Between 23 and 28 October 1997, 8000 unarmed civilians were killed by RPA soldiers in a large cave at Nyakimana, Kayove secteur, Kanama commune, in Gisenyi préfecture, Rwanda. Access to the site by Amnesty International independent investigators has been denied.
Most of the victims are believed to have been people displaced by armed conflict in the secteurs of Bisizi, Kanama, Karambo and Kayove, in Kanama commune. Whole communities had fled their home areas in August 1997 in search of safety, following clashes between RPA soldiers and armed groups and the killing of several hundred people by RPA soldiers between 8 and 10 August at a marketplace at Mahoko, Kanama commune, and in the surrounding areas during the following days.
Since that time, this displaced population – estimated to number several thousand people – had been living in the secteurs of Kigarama and Mukondo. In mid-October, RPA soldiers reportedly arrived at the site where the displaced people had settled and attempted to force them to return to their home areas. The displaced people tried to resist, explaining that the insecurity which had caused them to flee in August was continuing. The soldiers insisted that the displaced people should return and reportedly fired into the crowd to force them to move. An unspecified number were shot dead on the spot and others along the way. The soldiers were then reported to have carried out further killings of civilians, after herding them back to their homes in Kayove secteur.
Several thousand civilians then tried to flee from the soldiers again and hid in the cave at Nyakimana. One source stated that this was the only hiding place as there were military roadblocks everywhere else to prevent people from escaping. On around 23 October, RPA soldiers then attacked the cave with grenades and other explosives, killing many of those hiding inside. They then sealed off the entrance with cement and gravel to prevent anyone from escaping.
Several people who managed to escape from the cave on around 23 October were reportedly arrested in Kanama commune, after reporting the incident to local authorities.