By Erasme Rugemintwaza
Rwanda is a country of the Thousand Hills, but it is also a country a thousand times bruised by the social avatars that have been the basis of confrontations that often turned into horrific inter-ethnic massacres throughout its history. The decade of 1990-2000, will make its record in this atavistic rivalry between Hutus and Tutsis. Apart from the massacres of the Tutsis of 1994 by the Government of KAMBANDA Jean with Hutu dominance, massacres for which the Government of National Union of Paul KAGAME has fired all wood to make them call Genocide against the Tutsis, there is the other side of this Genocide, the massacres of the Hutus for which the new master of the country, the RPF, deployed all efforts to silence them, pass them them to oblivion and qualify them as he deems. Let’s revisit some massive pogroms that awaken passions.
The discovery of the bodies of the Hutus massacred by the RPF-Inkotanyi in 1994, in the past month of April 2021, in Rulindo district is not a surprise, because “the facts are stubborn”. What is surprising about this funeral case is more than ever the attitude of the ruler in front of the bodies of its citizens: a segregation of the dead that reveals the racist system of the RPF regime! This deleterious attitude has raised or better revived the issue of the massacres of the Hutus which has become a taboo subject or a bogeyman in Rwanda. Some question whether the RPF-Inkotanyi regime will continue to display its barbaric attitude towards Hutu victims by even denying them a decent burial or whether it will one day settle down and opt for a positive attitude and recognize the excesses of its army, as its boss Paul Kagame timidly did.
Others say that the recognition of the Hutu massacres may be the end of the RPF’s lie and the beginning of a real policy of reconciliation; or the beginning of truth and justice long mortgaged and the end of a regime oozing the blood of the innocent. The candid recklessness of the Rulindo peasants who publicly accused the RPF of killing their families is recommendable; what to ask to others who know where theirs were savagely slaughtered and barbarically thrown away. This makes me revisit the mass graves of the Hutus massacred by the RPF, currently known but which are really a visible part of the iceberg.
Before the siege of Kigali: spreading the terror!
When we talk about the Rwandan genocide, the people of the north of the country think only of the massacres of Hutus in that region by RPF troops. And this is not a problem of denialism as it might seem. Indeed, the only massacres that this population has witnessed are those committed by the RPF-Inkotanyi since 01/10/1990. This attitude of the population of the north of the country is due to two competing phenomena: one historical and the other geographical. History has almost emptied this northern part of the Tutsis who were installed peasants in the south-east of the country for their security while geographically the north of the country constitutes Rwanda’s border with Uganda the military base of the RPF. The selective and systematic massacres of Hutu civilian populations in the former Byumba and Ruhengeri prefectures were registered very early than elsewhere in the country. Commando operations of retaliation, deterrence and why not subversions were recorded in this battle zone between 1990 and 1994. Then the population, mostly Hutu, will be exposed to the fury of the RPF-Inkotanyi and will often pay the bill for the intermittent defeats experienced by this Tutsi rebellion, determined to reclaim the country bequeathed to them by their parents, and perniciously entangled by a genocidal ideology against the Hutus. In fact, ideologues of the Hutu genocide did not lack thereon especially with KIMENYI Alexander with his magazine IMPURUZA, a kind of KANGUKA counterpart of NGEZE Hassan, would be the inspiration for MUGESERA Leon. Both advocate a thoroughbred country according to each tribe.
In Byumba, for example, only the massacres at the Byumba stadium are known, where more than 40,000 people were cowardly executed by the RPF. This disaster caused a lot of publicity during the Gacaca jurisdictions. Some public officials and even Gacaca judges were prosecuted and punished because they heard that the sole case that deserved to be examined was that of Byumba Stadium. Ms. MUKANTAGANZWA Domitille knows the effort made in Byumba to change this accusatory attitude of the population.
In fact, people were taken from their homes to be gathered in a mock meeting at Byumba Stadium. After a triage based on ethnicity, the Hutus were cowardly slaughtered. The bodies were crammed into mass graves. Unfortunately,27 years afterwards, the spectra of this vile disaster is still there: orphans are still mourning their parents whom they do not remember well, and widows are mortified by anguish and sorrow! Recently Shyaka Gilbert, 29, revealed that his family lost 40 members in the Byumba massacres. As a result, he lost all hope in life. While the young Tutsis of his generation had all the support of the state to prepare for their future, he only went to primary school!He deplores the situation of his mother, a Tutsi doubly rejected by her biological family and her in-laws family and forgotten by the state. Shyaka Gilbert wrote to the president of the republic for the alleviation of his anguish. Similarly, the population of Ruhengeri Prefecture, especially the border areas of Uganda, such as the former municipalities of Butaro, Kidaho and Kinigi and the urban municipality of Kigombe, have remembered the attack of 8 February 1993. Attack well prepared by the RPF, breaking the ceasefire, because not only by the attack the RPF will take the city of Ruhengeri but also it will surge on the hills of Tumba until blocking the road Ruhengeri- Kigali and write in the road, I remember very well “RPF Zone” in Rulindo, about forty kilometers from Kigali.
A deadly attack that will leave behind hecatombs. The city of Ruhengeri was littered with mutilated corpses, beheaded after the APR took and evacuated the city of Ruhengeri. In the countryside of Kidaho on the Ugandan border it was horrible. It was a very deadly attack that will empty the attacked areas of its population to be moved to squalid camps of Cyabingo, Mukinga comparable to that of Nyacyonga nearing Kigali City. These camps will remain in the memory of humanitarians. Just before this attack, a more deadly RPF commando operation was carried out at the Uganda border area. What was horrifying and terrifying was the RPF-Inkotanyi’s way of killing.Mr. Kanyamihigo Callixte, who was president of the MRND in the commune of Kidaho was beheaded, we will find his head in extremis, while we were going to bury the trunk without the head! His assassination aimed to silence him about the murder of Bishop Ruhengeri NIKWIGIZE Phocas by RPA given that he went to his burial; which means that he was an embarrassing eyewitness to the barbarity of the RPF. Bishop NIKWIGIZE Phocas was intercepted and executed by the RPF when he and his flock returned from the refugee camps of the former Zaire. In this commando operation were also executed Kanyamibwa Charles with his three wives and a dozen of children; agronomist André will be thrown on the road with his throat cut.
After the RPF’s withdrawal from areas conquered in the attack of 8 February 1993, a demilitarized zone was created under the control of the UN Neutral Military Observer Group. In fact, the area was almost under the control of the RPF, because it is difficult to control a rebel as the regular army. There will be a lot of extermination of influential Hutus like NKABURA Jean, prominent trader of the city of Ruhengeri living in Rugarama; Zimulinda Fidel teacher who will be blindfolded and let starve in the area near the Ugandan border. The horrific attack in the tempo zone was uncovered in 2018, with the discovery of a mass grave of 50 bodies.
In fact, some people killed by the RPF in the tempo zone will be thrown into a mass grave that was discovered in 2018 in the Kidaho shopping centre, in the plot of Mr. Gasaza Musabyimana Alfred Maximilian, in the Cyanika sector, Burera district. As in Rulindo, the discovery is purely coincidental. Indeed, during construction work, one randomly fell on a mass grave containing about fifty bodies. Some bodies were recognized among others SEBIRYO who was a youth coordinator of the commune of Kidaho and who had not left the tempo zone, as well as SEMBEBA. The Burera district authorities were quickly alerted and quickly intervened to calm down a possible wave of denunciations and protests and request of the bodies by relatives of the victims. The bodies were buried near Lake Burera, while some revolted spirits said they would have been dumped in Lake Burera. Those who were beginning to show some desire to claim the bodies were summoned to remain silent.This is why the people of the north of the country know only these massacres, which they describe as the genocide of the Hutu. Asking people who have lived in such conditions of tribal war to commemorate the Tutsi Genocide, when they know no Tutsi were killed in their villages, to deny them to bury their own instead of throwing them in unknown places is for them a serious violation of human rights and serious ethnic segregation.
Apart from commando operations for the purpose of reprisals, deterrence and especially this attack of 8/02/1993, the massacres of Byumba and Ruhengeri were carried out all in the same way: the population was invited in mock meetings to be ultimately shot.These massacres will stir up the Hutu-Tutsi problem and create the radicalism of the Hutus and the birth of the hard Hutu-power area in the political parties. All the ingredients of a civil drift were there, the wick was well soaked with fuel, there lacked just a spark. To add to this spark, once again, was ignited by the RPF: the assassination of Juvénal Habyarimana.
After the siege of Kigali: A wolf locked in a sheepfold
After the assassination of Juvénal HABYARIMANA, and the disbanding of the government forces under the strong offensives of the RPF, it was the apocalypse. Like a wolf locked in a sheepfold, the RPF scoured entire villages in organized massacres. The Hutu populations no longer had protection; they will then be victims of all the evils attributed to the Hutu regime.The furious RPF will leave it to anyone who wants to kill whom they want: It is revenge, Tutsis killed in this inter-ethnic war. On the Tutsi hecatombs of the agony of the Hutu regime are added Hutu hecatombs to establish a Tutsi regime. But the RPF was well-organized to carry out the massacres. To cover up the massacres, the RPF had two cremation centres in Masaka and Gabiro where the corpses that were collected all over the country disappeared, burning them or burying them in mass graves with Ugandan bulldozers. A specific order was given: do not leave any intellectual Hutu! Apart from the massacres organized by the military hierarchy, there were revenge individually organized. One example among many is that of General KARENZI KARAKE: he massacred 120 people from the Kabare sector of his native Buringa to, he said, avenge his brother Kayigi François who died in Kigali in April 1994.
Mass exterminations were always done in two ways. The first was mock meetings where people were selected to be shot on lists pre-established by RPF propagandists or Tutsi survivors. Large-scale massacres are reported throughout the country, but it is noteworthy to point out those at the Saint André School where more than 12,000 people have been killed. Rumors say that to deceive the humanitarians who had the information of this disaster of Saint André School, the RPF system turned a blind eye and buried these bodies of the Hutu in the memorial of Gisozi, no one can be fooled, when it comes to the interests of the impossible regime becomes easy! It should be noted by the way that the assassinations of Hutu political leaders such as Gapyisi Emmanuel, Bucyana Martin, Gatabazi Félicien, Rwambuka, Ingabire Alphonse (Katumba), Joseph Mutombo are sponsored by the RPF by the mobile brigades under the command of KARENZI KARAKE. What about the KIBEHO massacres in April 1995 led by the current General IBINGIRA. These massacres in Kibeho have taken away between 8,000 and 10,000 lives. IBINGIRA was tried on 19/12/1996, for the case. But the trial was merely a sham, and no punishment was ever carried out against him.
The assassination of three Catholic Bishops by the RPA in Gitarama on 3 June 1994 was nothing more than a confirmation of the drift of the bloodshed in which the country was located.They are: Archbishop Vincent Nsengiyumva of Kigali; Bishop ThaddéeNsengiyumva of Kabgayi and President of the Rwandan Episcopal Conference; Joseph Ruzindana, Bishop of Byumba. A simple statement by Colonel Frank MUGAMBAGE said that it was through a sad mistake that the RPF soldiers killed these bishops. If it was a mistake, because the error is human, why did the RPF Parliament refuse the burial of these bishops with dignity?
The alibi was not strongly convincing : the infiltrators of 1996-1998
The years 1996-1998, are as macabre as the previous ones. The massacres had a resurgence of cruelty. The RPF once again gave itself the sad task of killing all the intellectualHutu who had returned from the camps of the former Zaire escaping from death in extremis.To this element sufficient for a Hutu to be eliminated is added the well-established plans of mass extermination of the Hutu through the phenomenon of “infiltrators”. The war operations against “infiltrators” were under the command of Faustin Kayumba Nyamawasa. This bloodthirsty inveterate will turn the prefectures of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi into a bloodbath. Let us remind that Kayumba was in charge of ethnic cleansing throughout the RPF’s advance. He had two cremation centres in Masaka and Gabiro where corpses collected across the country, such as those in Kibeho and elsewhere, and the Kigali massacres at the end of 1998 may pass unnoticed.
It was in these operations that many families perished. Let’s revisit the hecatombs. Starting with Rulindo, in the little Motel named “Pensez-Y”(literally Think About It ) where the RPF massacred a hundred people in 1998, who were watching the World Cup. The attack was in vain attributed to the “infiltrators. The then Minister of the Interior, Sheikh Abdul Karim HARERIMANA, took a clear position at his peril; he denounced the RPA soldiers. The case was closed without any form of trial! I would like to draw an attention on the extermination of the family of a simple catechist named BYUMA and his brothers, in the commune of Kidaho, Rugarama sector in the area of the market of the same name and currently in the District of Burera.
It was a Saturday, the day of this market that attracted many Ugandans and even Congolese. By a well-premeditated plan through the “infiltrators”, the RPF soldiers created a kind of patrol in the market. The first group of RPA soldiers who created these shambles, withdrew under the infiltrator’s badges towards the Muhabura forest. The so-called intervention comes a little later and simulates the pursuit of combat form with exchanges of fire. The plan was already ready. It remained to be seen, what is the target that we wanted to shoot down.In that evening it was a horrible elimination of the family of BYUMA and his brothers by Lieutenant GASANA Aloys. The alibi, which this time was not concrete, was that the family would have children among the infiltrators and that this family is eliminated by the infiltrators themselves! A mishmash that cannot convince even a 5-year-old ! The hecatomb was a horrible, savage and barbaric slaughterhouse because even a one-week-old baby from his daughter-in-law Uwizeye was shot in the head! Officially, with cynicism and shamelessness, the massacre was attributed to these alleged infiltrators. The next day, in a very terse speech, Rucagu Boniface, very distraught, advised the population not to support the infiltrators.In a traditional formula, he spoke to that population frightened in these words: “I wash my hands for the blood of those who do not want to support the new master of the land, the RPF, if you do not accept as I did, you will be shot.” After this brief meeting, the survivors of this massacre were forced to bury all 39 people in a mass grave!
This area of Kidaho was in command area of Kayumba Nyamwasa. In these ethnic cleansing operations, under the pretext that he was hunting the infiltrators, he plunged the whole north of the country into a bloodbath.And it is under his command that thousands of people fleeing his bombings and shootings will die asphyxiated in the cave of Nyakinama, Kayove sector where they had found refuge!
In an interview with TV5 on 03/03/1998, Faustin Kayumba, Nyamwasa, bluntly responds bluntly to the accusations that make his army a machine of bloody repression: “When I talk about neutralization, in fact, my goal is to hit them on the battlefield and kill them, not stop them. When I go into operations, I do not go there to make arrests. I say to my soldiers: you must aim perfectly, you must shoot to kill, not to stop. I’m in operations, I’m not doing police work here. But at the same time we have prisoners…”All these Hutu hecatombs are well known, reports from all UN sources, champions of human rights, great researchers, high authorities of the RPF who became dissidents to the simple testimonies of the peasants are too numerous to not ignore that they took place. The mass graves sleep in silence waiting for one day a fortuitous discovery to bring them out of silence, feed the debates and revive passions. These mass graves of the Hutu wait for naïve persons to take risks, often unknowingly, giving them the burial worthy of a human being; such an suicidal initiative will surely entail imprisonment as what occurred to the former mayor of Gakenke Epaphrodite Mugemangango, who in 2008 will re-bury the bodies of the Hutu in the Tutsi memorial! Or to exonerate itself and thereby dispel any desire, the FRP system itself will accept, disheartened, to put these hutu bodies in the Tutsi memorial as it was done at Gitwe in Muhanga!
But the only panacea to this spectrum of Hutu hecatombs would be the acceptance of the history of the country, of course, of this atavistic rivalry between Hutus and Tutsis, a rivalry that instead of generating a dynamism of society has instead spawned fratricidal confrontations which we want to hide, silence or tear up a few pages and exhibit some of them. Thus, prosecuting and bringing to justice criminals of before both sides whereby courts would allow all parents and close relatives of the victims of Rwanda’s inter-ethnic massacres to mourn and honor the memory of their loved ones. Only then can national reconciliation be considered insofar as, regardless of ethnicity, all criminals will have been held accountable for their actions in court.