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The genocide against the Tutsi in the former Kibungo prefecture: How it was executed in the commune of Muhazi

Thousands of Rwandans during a walk to remember (file photo)

According to research carried out by the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) on the history of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi in the former prefecture of Kibungo, hatred towards the Tutsi was more than ever exacerbated around April 8 in the Muhazi commune with the arrival of Jean Baptiste Gatete in Kibungo. As the post of mayor of Commune Muhazi was vacant, Jean Baptiste Gatete occupied it as soon as he arrived in Kibungo. Jean Baptiste Gatete, the mayor of Kayonza, Célestin Senkware and Lieutenant Mihigo, Head of the military detachment of Kayonza, actively participated in the genocide in these two communes.

 An informant from the Kayonza Commune who was Chief of the Interahamwe and who participated in the massacres in the Muhazi Commune relates that on April 15, 1994, a large number of Tutsi from Muhazi were killed at the Muhazi communal office, as were others who had come from Rutonde and Bicumbi, in the Prefecture of Kigali-Ngali, to take refuge there. These refugees faced the Interahamwe for three days, but on the fourth day the gendarmes came with heavy weapons which they placed on Nsinda hill opposite the Commune, and exterminated them although some were able to escape. The Interahamwe were on the lookout behind the communal office buildings and shot anyone who sought to flee. But those who had been able to escape these massacres, fleeing to Murambi Commune in Byumba Prefecture, could not cross Lake Muhazi, because they were expected in the Gati Sector, by the lake. The Interahamwe had taken the precaution of destroying the boats to prevent them from crossing. On that day, more than 5,000 w been killed.

Apart from the Muhazi communal office, Tutsis who had come from Rukara had also taken refuge in the Parish of Mukarange as in other localities of the Muhazi Commune. Father Jean Bosco Munyaneza was killed for protecting refugees from the Mukarange Parish where he was officiating.

The Parish of Mukarange, in Muhazi Commune, is only separated from Murambi Commune by Lake Muhazi. According to the informant of the Muhazi Commune, former Councilor of the Mukarange Sector and coordinator of massacres in this Sector, many residents of the Muhazi Commune were able to see Murambi's houses burn on April 7, 1994. The refugees who crossed the lake by the swims made terrifying tales describing the role of Jean Baptiste Gatete in this dreadful carnage. Others arrived in Muhazi on foot, most often seriously injured. Refugees invaded Muhazi Commune from the neighboring Commune of Kayonza.

These displaced persons settled in the Parish of Mukarange. Parish priest Jean Bosco Munyaneza and Father Joseph Gatare did their best to calm them down, give them practical comfort and ensure their protection. But the sight of the wounded refugees, the burnt buildings, the stories told by the refugees and the indifference of the gendarmes prompted many of the Tutsi from Muhazi to go to the Parish so that on April 11, 1994 more than 4,000 refugees were there according to one survivor of Mukarange Parish.

According to an informant from this Commune, on the morning of April 12, 1994, they threw grenades and the refugees did not retaliate. In doing so, they immediately began attacking the Tutsi, who fiercely resisted from 3 a.m. until 10 a.m. Faced with this resistance, the Interahamwe went to ask for reinforcements; fifteen soldiers, including the informant, came to help them. As soon as they arrived at 11:00 am Lieutenant Twahirwa asked them to open fire and they killed all the refugees, even those who had been evacuated in the YCW building and to whom Lieutenant Twahirwa had promised to save their lives.

Before the attack, they held a small meeting to take precautions to avoid shooting each other during the killings. They agreed on watchwords. According to one informant, "Some will say 'Kabanda', others will answer 'Kabande'. As of this order, we threw grenades and many refugees perished. Men who had bows among the Tutsi tried to resist but in vain, because Lieutenant Twahirwa asked for reinforcement from the gendarmes who were in their position at the roundabout of Kayonza in town. They came with guns”.

The killers notably used rifles and grenades and shot at Tutsis who had taken refuge in the Parish. Father Jean Bosco Mugiraneza, the parish priest of this parish, had closed the gate to the court to prevent the killers from entering it. The latter had asked him to open it and separate from the Tutsi because he was Hutu, but he refused to abandon his followers and a certain Egide Sibomana shot him.

According to a survivor of the Parish, Jean Baptiste Gatete was present for the duration of the killings and he kept repeating that no Tutsi should survive.

 Finally, the Interahamwe, who had started killing at 3 a.m., continued until 4 p.m. heaps of corpses littered the soil of the Parish. More than 3,000 Tutsi refugees perished in the Parish of Mukarange.

After the killings, the soldiers returned to their posts, but the Interahamwe went to hunt Tutsis in and around the Mukarange Sector. Most of those who had escaped the killings at the Parish were killed at the barriers.

Among those who were at the head of the killers during the genocide in this Commune, there are in particular Pierre Rwakayigamba, who was Vice-Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR), Pierre Claver Kabandana who assumed the interim of the Bourgmestre and Protais Kantanyankole, an employee of the Red Cross.