Somewhere in a dark corner of a Copperbelt tavern, it was not a common sight to see two fellows in Zambian immigration uniforms, do order pints one after another in the midst of the collapsing of the giants mining company that hit the Zambia Copperbelt area in the mid 90’s after the Brentwood institutions advised the then Zambia regime to privatise (if not auctioning ) all state controlled companies ; and , a by-passer who tried to find out was quickly answered: “natubomba bakamba!” (i.e. Big Man we have worked today).
The day of May 27th, could be treated like any other day since it is not attached to any international commemoration event or a birthday of a living African president neither any anniversary of an African explorer ; but, to the Rwandese compelled to leave their native lands in order to seek safety as “asylum seekers” later on to graduated into refugees that deserve “international protection”, that day is still fresh in their memories as it was one hour ago.
16 years ago, meaning May 27th, 1997: the “Forces Armées du Zaire” (FAZ), Armed Forces of Zaire that have failed to stop the war that broken out from the East (commonly known as North and South Kivu where found the towns of Goma and Bukavu respectively) of the once flamboyant Zaire under Mobutu reign towards the the end of the October 1996 and the FAZ could not defend the Lubumbashi. Laurent Kabila could not make it if it was not by the help of Rwandese Patriotic boys of Kagame coupled with the Ugandans National Army of Museveni when they find a way to enter the Zaire of Mobutu under pretext to “prevent “any attack from “Rwanda genocidaires” that Mobutu has given a sanctuary if it was not a way to create an opportunity of looting the wealth of Zaire?
The month of May 1997 arrived in the aftermath of the humiliation of Rwandese refugees by the government of Tanzania at the time it decide to push them back to the boarder , these asylum seekers, by then, were squatting in the Ngara District (Tanzania West ) in refugees camps called : Benaco, Musuhula, Lumasi, Kybalisa, etc… and the other side of then Zaire General Paul Kagame covered by Mr. Kabila was finishing them with his machetes as was revealed by the “UN maping report” and if this was not enough the Zambia of the late Dr. Frederic Jacob Titus Chiluba went ahead to signed an Extradition Treaty with the Rwanda regime.
The towns of Goma and Bukavu hosted some Rwandese fleeing the hostilities that triggered by the late Rwandese Habyalimana plane clash down on April 6th, 1994 in the midst of the implementation of the “Arusha Peace Protocol” that was brokered by the International Community in order to find a lasting solution of the “fiftyniners Rwandese refugees” who started a guerrilla on October 1st, 1990 form the north east of Rwanda with a military logistic backing of Uganda army. The inkotany RPF managed to defeat the once pride of Rwandese people army “Forces Armées Rwandese” (FAR) (Rwandese Armed Forces) early July 1994. Even if some Rwandese managed to cross by the east of Rwanda in order to find a refugee in the region of Ngala District, East Tanzania and another portion in the north of Burundi, the majority escaped via volcanic Region of Zaire east.
Whereas the majority of Rwandese opted to remain in the East of the then Zaire, others with finance means went to the East African countries like Kenya other in the West African French speaking countries. Others thought to move south ward to the country that Nelson Mandel has liberated from apartheid. However, in due course some Rwandese asylum seekers by making a stopover in Lusaka they could change their mind due to one or another reason; one of them was Mme Agnes Ntamabyariro , a former Minister of justice, a former General Secretary of Liberal Party (one the main opposition party) , the author of a ”Rwandese People do stand to accuse” (Le people Rwandais Accuse) book published in August 1994 at Bukavu. This book was the first ever attempt to reveal the unchecked atrocities committed by the Rwanda Patriotic Front under Kagame leadership.
Mme Agnes Ntamabyariro could have left Bukavu early 1995 with her husband, Dr. Rutagwera and her children. The family had to locate in Mufulira where Dr. Rutagwera was given a job as a medical practitioner. On the fateful day, the “immigration officers” paid a visit to her home in Mufulira around 0930. To the person like Mme Agnes Ntamabyariro a graduated of National University of Rwanda in its Law Faculty and once she was heading a court called “Court des Comptes” (i.e Audit Court) an judiciary institution that tried mainly the government officials accused of “public funds misappropriation” ; the late rwandese President Juvenal Habyalimana went ahead of not pardoning whoever was found guilty in exercising his “power of mercy” that became a tradition whenever there was any national event commemoration as: Independence Day (July 1st), the Day of Peace and Unity (the July 5th, the day on which the late Juvenal Habyalimana seized power through a coup military) , etc….. Mme Ntamabyariro could have thought that was a routine exercise. Did she know that she will be found in the one of “worst hell on earth” of this world: the famous Kigali Central Prison nicknamed “1930” the year in which Belgian colonialist decided to erect it.
Later on Mme Agnes Ntamabyariro was taken to courts, being a learnt “man of the law”; she challenged vainly her presence in Rwanda jail and this could not help to stop the anticipated ruling : “ life imprisonment for her part in the 1994 genocide”. Ironically the Liberal Party ex President Hon. Justin Mugenzi was acquitted by the Arusha based International Court Tribunal for Rwanda.
Once, this author tried to raise an issue of security of people living under “refugee status” in Zambia during a “live program” on one of the Zambia private known as Radio Phoenix , that could have been sponsored by the United High Commission of Refugees in conjuction with High Commissioner for Refugees; one of the panellist , the then Refugees legal advisor Douglas Tambulukani; commented about the issue of the Mme Agnes Ntamabyariro presence in Rwanda; counsellor Douglas Tambulukani opted to describe it as an “isolated case”; later on, during the launch the Greatlakes Women Refugees in Zambia (GWRAZ) an NGO that will be dealing with Human Rights among others , the author wished to know if GWRAZ could persuade the Mme Agnes Ntamabyariro case, the then GWRAZ chairman , Ms Esperance Kunda, was not given a chance to comment since an UNHCR official delegated to officiate was quick to refer that case in other fora. One could ask himself how possible the presence of Mme Agnes Ntamabyariro in “1930” could be treated in such a way when the Magazine Ichengelo observed during the aftermath of the disappearance of Mme Agnes Ntamabyariro a panic among the refugees population in its editorial of November 1997: “Hundreds of refugees are on the run again. To where? God alone knows. They can no longer trust anyone. Once again they have been betrayed. Students can hardly study; some of them have disappeared, while others are shivering for fear in their homes, waiting for a fatal knock on the door by Immigration or Rwandan agents for “justice”.
Some people could have a tip of the move that made Mme Agnes Ntamabyariro to be removed form the soil of zambia, the then Zambia President Frederic Jacob Titus Chiluba is no more, the then Minister of Home Affairs Hon Peter Machungwa and the acting Refugees Commissioner Eric Tukombe could live in order to tell the posterity of what happened on May 27th , 1997; this could be an answer to the points raised by editorial team of the bemba Magazine “Ichengelo” about the the Christianity and peace loving of a nation that wanted to be called an Christian nation;” this is a gross violation of basic human rights as well as a crime against justice, we champions of Christianity in a Christian country.
Efforts to get the view of the Mme Agnes Ntamabyariro was answered by a message written by one her sons that could be identified by his fist name of Olivier who wrote on his face book wall using his phone: “27th May, I keep the faith”.
May be somehow, somewhere, somebody manages to order more pints of beers than usual or managed to put “ka” something on his undeveloped plot; but , could he live with a clear conscience after tarnish his hands with stains of innocent bloods? This is 16 years ago!
P.S: According to an eye witness who does wish to be named she was worried by the health status of Mme Agnes Ntamabyariro when she managed to spot her in the corridors of Kigali Central Hospital.