|Late Madam Agathe Uwilingiyimana|
In the part one of this international public statement by the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety), the immediate and remote circumstances that led to the genocide under reference were graphically captured. It is important to remind that this statement is dedicated to the heroes and heroines of the tragic and disheartening butchery, chief among them is late Madam Agathe Uwilingiyimana; the transitional prime minister of Rwanda, who was gruesomely murdered alongside her husband in the early hours of April, 1994.
Butchery Following The Presidential Plane Crash Of April 6, 1994: Months before the plane crash, strong accusations were leveled against the Hutu controlled central government of President Juvenal Habyarimana to the effect that plans had been successfully hatched by the regime to massacre the Tutsis, moderate Hutus and rights activists in large numbers. To actualize this, mass recruitment of the unemployed Hutu youths was ordered. The killer exercise was said to have been supervised by two Hutu extremist political movements called “the National Republican Movement for Democracy (MRND)” and “the Coalition for the Defense of the Republic (CDR)”. Those recruited were later named “the Interahamwe militias”. They were trained by the presidential guards, indoctrinated and brainwashed. Their tribal killing operation code was “operation nettover” or “operation cleanup”. The Tutsis and moderate Hutus were labeled “enemies” and “traitors”, who deserved not to live or be spared alive.
The murderous messages of ethnic hatred and campaigns of calumny against the Tutsis and moderate Hutus were widely spread across the country using the State run radio station called “Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines”. The indoctrinated killer nationals were firmly directed not to spare any “enemy” or “traitor”, including newly born children. Externally, there were massive supports for the cleansing policies and operations of the then Hutu controlled central government in Kigali, which included arms supplies and technical supports. There were strong accusations that such killer supports came from Egypt and South Africa. France was also accused of providing expertise for the killer presidential guards and the “Interahamwe” militias.
The shocking and chilling killing spree exploded hours after the aviation killing of President Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundi counterpart, President Cyprien Ntaryamira on April 6, 1994. One of the earliest victims of the genocidal killings was the then transitional Prime Minister, Madam Agathe Uwilingiyimana. She was 41 years old and became prime minister in July 1993 following a power sharing arrangement. A moderate Hutu, she was dragged out of her official home, alongside her husband by the killer presidential guards on April 7, 1994, tortured and killed. Their five children were miraculously hidden and saved by courageous friends and colleagues.
Other prominent victims of the genocidal massacre were Lando Ndasingwa, a Tutsi cabinet minister in the transitional government, who was executed alongside his Canadian wife, their two children and mother; Joseph Kavaruganda, the then president of the Supreme Court and ten peace keepers from Belgium. Key members of the human rights groups were also felled by the genocidal knives and bullets. They included Charles Shamukiga, Fidele Kanyabugoyi, Ignace Ruhatana, Patrick Gahizi, Rev. Father Chrysologue Mahame and Abbe Augustin Ntagara. They were butchered by the rampaging presidential guards. Others like Mathieu Uwizeye (activist judge) and Charles Mbabaje (secretary of a human rights outfit: LIPREDHOR) were executed in the Rwandan cities of Kibundo and Byumba by the advancing rebels of the Rwandese Patriotic Front.
Some Catholic nuns and priests also paid dearly with their lives in the hands of “the Interahamwe” militias and the presidential guards. In turn, scores of defenseless civilians, especially women and children were massacred through homicidal collaboration of some priests and nuns when the said defenseless nationals sought refuge in churches and missionary school compounds. Barriers were mounted on all roads by the presidential guards and the “Interahamwe” militias so as to prevent the fleeing civilians from getting through. An estimated 20,000 people were executed in Kigali few hours into the genocidal operations. It was a killing by anybody against anybody in sight. Women also killed men as well as fellow women. Amnesty International account, for instance, quoted one Hutu woman as saying: “I killed three people, three men. I know them, they were my neighbors, I didn’t have any alternative. When I refused to kill, the government soldiers banged a gun on my child’s head and she died. She was six weeks old”.
On the other hands, the Rwandese Patriotic Front rebels fiercely matched to Kigali from their main base in Uganda. Some of their colleagues, stationed in Kigali following the failed peace accords, which included a cease fire, got entrapped and endangered. The genocidal killings went down following the successful capture of Kigali by the RPF rebels on July 4, 1994. This forced mass exodus of the Hutus and their failed central government into the then Zairian city of Goma as well as Burundi and Tanzania. There were 1.5million refugees in Zaire, 500,000 in Tanzania and 270,000 in Burundi. The genocide lasted from 6th April to 21st July, 1994. The then leader of the RPF rebels, General Paul Kagame told an international news agency that “the killings have stopped not because of changing of heart, but because there are few people left to be killed”.
A new central government was formed in Kigali on July 21, 1994 with the appointment of Mr. Pasteur Bizimugu (a moderate Hutu) as president and Mr. Faustin Twagiramungu (a Tutsi) as prime minister. The leader of the Rwandese Patriotic Front rebels, General Paul Kagame became the vice president and commander-in-chief of the new armed forces. He took over as the president in the year 2000 and remains so till date. There were also reported cases of post genocide killings and deaths in Rwanda. Cases of genocidal revenge massacres were rife.
The new RPF government and its sympathizers killed scores of suspected Hutus. The ousted Hutu central government, which escaped with bank funds, computers, vehicles and other luxury items to Tanzania, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and Burundi later regrouped and rearmed. Some of their victims were Tutsi communities living in the DRC, called “Banyamulenges”. They were systematically targeted and killed in large numbers. The ousted Hutu government forces and their “Interahamwe” militias also launched a series of cross border attacks into Rwanda and killed scores of innocent civilians.
In neighboring Burundi, similar massacres were also the order of the day. The then central government of President Sylvestre Ntibantinganya was helpless. The rift between the Tutsi dominated Army of Burundi and the Hutu backed rebel groups turned the country into killing fields leading to massacre of thousands of innocent nationals. The massacres reared their ugly heads after the gruesome assassination of President Cyprien Ntaryamira. The butchery came down after a bloodless coup in 1996 led by the former military head of State, Major Jean Pierre Buyoya.
In all, the Rwandan genocide cost an estimated death of between 800,000 and 1million people and generated over 2.5million refugees and millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Up to 200, 000 more died of post genocide diseases and starvation. In the Amnesty International account, “in one refugee camp in Zaire (DRC) alone, up to 80, 000 people died within weeks in a cholera epidemic”. Over 100,000 were also believed to have been killed in attacks and counter attacks between the ousted Hutu government and its allied armed persons and the incumbent Tutsi controlled government and its allies since the end of genocide in July 1994. In Burundi, it was estimated that up to 60,000 people were killed between 1994 and 2002.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law