“The Convoy”: Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse recounts the story of her rescue in June 1994 in Rwanda

Through this book, the writer assumes her role in the necessary transmission of the memory of the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda and delivers all the fragments of her memory finally brought together…

Twenty six years. This is how long it took Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse to find the strength to put into words the tragedy she experienced. To piece together his tattered memory and find the missing parts of the story of his rescue. To leave the silence and solitude of the survivor, at the same time a question of survival, of “social politeness” and of good manners, almost.

His book The convoy puts an end to two decades of reserve and resilience that she wished to be “exemplary”, like all those who try to put their lives back on the path of reconstruction after chaos.

“The Convoy” new book by Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse in which she talks about her rescue in 1994.

Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse was only 15 years old on June 18, 1994, when she was saved by a humanitarian convoy, extricated from the bloodthirsty madness of the ongoing genocide in Rwanda. Twenty-six years is the time it took him to try to digest the horror and gather the traces necessary for a substantiated and collective story. Although the author is not writing her first book*, this is the first time that she explicitly addresses her share of pain and agony, her waking nightmare. All the strength, singularity and acuity of his story reside in his way of advancing with circumspect and measured steps on the path to truth.

A partly inaudible story

Beyond his personal story, the book thus offers a reflection on the function and form of testimony. How can we put the unfathomable horror into words, how can we convey the story of such a tragedy? hearable » ? The author takes us by the hand and prepares us to listen with great gentleness and discernment, knowing that everyone comes with their own fragilities, their own limits. The result is a book full of caution and modesty, and yet carrying incredible strength.

Beata Umubyeyi Mayor does not avoid the questions of legitimacy that torment her nor her concern to go beyond her “simple” testimony to also address the experiences of those around her, so many memories carried at arm's length, ” at a loss for words ». With the desire to reweave a thread beyond the missing moments: the famous “ broken memories ».

The author first looked in the stories of other survivors and victims, who became writers, for the words to try to express the tragedy. Little by little, meeting students, other authors but above all other survivors pushed her to overcome the trauma to be able to open up more.

The duty of transmission

The book describes the waiting, the disappointments and the false leads, the long quest for precise facts on which to base a sometimes blurred or holed memory. Making the patiently reconstructed testimony all the stronger and more collective. The convoy also shows how the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda echoes the past and the present, other barbarities targeting Jews, Cambodians, Armenians, etc. The link with the tragedy told by the filmmaker Rithy Panh, in particular, but also by different survivors of the Shoah is done with cruel lucidity.

With “Le Convoi”, the writer Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse assumes her part in the duty of transmitting the memory of the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda.

A trigger was needed to push her down this path, she analyzes. The death, in 2020, of the Swiss humanitarian worker from the NGO Terre des Hommes who organized his rescue with his mother, as well as all the children in the convoy of June 18, 1994, but also the birth of his two children are to the origin of this book, specifies the young woman, in the preamble, determined to finally confront “ the story of a us suddenly erased ». Defining herself in the in-between (between Africa and Europe), by the force of crossbreeding which was also the key to her salvation, Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse sheds even more light on our world and offers the weapons to better grasp its contours and challenges.

Karin Tshidimba

★★★ The convoy Narrative Of Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse, Flammarion, 335 pp. Price 21€

*Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse is notably the author of: All your children scatteredpublished by éditions Autre, in 2019 and Consoledpublished by Autre editions, in 2022.

Extract: “At the end of the ballot which took place from April 26 to 29, Mandela was elected. The whole world prefers to look at this resilient and joyful Africa, which put an end to the Apartheid regime, rather than the violent and seen as “tribal” Africa that Rwanda reflects.”

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