Rwanda’s repression victim studies law in Mass.

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LEOMINSTER, Mass. (AP) - Jean Paul Turayishimye survived the genocide of Rwanda while serving in the opposition forces and escaped, ultimately to the United States.

But as a member of the Rwanda National Congress, he is still a marked man facing trial for terrorism in his homeland.

Turayishimye has found a bit of the American dream in North Central Massachusetts and is studying to be a lawyer 20 years after the genocide.

In February, for the first time, he was able to hug his 8-year-old twin sons when they joined him in Leominster, where he now lives.

“I had never seen them (in person); it was the first time,” Turayishimye said.

Turayishimye is a member of Rwanda’s Tutsi community but was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after his family fled its homeland in the face of persecution following the 1959 Hutu revolution.

They farmed and led quiet lives, but opposition to immigrants grew in the Congo, so Turayishimye had to move around. He didn’t finish high school until he was about 20 years old.

That was about the time the Rwanda Patriotic Front was recruiting soldiers, and he enlisted to fight the government.

“They said we could fight for our rights,” Turayishimye said.

He joined out of a sense of patriotism and fear that the Congo would soon evict Rwandan natives.

He left home with about a dozen friends, but it was a hard life and only a couple survived the fighting.

On his way to join the RPF, Turayishimye traveled through Uganda, where he spent nearly a year recovering from malaria before making it to Rwanda for a boot camp run by fellow Tutsis.

“They were rebels so it wasn’t like government training,” Turayishimye said. “It’s cruel and something we never expected.”

Recruits lived in huts they made in a day. There weren’t uniforms, and even his shoes were stolen by senior soldiers.

They covered typical military skills including field tactics, parades and leadership training.

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