27 June 2019

Rwanda: Genocide - New Study Details How Over 180,000 Were Killed in 21 Days

Photo: Stephen Rwembeho
Grandchildren of victims of the genocide queue to lay wreaths on a tomb (file photo).

The magnitude of the Genocide against Tutsi in the former Kibungo prefecture in eastern Rwanda was beyond comprehension, with 182,000 Tutsi killed in just three weeks, a study has revealed.

The survey was carried out in 11 former communes that made up Kibungo.

They include Muhazi, Kayonza, Rutonde, Rukara, Kabarondo, Kigarama, Birenga, Mugesera, Sake, Rukira and Rusumo.

Those administrative territories were later merged to form the current four districts of Rwamagana, Kayonza, Ngoma and Kirehe.

Led by Justine Hitimana, a Research Fellow at National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), the new study says that genocide in Kibungo was committed from April 7 to April 27 because the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) captured Kibungo shortly after.

Eleven per cent of the victims were killed in churches across the prefecture.

"These statistics show the intensity of the genocide perpetrated against Tutsi in Kibungo. And, many people sought refuge in parishes believing no one would dare violate the house of God," Hitimana said Tuesday while presenting findings in Kigali.

"In Kibungo, there was a ring of leaders who subjected the Tutsi to extreme persecution. It included Kibungo's former prosecutor, Mathias Sebushishi, former intelligence chief, Paul Sentashya and Joseph Byakunda, a former director of Kibungo prison".

The research included in-depth interviews with 110 witnesses including Genocide perpetrators and survivors, and other people with knowledge of what happened in the region during the Genocide.

Other sources are archives related to the Genocide against Tutsi in Kibungo, archives of Gacaca Courts as well as those from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), files from the military prosecution, and records from Ngoma, Rwamagana, Kayonza na Kirehe districts.

According to the study, top military officers who carried out genocide include retired Colonel Pierre Célestin Rwagafilita, former head of the national gendarmerie (para-military police), Lieutenant-Colonel Anselme Nkuriyekubona, Captain Théophile Twagiramungu, and Lieutenants Twahirwa and Mihigo.

There were also leaders of paramilitary groups such as Emmanuel Habimana, alias Cyasa, Charles Murwanashyaka, Déo Yagahanze, among others.

The research indicates that during a meeting held in 1992 in Kibungo and attended by almost all leaders, Rwagafilita appointed Cyasa as the president of Interahamwe militia in Kibungo.

Only the Bourgmestre of Rukira Commune, Donatien Ruhigira, and Godefroid Ruzindana, the Perefect of Kibungo opposed the Genocide. CNLG Executive Secretary, Jean-Damascène Bizimana said that Prefect Ruzindana was killed for disassociating from genocidaires, adding that he was killed along with his entire family.

Local political leaders in the region who committed genocide include Erneste Rutayisire, Octavien Ngenzi (Ngenzi was mayor of the Kabarondo), Jean Mpambara (Bourgmestre of Rukara Commune), Célestin Senkware (Kayonza Bourgmestre), Sylvestre Gacumbitsi, former Mayor of the Commune of Rusumo, and Chrysanthe Habimana alias Ruhinabatutsi, Ex-Bourgmestre of Mugesera Commune.

Also former cabinet ministers such as Justin Mugenzi (Trade), and Prosper Mugiraneza (Civil Service) also participated in genocide in the region and used their influence to incite the public to commit genocide.

"What is sad is that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda acquitted both of them in an appeal case," Bizimana said.

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