Call to document Genocide as over 120 victims get decent burial in Ruhango

Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti

Rwandans should comprehensively write about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi to ensure that the youth and the next future generations as well as the rest of the world get to understand what happened in the country 24 years ago.

The call was made on Sunday during a Genocide commemoration event at Kinazi memorial site in Ruhango District.

The site is home to over 60,000 remains of Genocide victims, most of who were exhumed from a mass grave codenamed ‘CND’. During the same event, 124 bodies were exhumed from nearby locations and given a decent burial at the memorial site.

CND was the name of the present-day Parliamentary Building in Kimihurura, Kigali which in 1994 hosted a 600-strong contingent of the then Rwanda Patriotic Army rebels who had been deployed in the capital to protect Rwanda Patriotic Front politicians who were supposed to join an inclusive transitional government under the Arusha peace talks.

The talks collapsed when the Genocide broke out in April 1994.

Mourners in Ruhango reflected on the gruesome massacres in the area as Interahamwe militiamen and Burundian refugees in Rwanda at the time killed and roasted body parts of Tutsi victims before dumping them in a mass grave.

At first, the Tutsis here tried to defend themselves against the militia who surrounded them at the then Ntongwe Commune, but they were eventually overcome and slaughtered.

Speaking at the event, the Minister for Local Government and Social Affairs, Francis Kaboneka, said that information on the Genocide should be at the disposal of the current and future generations.

“We need to document the history of how the Genocide was prepared and executed, not only in this place but across the country. And this history should not start from 1994 but years before,” said Kaboneka.

The minister urged survivors not to be kept captive by what they went through but soldier on with resilience.

“We all need to support survivors to overcome their grief,” he said.

Kaboneka said it was a pity that, 24 years later, Genocide survivors are still struggling to find and accord decent burial to their loved ones because some perpetrators have declined to reveal the whereabouts of the remains of their victims.

Mukanyandwi’s testimony

Odette Mukanyandwi, a mother of three from Gasabo District, was 14 years old when the Genocide took place.

“Since 1990 the signs were there, in my class they once asked us to stand up according to our ethnic groups and the teachers would mock Tutsi students. Long before the Genocide started we could see people fleeing and houses being set on fire,” she said.

“Before the Genocide started, militiamen often attacked us and we would spend nights in the bush and go to school the next morning. Several public meetings were also held where people were openly incited to kill the Tutsi,” she added.

“In 1994, we heard that the plane carrying Habyarimana had crashed and heavy gunfire ensued shortly after. We scampered for our dear lives looking for a place to hide; I ended up at Ntongwe Commune (head office) where thousands had gathered.

“I found so many people there, my mother and other relatives were also there with me, and my mother had lost her voice. We were hungry and thirsty and people were dying from their wounds,” she recalled.

“The militia attacked us and started reading out names, they surrounded the compound and others jumped inside, they started hacking us with machetes, I saw them kill my young brother, my mother and so many others,” she narrated.

“They hit me everywhere, including on the head, I fell unconscious while someone shoved an object inside my ear, they then threw me outside thinking I was dead.

“Hundreds of bodies lay all over the place and I heard militia leaders asking the Interahamwe to first clean the area because the smell was becoming unbearable before they could kill other people.

“They started taking bodies to the mass grave, one young girl came and told me that we needed to leave the area because the militia was planning to bury those who were in critical condition alive, we left but we soon met a group of men who stopped us and told us that they were going to turn us into their wives, but as they still argued about who would take who somehow we managed to slip away and escaped.

“As we headed back to our home area, we found that it was business as usual for some of the people we know, they were not being hunted. People were in the market, some were busy looting, while others mocked us that we had resurrected…but one Hutu woman was touched when she saw us and gave us clothing before we left the place.

“On our way, we met another group of militia who stopped us and asked us to sit down, many people came from nowhere and surrounded us, it became clear to us that were going to die, but suddenly word reached the militia that wanted to kill us that the RPA soldiers were around the corner, they left immediately and we survived.”