.' I can't do that! Rwanda is not mine, Rwanda belongs to Rwandese, Go and ask them, ‘if you don't give out your county, you will die' they told him. ‘kill me', he answered. 
  •  It wasn't the first time: it would happen for the wizards to predict that a misfortune is to strike Rwanda and that the one and only thing to save the country is the king's blood. This meant that the king had to go on battle, ready to fight until he dies. They were then deep down convinced that the king's blood has saved Rwanda from troubles. The king could go and die for the country and there after appoint another king from his family. 
  •  For Musinga to refuse forking out his country or deserting from his religion wasn't something new for him. He did what his ancestors had done. He accepted to die for his country. 
  •  When He was expelled from the county, Rwandese wanted to fight. Musinga stopped them. he told them that Belgians are more powerful. 
  •  All my children are now baptized. They are all here with me! Don't you see that you, who joined that religion, you sinned in the sight of our God! He is no longer on our side! They drove them out, see Belgians ruling over us. 
  •  Don't fight, you will lose and perish. Let me go in order to save your lives. That's how much the king loved Rwanda; He could die for his country; that's what Musinga did; they demolished all his belongings and took him to Kamembe. 
  •  Later on, they took him to Congo, that's where he died from; but he did not forsake his country; Rwanda. Among the heroes we have, Musinga proved bravely and induced by no one. 
  •  After that, they appointed his son Rudahigwa to be king under one condition: he had first to get baptized. There is a serious occult or secret behind that, which people don't know. Rudahigwa was small of age, he had just started schooling. He realized that they were of less power, wise enough, when you are defeated or thrashed over you have to submit. But for his father, because of the mood he grew up in, he accepted to die. His son [Rudahigwa] had told him even before to submit. He looked at him and told him: ‘you are surprising me; That we submit and forsake Rwanda?He had that wisdom of submitting, that's why they appointed him to be king, if he had acted like his father, and Musinga's family would have perished. That's the wisdom of Rwandese. 
  •  Rwandese, we lived those further years due to the wisdom of Rudahigwa. If they knew! How can you fight seeing that they are more powerful? Nowadays knights would ask why he didn't fight. 
  •  Now, you are independent but before he [Rudahigwa] wasn't this independent! If Rudahigwa wouldn't have been this wise, do you think you would be still alive by this time? Instead he had this wisdom of submitting to the Belgian authority. He saved Rwanda, unless it would have perished. And Rudahigwa ruled. 
  •  [Missing footage; Venue change] 
  •  The selected children who attended that school finally finished. They parceled out Rwanda, each one having his land to govern. The king's Governors were wearied back and those started ruling. They had to obey their ""master [the whites]. They started beating people to make them work. In the olden days of Rwanda, the rod served to nothing. Belgians are the ones who developed the use of rod [beating], they gave the rod to the so called ‘children of theirs'. ‘Use this to cudgel Whoever doesn't want to work.' they ordered. 
  •  Before there was no labor. They brought what we call ‘labor with no payment'; people started working and they started beating people. Whoever wasn't a leader would be beaten anyhow. Even the siblings to the leaders could be beaten anyhow. That's how they developed hatred among people. 
  •  They could favor them with any one's cows; The Whites had done all to gain their confidence. People are not stable and are easily misled; they could do whatever the Whites ordered them. Governors of the king and their servants who owned those cows were overthrown by their children and became poor. They could beat whoever Tutsi and Hutu and could snatch cows from anyone whether Hutu or Tutsi, this is the whole logic behind their divisionism. 
  •  It's sad because a poor Tutsi seemed to die twice. The ones that were favored with cows are the ones that were recognized and rewarded with cows. 
  •  A Tutsi who had cows were to be beaten twice in order to give 1 cow to survive. A Hutu who had nothing to give out was to be beaten once as he had none to give out. That's how they developed divisionism.That's when we revealed their intention of teaching some and that's how they supported divisionism.That's when we revealed their intention of teaching some and beating the lower ones, they developed hatred among leaders and followers. 
  •  In olden days, rod served to nothing' I said. They developed divisionism among people in an unbelievable way! This is one of the things that contributed a lot in heightening hatred among people. 
  •  Religious enrolled poor Tutsis and Hutus in their schools. They taught them to hate their leaders, to disobey their leaders. Belgians developed hatred among people on the argument that they fed them, others died of hunger. 
  •  Religious on the other hand, promoted their people. A group of people called ‘The Evoluted' appeared from nowhere. The Evoluted was a group of people that had studied in religious schools or under government scholarship. They stopped them to go back to their fathers' house, once they are in school.‘We are going back to the nonentities ‘they used said when going back to visit their parents. Unless there is someone to escort him, they could not spend a night there with that excuse of them being pagans. Hatred came then, divisionism ruled over. 
  •  Shortly after, they used Hutus to protest against Tutsis. Why can't you Rule also? Is there anything a Tutsi is capable that you are not? What do they have that you don't have? Overthrow them!! Thus divisionism started. 
  •  Rudahigwa came to reveal that divisionism, He knew that the cause was the rod, the cause was slave labor, leaders wanted people to work for them without payment and Belgians were behind all this.Rudahigwa called upon all people and put a brake light on rods, ‘do not beat anyone any longer'. If one does wrong let him face justice but never beat anyone anyhow. He stopped slave labor, ‘Those who got cows, share out with your relatives' he ordered. The servant was to take 2 shares and the master one share. 
  •  The leaders who were appointed by the Whites were carried in carrycots [them and their wives]. He stopped ‘the act of being carried in a carrycot and people working without salary.‘The country must get money to pay its leaders ‘he said, if you want someone to work for you, first negotiate and pay him, but he stopped working without payment. 
  •  It's sad to see Belgians raying that they were the first to stop that, instead they were grief–stricken because Rudahigwa had revealed and stopped roots of the divisionism brought by them. 
  •  Belgians were sad because that was serving as standing army on their side to develop divisionism among people, ‘Now we are defeated' they realized. Do people really know how hash and hard was this struggle? They hated him, better was to kill him. 
  •  By that time he was catholic, he was a follower of the catholic religion. He realized that he was misled. "Let anyone join a church of his own accord"; I'm in church but I am also king to all. He increased in value up-coming churches of that time. They were of less value and their followers were badly treated. Priests told leaders: ‘direct all the people to us' if not we will take away your belongings. They had that power. 
  •  Rudahigwa put himself into a serious problem. It was time for independence; Rudahigwa joined other Africans to claim for the independence.Talking about independence, you don't know, it's like over throwing the white. ‘Taking milk out of his mouth' they said. 
  •  Sometime back, in a meeting at Rwanyido's, there was a Burundian who was invited, they knew each other and were educated, and he was in a visit here and Rwanyindo. Invited him. Discussing about politics and leadership he told us: ‘It's really hard to take out a bone with meat on it from a dog's mouth unless you hit it'. 
  •  For Belgians Rwanda is like meat in their mouths, unless you fight against them, they won't let Rwanda down. Independence was all about suicidal. 
  •  Things kept on becoming worse and worse, Rwandese couldn't defeat Belgians. It was time for independence, sorry, I mean time to claim for independence, things became worse and rude. Belgians took them to be fools. ‘These people claiming for independence are fools' they said. You can't even produce a match box for yourself, yet you are claiming for independence! They used these words a lot, but Belgians found us with our traditional matchbox called urushingo. 
  •  I also used my match box when grazing our cows.We could take a small stick well sharpened, then pierce it and insert another stick, automatically you get the fire. They found us with our match boxes. But when they used that language, not few of Rwandese took it to be very strange ‘we can't produce a match box' they said. Up to now people are really convinced that matchboxes were brought by whites, we had ours. 
  •  They found us; we had our own way of cooking. We had traditional soaps; we couldn't wear unwashed clothes. We bathed. We had houses, we were not nomads. Instead they brought us their lifestyle, our views and intelligence was weakened. If they had given us time, we would by now have done a lot of inversion. They brought us finished products, we accepted. Things become worse and they became hash on us. 
  •  Time came, they divided Rwanda into two parts, and they used a silly language: Hutu and Tutsi, instead of using leaders and followers or rich... 
  •  Continued on KMC00019-sub2 
Table of Contents 
  •  Introduction 
  •  History of Rwanda/Rwandans
  •  Family Structure 
  •  Early Monarchy 
  •  Colonialism 
  •  Western Religion 
  •  Belgian Rule
  •  Divisionism 
  •  Influence of Rudahigwa 

Title:Oral Testimony of MPYISI Esdras
Description:The oral testimony of Rwandan Elder MPYISI Esdras, pastor with the Seventh Day Adventist church, recorded by the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda. The testimony is given in Kinyarwanda, with English transcript and subtitles available.
Media formats:mini-DV tape


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Continues with Part 2 of the Oral History Testimony of MPYISI Esdras.