13 April 2017

Rwanda: Kesho Hill - Centre of Resistance Turned Into Killing Spree

In 1990, when killing of Tutsi began in parts of Western Province - native home to ex-President Juvenal Habyarimana, many Tutsi ascended Kesho hill.

Located between districts of Musanze in the North, Ngororero and Nyabihu in Western Rwanda, the hill has a long history even before the 1990 genocide against Tutsi.

Years back, Kesho hill was regarded a safe haven for 'Abagogwe' - pastoralists living in 'Bigogwe' - a vast area stretching partly from Musanze, Ngororero and Nyabihu Districts.

The hill is covered with tea plantations and borders with Giciye stream on the other side.

In 1994 during the Genocide against Tutsi, victims climbed the hill as a strategic position to defend themselves against marauding Interahamwe militia.

On April 6, after shooting down of a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana, Tutsi as usual returned to the hill in Muhanda Sector (current Ngororero District) and started fighting militias.

Killings of Bagogwe had started as early as 1990s. According to available facts, between 1991 and 1992, countless number of Bagogwe Tutsi were rounded up from nearby villages, brought to Gisenyi, killed and dumped at the place which was later named 'Commune Rouge' in reference to the blood that was shed there during the Genocide.

Located in Rubavu district, 'Commune Rouge' was initially a cemetery but turned into a blood basket during the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.

Back at Kesho hill, located in Gaseke area - native place to ex-President Habyarimana, survivors of the massacre recall how killings unfolded.

During 23rd commemoration of the Genocide against Tutsi in Ngororero district on Wednesday, survivors said that the killings escalated on April 8.

According to survivors, April 8 is the day when the body of President Habyarimana was transported to Murambi public training centre in Muhanga District - then headquarters of Genocidaire government, in transit to Rubaya Tea factory which is adjacent to Kesho hill for his burial.

The head of Rubaya Tea Factory, Anastase Ryaribu was the godfather of Habyarimana.

The arrival of President's body in the company of presidential guards spelled trouble on Tutsi camping at Kesho hill.

Their final had come. Fierce attacks were launched on them as they hardly fought back with available traditional weapons such as stones and sticks.

"We had chosen this hill for our safety long ago," said Gerard Makuza, a survivor of the massacre.

According to Makuza, killers came facing Tutsi hiding at the hill. "We advanced to another side of the hill which was a stream and killers could not cross. We put up resistance against all attacks until heavy guns and soldiers came," Makuza told mourners.

Nearly 1500 Tutsi were killed by Interahamwe militia and soldiers. Only 50 people managed to escape through Giciye stream and headed to Zaire (currently Democratic Republic of Congo), added Makuza.

At the commemoration event, Western Province Governor Alphonse Munyentwari hailed resistance of Bagogwe, and reminded those in attendance that commemoration activities are meant to give value to Genocide victims and taking drastic measures to ensure Genocide never happen again.

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