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Not My Time To Die by Yolande Mukagasana

‘What hurts me the most is that they never say the word ‘Tutsi.’ They talk about serpents, cockroaches, enemies, traitors, but they don’t name us. I’d like an enemy who has the courage to say who I am: Tutsi.’



‘Not My Time To Die’ is a memoir by Yolande Mukagasana, a Rwandan nurse who retells her truth about the 1994 genocide. In this book she analyses the violence she suffered, her family and community at large. A successful Tutsi woman who was targeted despite having played the role of a doctor to her community and had to flee to save her life. One moment she was planning her wedding anniversary and the next she was hiding under sinks and bushes. The betrayal that runs throughout this book is chilling, but worse off is the horror of the violence inflicted upon the Tutsi. Hers is a story that reflects the experience of her people, of women and mothers who faced the possibility of death with every breath that they took. Death was certain and the brutality of it was always at the background of every Tutsi. This book is a translation of the French original and is translated by Zoe Norridge. The language is simple and understandable yet the tone remains outraged and assertive. But how else can you write about a genocide, how else can you recall a disturbing life experience without opening the wounds that refuse to heal? In 31 chapters Mukagasana shows us how her brother Nepole’s prophetic (or not) words that she would lose all her family but she would survive, because it was not her time to die, come true.

The courage shown by Mukagasana calls upon everyone to reflect on the effects of this genocide. Like many others she lost everything and her message in this book is one that calls for introspection. She might have lost everything but not love. True to her brother’s proclamation. A community is born even during oppressive times, bound by different things; for some hatred, for others the need to survive. At a time when she was going through great persecution, she vowed to write a book, to bear witness and in that vow she said,

‘May those who don’t have the strength to read it denounce themselves as complicit in the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. I, Yolande Mukagasana, declare before humanity that whoever doesn’t want to know about the ordeal of the Rwandan people shares in the guilt of the perpetrators. The world will not cease to be violent if it doesn’t examine its need for violence.’


This book was a heavy read for me. Painful from the first to the last page. As I read this book I was reminded that it looks like there is no end in sight for the violence that is constantly inflicted across the world to various groups. Why so much violence? The way Mukagasana’s children understood the magnitude and sacrifices of war tore me apart. The way people were killed for their existence, destroyed because of hate and the difficult survival tactics that the Tutsi had to use left an intense sadness in me. Genocides are still happening today. Mukagasana highlights one of the many effects of the genocide during the persecution,

‘The genocide has the power to obliterate memory. I no longer know whether I have been here for three days, two weeks or ten years. All I know is that I struggle day after day for my own survival and for the survival of those I treat.’

PAGE 167

Mukagasana is brave and what you also need as the reader is to be brave to read this book and to face reality of the magnitude of the extermination that took place in Rwanda. The book is written in an engaging style that draws the reader in, as if the reader is right there with Mukagasana in real time. This is a story about violence and survival. The truth is, the people who read this book did not experience her persecution but they can ensure that Mukagasana’s testimony spreads as far as it should. Despite the odds, Yolande Mukagasana did not die. If you are looking for a personal testimony of the 1994 Rwanda genocide, this book is for you.


Book Details

Title: Not My Time To Die

Author: Yolande Mukagasana

Genre: Autobiography

Pages: 210

Publisher: Huza Press; Illustrated edition (2019)

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