“If there is one book you should read on the Rwandan Genocide, this is it. Tested to the Limit—A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Pain, Resilience, and Hope is a riveting and courageous account from the perspective of a fourteen year- old girl. It’s a powerful story you will never forget.”
—Francine LeFrak, founder of Same Sky and award-winning producer
“That someone who survived such a horrific, life-altering experience as the Rwandan genocide could find the courage to share her story truly amazes me. But even more incredible is that Consolee Nishimwe refused to let the inhumane acts she suffered strip away her humanity, zest for life and positive outlook for a better future. After reading Tested to the Limit, I am in awe of the unyielding strength and resilience of the human spirit to overcome against all odds.”
—Kate Ferguson, senior editor, POZ magazine
“Consolee Nishimwe’s story of resilience, perseverance, and grace after surviving genocide, rape, and torture is a testament to the transformative power of unyielding faith and a commitment to love. Her inspiring narrative about compassionate courage and honest revelations about her spiritual path in the face of unthinkable adversity remind us that hope is eternal, and miracles happen every day.”
—Jamia Wilson, vice president of programs,
Women’s Media Center, New York
Farewell to Angelic Brothers “Marie-Jeanne’s boys must be killed today as ordered by the Mayor! She and her daughter must stay with you until we decide whether to kill them or make them our slaves and we will be coming for the boys later today!” Those were the chilling messages delivered by a bunch of ruthless Interahamwe killers to Gatwaza as he sat on the street outside his home. Gatwaza’s jaw fell open as he tried to process the messages. The Interahamwe killers were gone as quickly as they came, screaming and chanting as they paraded the streets with their banana leaf costumes and bloodstained weapons. It was May 9th 1994, a date I will never forget. “What will I do? … What will I do! … I don’t know what to do!” said Gatwaza, as he hustled into the house dragging on his crutches. “Marie-Jeanne, Marie-Jeanne, I have terrible news!” he said dejectedly to Mom. “They will be coming for your boys later today to kill them, but you and your daughter will be okay!” he continued. I felt like I was hit by a bus and couldn’t feel my feet, and as I looked at Mom she was holding her chest with a river of tears streaming down her cheeks. Mom was very distraught and took us all together in the room and told us that we need to pray and let God be in our hearts. “My children … pray and feel God within you… No matter what is going to happen, just know that God will take care of us,” she moaned, as we all went down on our knees in tears, praying passionately. After we stopped praying, Philbert and Pascal stood up and seemed ready for whatever destiny was about to befall them. I remember trying to console myself and thinking without any anger that those people were blind to what they were doing to us and they would suffer more than us in the end. My young brothers were not afraid as they looked at peace within themselves and in my mind were braver than all those cowardly killers put together. I will never forget the tranquil aura they exhibited in preparation for what they knew was coming. Looking at their faces and the calm acceptance that they exuded gave me an innate strength which I had not felt before. We all gathered around and sat together on the same chair, and held each other’s hands. Our youngest brother Bon-Fils was too young to know anything but I am sure he felt that abnormal things were happening, having already seen what we had been through so far. He was holding on tightly to Mom who cuddled him closely against her chest with a dejected look on her face. A few minutes later the killers came into the room, including Sanani, one we knew very well. My grandfather had been a very close friend of his father and had given him a plot of land many years before to build the home in which Sanani and his siblings grew up. Their friendship was so close that Sanani’s younger sister Christine had served as a bridesmaid at my mother’s wedding in 1977. Shockingly, Sanani had come with other killers to take my brothers to kill them. “Sanani! Sanani! How could you of all people do this to us? Is this what you choose to do in return for the kindness we showed to your family over the years? May God forgive you Sanani!” Mom wailed, shaking her head in disbelief. Bon-Fils was in my mother’s arms and he held on to her tightly as he saw those men who looked like monsters in those weird costumes armed to the teeth, with cruel looks in their eyes. “No, no! Not my kids! Take all of us, don’t leave us behind!” Mom screamed at them. Philbert and Pascal were not even crying or shouting and went to Bon-Fils and they each held one of his hands and said: “We are going to join Daddy in Heaven Bon-Fils!” They flanked Bon-Fils on either side as they held his hands, with him in the middle of them as they walked towards the killers. Mom screamed loudly again, with me and Jeanette doing the same, begging the killers to take us all. The group ignored our pleas and took our three precious brothers and walked them to our burnt-out house about five minutes away, where they slaughtered their little bodies and threw them into our large septic tank in the yard. That moment was very devastating for us - we needed to die too that day! Their killings were witnessed by many people, none of whom lifted a finger to stop the brutal slaughter of those defenseless infants, but many of them formed a procession following the killers as they happily celebrated their evil deed. The next day we saw Nkunzabo leaving the house, and upon his return several hours later he was accompanied by Interahamwe killers from the area. He acted as if they had followed him but by the way they were interacting, we suspected that he was in cahoots with them. Dorothy was somehow willing to help us, but her husband seemed to have taken us in simply to be killed. We survived that day as the killers left without threatening or harming us, but the next day Nkunzabo left the house again and when he returned that evening he was with a killer named Shinani. That evening, it was difficult to recognize Shinani as the person we had known before. He had a demonic look in his eyes and held up a menacing sword in his hand as he walked in. He looked in the direction where we were sitting and started yelling loudly and threatening us. “I’m taking this girl to show me where you put all the guns and other things you got from RPF!” he yelled out to Mom as he hustled towards me. I started shaking and felt like I was about to pass out. “You can’t take my daughter! If you want to kill us, kill us all here!” Mom yelled at the top of her voice, while Nkunzabo just looked on with a half-smile on his face. Shinani started pulling me from where I was sitting as Mom held on to me with both hands. “Leave her alone or take us all and kill us if that’s what you want!” Mom and Jeanette shouted, as he pushed them against the wall. I myself was terrified, and screamed: “Leave me alone or kill me right here!” Shinani ignored our pleadings and pulled me out of the house. Mom and Jeanette tried to follow but he pushed them to the ground and dragged me into the street. Darkness was starting to creep in as he dragged me along the main road. I kept crying out loudly telling him to let me go or kill me, but he kept on dragging me, oblivious to my screams and to the cuts and bruises I had already sustained on my knees and legs. Still screaming all the way, Shinani dragged me towards his family’s home, while onlookers on the street took in the scene without intervening. “Don’t you dare do anything to that girl!” his brother shouted as he dragged me inside the doorway. “She is a family neighbor! Please, let that child go, please let her go!” he pleaded. They argued for a while as I sat cringed on the floor, still begging, frightened, and desperately wanting to leave. Shinani eventually relented and pushed me back outside, dragged me into some bushes near to our burnt-out home and started stripping off my clothes. I tried to resist and kept on crying and begging him to let me go, but he put the sword to my neck and kept insulting me saying that we are snakes and cockroaches. Every time I raised my arms to try to stop what he was doing, he beat me with the sword all over my body, and my hands and other parts of my body started to bleed. I continued to cry and scream but he tore all my clothes away and threw me on the ground with anger, held my two hands together and sexually assaulted me there. Shinani left me in that bush bleeding and unable to walk properly due to the cuts and bruises I had sustained. I covered my private areas with whatever pieces of my clothing was left and dragged myself back to Nkunzabo’s house to look for Mom and Jeanette. I didn’t see anyone in the street, but I felt like I was no longer alive anyway and wished that somebody would come and kill me and end my life there and then.
Consolee Nishimwe is a survivor of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda and lived through the horrors of that genocide at age fourteen. Consolee suffered insurmountable physical and emotional torture for three months, hiding from place to place to evade capture and certain death. In the end, she miraculously survived with her mother and younger sister, but her father and three young brothers were savagely murdered. During her period in hiding, her faith was continuously tested, and she struggled to reconcile that faith with the atrocities she was being subjected to. Over time, Consolee succeeded in discarding the burden of carrying vengeful thoughts against those who were persecuting her and instead placed their ultimate fate into God’s hands. Consolee’s miraculous and inspiring story of survival is a grim testament of hope and faith triumphing over tragedy and provides lessons that will help anyone who is grappling with difficulties in their lives. She is a committed speaker on the genocide, a defender of global women’s rights, and an advocate for other genocide survivors. She now lives in New York.
Consolee is one of my closest friends and because I know her on a personal level, reading her story is both heart-wrenching as well as deeply inspiring. Everytime I see Consolee, she always has a smile on her face and a positive outlook on life. I cannot imagine nor begin to understand the depth of anguish and trauma she and her family suffered. Sharing Consolee's faith, I am truly grateful for her great courage and resilience that enables Consolee to recall and share the gruesome events which changed her life forever. I've bought several copies of "Tested to the Limit" for my friends and family. I pray they are as inspired and humbled by Consolee's powerful testimony as I am.
i am honored to read this book it takes a such courage to write such stories big up