As events to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi get underway, yesterday, Rwandans from across the City of Kigali gathered at Nyanza Hill in Kicukiro District, to remember over 3,000 Tutsi abandoned by UN Belgian troops to be killed by Interahamwe militia and genocidal government soldiers.
When the Genocide began on 7 April 1994, thousands of Tutsis from various corners of Kicukiro neighbourhoods sought refuge at former Kicukiro Technical School known as ETO. The school was a base of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) peacekeeping forces; the refugees thought that the forces would protect them.
In her testimony, Irene Rwizihirangabo, who survived the Nyanza massacre, recounted the ordeal that those who had fled at ETO Kicukiro went through.
Following the killing of 10 Belgian peacekeepers that were part of the UNAMIR, the peacekeeping troops received orders to leave Rwanda. Regardless of the tension that had built up as Interahamwe surrounded ETO Kicukiro, the UN troops there also decided to leave.
A select group amongst the refugees pleaded vainly with the troops commander to stay, to protect them from Interahamwe militia and genocidal government soldiers.
On 11 April 1994, UNAMIR Belgian troops left ETO Kicukiro. Their departure was simultaneous with the entry of Interahamwe militia and genocidal government soldiers.
The latter took the refugees to Sonatube where then Mayor of Kigali City, Lt Col Tharcisse Renzaho ordered that they instead be taken to Nyanza Hill and killed there because Sonatube was too visible as it is along the road to the airport. Nyanza was a secluded area.
“We were shocked to see UN peacekeeping troops leaving people targeted by killers in danger. They abandoned us in time of need. That was an act of cowardice,” Rwizihirangabo said.
The abandonment of refugees at Kicukiro is a symbol of failure by the United Nations to protect Tutsis during the Genocide.
“Under a heavy downpour, starved Tutsi were forced to march to Nyanza. Those too weak to march were killed on the way. When we arrived at Nyanza, our identification cards were checked before mass killing began. The militia shot and threw grenades in the crowd before using machetes to finish off those of us who were still alive,” recalled Rwizihirangabo.