(Based on a true story. Out of respect for the privacy of the characters, names of people and places have been changed. Similarities with names of actual people and places is purely coincidental. A few details have been amended for dramatic effect.)
I moved to this ghetto one Friday evening in June last year. I was about to start my second year at the university of Rwandan CST when I realized, after a week or two, that I couldn’t continue to live in the university’s hostels by any mean.
I’m the only child at home. Well, I got a brother but he’s way older than me and was married when I was only ten. So I grew up alone with my mother. I love being alone. Maybe it’s why I looked for this ghetto. I hate it at the university when everyone wants to know what you are up to; which later on I found it’s not caring but just making sure you are no better than them.
My boyfriend, Bruno, had refused in the first place that I quit the hostels on the basis that girls in ghettos are none other than prostitutes, drunkards who live to please their self being or men without any other concern; that it’ll disturb my studies and put an end to my dreams. It became worse when I told him that I found one at this side of Kigali: Nyamirambo.
Nyamirambo is a free city. Some say it’s the capital city of Kigali city. Everything is cheap here and people are loving. Here I found a home. My ghetto rests in a compound filled with other five ghettos including mine with just a living room and a bedroom. We share water, electricity and toilets.
I brought in my case filled with clothes, a mattress, a chair and a plastic bag containing two plates, two forks, two spoons, one knife, two small saucepans and a stove. Two two in case I have a visitor. It happens to be my boyfriend most of the time.
We all cook on the veranda at around 6pm and later on everyone moves in his ghetto to eat and then sleep. Bruno always pass at the university and drops me here to make sure I’m safe and well.
Life is fine here. Except that my bedroom’s window is broken and let in so much air tonight that I had to buy a second bedcover and a pullover to avoid the coldness.
My neighbors are awesome. Aunt Mutoni is a single mother and a naturally made comedian. I love her daughter Raissa; she always bring me chips whenever aunt Mutoni cooks them and I’m a fan of chips.
Paul, the driver, is a calm man and comes late at night. So I don’t know him well except that his door is always naked of curtains.
Sandrine is the one facing me. She is a professional prostitute. She’s beautifully brown. She’s a receptionist at a hotel where she works during the day. She was raped by her first boss when she was 19. Since then, she once told me, she feels like she’s a thing not a human being. She finds pleasure and life in sex. I love her so much. Though quietly. She’s open and welcoming and lovely. At the ghetto we call her Akazuba — the sun. She always brings me chocolates when back from the job.
I remember this day as if it was yesterday. A year passed and I still remember every details of it because it was my first time to cry for someone.
I was deeply sleeping when I heard a cry. A loud cry.
Everyone was out. Aunt Mutoni, Paul and some other neighbors. Sandrine was crying and throwing away her properties: chairs, tables, plates, glasses,…everything was out and broken. Aunt Mutoni tried to calm her down but she beat her hard. They tried to take her out and she threw saucepans on them.
I was watching through the broken window. Scared, I went out to see exactly what and why was it happening. Sandrine was now seated in a corner crying silently. Her son has just died. The love of her life has died. The reason of living has faded away. O heard aunt Mutoni saying.
Peter was nine years old. He has been raised by her mother only till last year when his father claimed him. He had denied him when Sandrine brought the news that she was pregnant. Sandrine then decided to raise him alone with no one’s support. But last year Mr Mugabo claimed that the child needed a complete family. Sandrine refused and Mugabo brought the case to the court where he was allowed to act as a father. Sandrine accepted but on conditions. Later on those conditions didn’t apply. Peter went to visit his father for a weekend when he got a car accident and immediately die.
Sandrine couldn’t hold this. She cried all night and the following day she was hospitalized. Even the heartless have got a heart. After two days, we found her dead laying on her bed with pills on the bedside.
Thank you so much for reading and thank you, you who shared your moving story with me. I spoke for you.