end of 20th century a certain girl and boy grew up in Kibungo in southeastern
Rwanda. Delphina Butera was a tall, beautiful girl from a wealthy Tutsi family
with many cows and goats. Daniel Kukuze was a handsome young man from a
well-known Hutu family that owned several shops in the town. Delphina and
Daniel met in high school and became very fond of each other. They shared many
common interests including reading, popular music and the dream of going to
study at the university in Kigali.
Delphina and Daniel’s families did not like each other. In fact, they despised
each other. The Butera family considered themselves a royal family dating back
many generations. They considered the Hutus to be servants and common laborers.
The Kukuze family were upstarts, the nouveau riche who had to be put in their
proper place. Mr. Butera told his daughter Delphina to have nothing to do with
that crude Kukuze boy. He was far beneath her.
Kukuze family was tired of being pushed around by Tutsis. For many years in the
Kibungo Prefecture they had earned their bread honestly by the sweat of their
brow. They were now independently wealthy. They represented the vast majority
of Hutu people in Rwanda who now claimed their rights. Mr. Kukuze told Daniel
to stay away from Delphina. She could only bring him trouble. But Delphina and
Daniel continued to see each other after school hours and secretly at weekends.
it simply, this girl and boy fell in love. An age-old story but now taking
place in the mid-1990s in Rwanda, a country of dangerous civil unrest. Many
years of fighting between Hutus and Tutsis had only brought bitterness and
bloodshed. Reprisal after reprisal became the unending ethnic story. But
somehow life went on.
Delphina and Daniel both graduated from high school with honors and were
accepted into the university. During their first year in Kigali they continued
to see a lot of each other and began to dream of the future. They both wanted
to be teachers. Maybe they could even go to graduate school. Later they wanted
to get married and have children.
on that fateful day in April, 1994, the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were
killed in a mysterious plane crash near Kigali Airport. Overnight the country
was plunged into chaos and death. The extremist government militia went on a
rampage, brutally killing many Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Rwanda became a
blood-bath of genocidal war, Kigali a city of death and destruction. Soldiers
came to the university seeking out Tutsis. Delphina escaped through a window
when soldiers started shooting into her dormitory. She fled with other friends
in a car which took them to her home province of Kibungo.
was in another part of the campus when the fighting broke out. He ran to
Delphina’s dormitory even though he knew it was dangerous. He learned that she
had fled to her home prefecture. He followed her to Kibungo, hoping against
hope that she was all right. Hutus started brutally killing Tutsis everywhere.
Meanwhile the mainly Tutsi army from Uganda was pushing southward, killing Hutus
in its path.
Daniel reached Kibungo, sadly he learned that Delphina’s parents had been
slaughtered along with two sisters and a brother. She had fled into the bush.
Daniel realized that it was too dangerous to follow after her. With the
enflamed tribal passions, the angry Tutsi would consider Daniel an enemy. With
the university closed and Kigali very unstable, Daniel decided to stay with his
family and await further news about Delphina.
Meanwhile Delphina escaped into the forest away from the marauding Hutu local
militia bands. With several friends she headed eastward toward Tanzania. After
walking three days she reached Rusumo Bridge and crossed into Tanzania. She was
despondent that she had to leave Rwanda and Daniel, but she had no choice.
genocidal civil war continued as the Tutsi army marched on Kigali. Daniel knew
that he was in danger, but he decided to stay with his family and hope for the
best. One night, Tutsi soldiers broke into his family compound and rounded up
all the Hutus they could find and herded them into the nearby church. Then the
brutal massacre started. Daniel saw his parents and little sister Chartine
slaughtered before his very eyes. In the wild confusion Daniel escaped through
a side door of the church and ran blindly into the bush. He was heartbroken.
His parents dead. Delphina lost. Daniel himself on the run.
headed east toward Tanzania. He survived in the forest for several weeks and
finally crossed the Kagera River into Tanzania. Along with thousands of other
refugees, he registered at a transit camp and trudged to Benaco Refugee Camp
only 10 miles from Rusumo Bridge. He looked for Delphina everywhere in the camp
but to no avail. By now 400,000 Rwandan refugees had streamed into the camp
creating a sea of confusion. Tension was high between Hutus and Tutsis.
searched everywhere, asking again and again: "Where are the Tutsi refugees from
the Kibungo Prefecture?" Finally he found Delphina in a busy section of the
camp. They embraced joyfully. Then they tearfully shared their painful
stories, especially the killing of their parents. Delphina’s Tutsi neighbors in
the camp were suspicious of Daniel, so he had to be careful. When Benaco became
overcrowded, many refugees were sent to other camps. Delphina went to a Tutsi
camp at Burigi, and Daniel went to a Hutu camp at Rumasi. They vowed that the
war and tribal hatred would not separate them. Their love was strong enough to
overcome all the divisions of family, clan and ethnic group.
continued to communicate by letter or through messengers from the different
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). With the war officially over in Rwanda,
a new government took charge in Kigali. The refugees in Tanzania were
encouraged to return to Rwanda. The Tutsi started going back to their country,
but the Hutus were still afraid of retaliation. Delphina didn’t want to go back
to Rwanda alone. She realized that she might never see Daniel again. He was
the center of her life. Yet it was impossible to visit each other’s camp; so
they waited anxiously.
and more Tutsis returned to Rwanda, and Burigi Camp started to close down.
Delphina realized she couldn’t go to Daniel’s camp for fear of reprisals. Then
they learned that a new camp was opening on the road between Rulenge and
Nyakahura called Marongero Camp. It would be a mixed camp of Hutus and Tutsis:
Hutu husbands and Tutsi wives and vice versa. Delphina and Daniel were
determined to live together. They became engaged and received permission to
move to Marongero Camp. The day they finally met in the camp many tears of joy
were shed. They first lived with friends in the camp, and preparations for
their marriage began. Some friends warned them that they were asking for
trouble. New mixed marriages of Hutus and Tutsis could only bring heartache and
misunderstanding. But they never wavered and finally got married in a joyful
celebration. Delphina and Daniel wanted to show that Hutus and Tutsis can live
together in peace and harmony.
happy couple soon realized that life in the refugee camp was not satisfying.
Generally there was peace, but what was their future in Tanzania? They heard
that things were settling down in Rwanda and that more and more refugees were
returning home. But people of mixed marriages were very vulnerable. They could
be accused by both Hutus and Tutsis. Yet Delphina and Daniel were determined to
make a new start. They heard that their homes in Kibungo had been ransacked,
but the university in Kigali had opened again. Maybe they could resume their
studies and follow their dream.
they prepared to return to Rwanda. The journey was slow, but finally they
reached Rusumo Bridge, the crossing between Tanzania and Rwanda. They looked
across the Kagera River at the picturesque Rwandan hills shining in the
distance. Delphina exclaimed: "There is our home. There is the place where we
can make a fresh start." Daniel commented: "Life will not be easy, but we can
show people that reconciliation and peace are possible. Hutus and Tutsis can
live together in harmony." Delphina added: "Regardless of everything, let’s
try to follow our dream."
border guard, clearly a Tutsi from his tall and commanding presence, immediately
let Delphina pass but wanted to inspect Daniel’s papers more closely. Finally
he said to Daniel: "You there, go over to the military police first. We are not
finished with you yet!" Daniel immediately did as he was told. Delphina
groaned to herself: "Oh, no, now another problem."
policeman told Delphina to go up ahead without Daniel. Her own papers were
cursorily checked again. She started to tremble as she began to think and feel
what it would be like to live without Daniel. Delphina started to weep quietly
and said: "My life without Daniel has no value. What am I going to do?" After
walking for a short distance, she pensively looked back at Daniel who was still
being questioned and asked herself: "What now? Will our dream actually happen,
or will it yet again be a dream deferred?"