"I told them that I was not afraid of them even though they were armed. I asked them to leave us in peace. No, the young men insisted, my guests would be taken away and killed."
Isaac saved several individuals during the crisis. He was honoured during a performance in Ruziba, in April 2006, when this interview was conducted.
I live in the Commune of Kinama, in Bujumbura town. During the crisis, there were people who decided to kill the people of the other ethnic group. I didn’t want to be one of those killers. I was not happy to see Hutu killing Tutsi or Tutsi killing Hutu. I was also angered by the looting.
I had Tutsi relatives and friends. Even though we were in the middle of a crisis in 1996 and we were Hutu, those friends decided to visit us. We welcomed them as usual. But soon after they arrived, a group of four young men came to the house. They concealed their faces in balaclavas and they were armed. They told us that they have come to take away our guests. Why, I asked. Because they are Tutsi. They believed our guests were spies who were plotting attacks of our neighbourhood.
The young men were obviously paid by someone to kill Tutsi. Leave us in peace, I pleaded with them. No, the young men insisted, my guests would be taken away and killed. According to them my guests were responsible for the death of their friends and relatives. I explained that my guests have only come to visit us because of love they had for us. What would happen to us if they were killed in our home? Their families would never forgive us and would seek to avenge their death. I told the young me that I was not afraid of them even though they were armed.
I gathered from their accents that the young men were not from the area. “You speak with a Gitega accent," I said. "How did you get here? What do you know about my guests?” They insisted they knew them. I replied, “This is the first time you have come here. It’s my neighbours who told you that I had Tutsi visitors. These are neighbours who do not like me. They want you to cause trouble. And when you are gone, we will have to live with the consequences.”