The month of March 1994 was significant for several major events connected with the planning of the genocide against the Tutsi, between the months of April and July 1994.
The targeted killings of Tutsi in Gisenyi, and Ruhengeri prefectures were intensified, as were the massacres in Bugesera. The month was also significant for the preparation of an effective coup against President Juvenal Habyarimana. The more extreme elements in the ruling clique wanted a free hand to plan the genocide more extensively, and organize the murders at a faster rate.
1) March 1991, Assassination of 277 Tutsi in the prefectures of Gisenyi and Ruhengeri:
In January 1991, an international commission of enquiry under the Federation of Human Rights Leagues was conducted in the Gisenyi and Ruhengeri. In all, there were ten experts on the committee: Jean Carbonare (France), chairman of the group; Philippe Dahinden (Switzerland); René Degni-Ségui (Côte d’Ivoire); Alison Des Forges (United States of America); Eric Gillet (Belgium); William Schabas (Canada); HalidouOuedraogo (Burkina Faso); André Paradis (Canada); Rein Odink (Netherlands) and Paul Dodinval (Belgium).
The committee found several unmarked graves in these prectures. Examination of the bodies found that they were mostly young men, and most of them had multiple fractures to the face and skulls, caused by blunt instruments. In month of March 1991 alone, 277 bodies were found. The victims were Tutsi Bagogwe.
These massacres had taken place in different communes of Ruhengeri, and Gisenyi, including, Nkuli, Kinigi, and Mukingo in Ruhengeri, Gaseke, Giciye, Karago, Mutura, Kanama, Rwerere in Gisenyi.
The Commission concluded that the local civilian and military authorities, including Charles Nzabagerageza, the prefect of Ruhengeri and CômeBizimungu of Gisenyi, were involved in the killings, as were the mayors of the respective communes.
Prefect Nzabagerageza was particularly close to President Habyarimana. Both he and the President were cousins, and he was married to the cousin of the wife of the president, AgatheKanziga. According to the commission, other highly placed officials had been directly involved in the Bagogwe massacres. They included Joseph Nzirorera, a government minister, Colonel ElieSagatwa, adviser to President Habyarimana, and ProtaisZigiranyirazo, son in law to the President, and an influential figure.
According to an internal report by the Rwandan Intelligence services, the killings had begun as early as 1990, following the launch of the liberation struggle by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF). In Ngororero district alone, 362 people had been massacred.
March 1992, massacres of Tutsi in Bugesera:
On 3rd 1992, journalist Jean Baptiste Bamwanga, broadcast a report, claiming that a document purportedly drawn up by the RPF, detailing high level figures in the Habyarimana government targeted for assassination.
In the report, Bamwanga claimed that the piece of paper had been found on the premises of Tutsi shop keeper, Francois Gahima, one of the may alleged accomplices of the RPF with whose help the assassinations would be carried out. Coincidently, Gahima was also the local president of the opposition Liberal Party (PL).
There had been on such document. Bamwanga had acted on the orders of Ferdinand Nahimana, the then director of Rwanda Information Office (ORINFOR), the country’s broadcasting service. The supposed discovery of the RPF drawn up document was a pretext to begin wholesale murders of Tutsi.
Following the broadcast on the night of 4th to 5th March 1992, a combination of Interahamwe militias, soldiers of the Gako military camp, and soldiers from the Presidential Guard begun the systematic massacre of Tutsi in the area. By the end of the murderous rampage, 300 Tutsi had been massacred, their properties destroyed or despoiled.
The then government’s own report of 5th May 1992, details what was perpetrated. The report informs us that in Kanzenze commune where most Tutsi lived the destruction of people and property left:
•people massacred: 62
•dwelling houses burnt: 309
•kitchens burned: 573
•Livestock disappeared: 165 cows, 268 goats and 2 pigs.
In the Ngenda commune:
people massacred: 36
residential houses burnt: 74
kitchens burned: 119
Livestock disappeared: 112 cows, 111 goats and 16 pigs.
In Gishora Commune:
•people massacred: 84
•dwelling houses burnt: 216
•kitchens burned: 288
•Livestock disappeared: 188 cows, 325 goats and 28 pigs.
According to this report details that Bugesera had 26, 837 Tutsi, the majority of them, 22, 483 in Kanzenze Commune, out of a total population of 53, 279. The report found that 16, 239 Tutsi had fled their homes to seek refuge in different administrative centres and Church buildings, in Nyamata, Maranyundo, Ruhaha, Musenyi, Karama, Gitagata, Mayange, Rango, Ntarama, Murago, Kigusa, Kayenzi.
Five independent human rights organisations, ADL Lichredor, ARDHO, Kanyarwanda and AVP investigated the massacres, and published two reports, one on 10th March 1992, and a further report on the 30th March 1993. The 10th March report confirmed that 300 Tutsi had been murdered. Some had been thrown in local rivers to drown, some burned alive in their homes. The report put the number of displaced at 15,000 souls.
It notes that the displaced, especially those who had sought refuge in schools in Nyamata, Muranyundo, Ruhuha, and Rilima, were in desperate condition.
The report heavily criticizes the authorities responsible for the massacres, including FidèleRwambuka, the mayor of the Commune of Kanzenze, FaustinSekagina, the sub-prefect of Kanazi, DéogratiasNdimubanzi, the first deputy prosecutor in Kanazi, and Dominique Muhawenimana the head of the intelligence service in Kanazi sub-prefecture.
Following the 30th March 1993 investigations, the Human Rights organizations found that the Tutsi were still kept out of their properties, and remained in extreme danger from the CDR.
- Photographs of some of those who died in the 1994 genocide against Tutsi hang in a display in the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre.
By Bizimana Jean Damascene,the Executive Secretary of CNLG