How Genocide against Tutsi unfolded in Butare Prefecture

On 19 April 2022 at 05:45

The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in the former Butare Prefecture was executed with extreme cruelty where a large number of victims were killed in a short time span, after the interim President Théodore Sindikubawabo publically mobilized Hutus to kill Tutsis.

Following the crash of the plane which carried former President Juvenal Habyarimana on 6th April 1994, the plan of Genocide against Tutsi was executed in different parts of the country but killings did not immediately begin in Butare as the then Governor Jean Baptiste Habyarimana opposed the plan.

His reaction angered genocidaires who overthrown and killed him on 17th April 1994. On 19th April 1994, the interim President Sindikubwabo went to Butare where he sensitized Hutus to kill Tutsis which served as the beginning of killings in the area with extreme cruelty.

Today, a large part of the former Butare Prefecture is in Huye District.

The latter has released a book featuring history of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in the area written in March 2020 by researchers from ‘Menya aho uva kugira ngo umenye aho ujya’ association translated as ‘Know where you are coming from, to shape your future’ led by Prof. Déo Byanafashe. The book is comprised of more than 200 pages.

The research whose findings are published in the book was conducted in 14 sectors of Huye District including Gishamvu, Karama, Kigoma, Kinazi, Maraba, Mbazi, Mukura, Ngoma, Ruhashya, Huye, Rusatira, Rwaniro, Simbi and Tumba.

It was conducted between March and May 2020 to 165 respondents from former Commune Mbazi, Maraba, Huye, Ngoma, Gishamvu, Ruhashya, Runyinya, Kinyamakara and Rusatira.

The book also features information from different archives related to Genocide history and testimonies.

The Mayor of Huye District, Ange Sebutege has said that the book’s soft copy is available on the website of Huye District to be easily accessible to everyone.

He explained that Genocide against Tutsi in Butare was executed on order of the then President of the Republic which highly influenced people to execute Genocide plan.

People lived in harmony

Research findings show that people in Butare Prefecture used to live in harmony before the advent of colonizers who played a big role in dividing Rwandans.

Discrimination and ethnic divisionism led to killings that targeted Tutsis in 1959 under the so-called Social Revolution.

This came after the announcement of 10 commandments of Hutus by Joseph Habyarimana Gitera, hailing from Butare, in 1959 who also founded APROSOMA political party.

The commandments followed the publication of a document known as Hutus Manifesto in 1957 where some of Hutu elites indicated that there was political tension between Hutus and Tutsis.

Joseph Gitera Habyarimana in collaboration with Grégoire Kayibanda mobilized Hutus to kill Tutsis.

This led to 1959 massacres against the Tutsis whose houses were destroyed while those who survived were subject to torture and persecutions.

The persecutions continued until 1990 when RPF Inkotanyi launched the Liberation Struggle.

Uniqueness of Genocide in Butare

The President of Ibuka in Huye District, Theodate Siboyintore has said that road blocks were mounted in different parts of Butare following the sensitization of Sindikubwabo. These include one before Ihuriro Hotel which housed the then Minister of Family Promotion, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko. The hotel has an underground section where Tutsis were raped.

Other road blocks were mounted before the National University of Rwanda, Ku Mukoni, in Cyarwa; Rango; Huye town at a place popularly known as Kwa Bihira; before Faucon Hotel; at Kabutare, and CHUB among others.

Local leaders worked with soldiers, gendarmes and Interahamwe militia to plot attacks to kill Tutsis.

In Ngoma town (currently in Ngoma Sector), Tutsis were taken from their homes to be killed at the Arboretum forest behind the National University of Rwanda while others were killed at roadblocks.

Others were killed at CHUB, ESO, Butare Prefecture Head Office, at Kabakobwa, in Cyarwa and Tumba, at SORWAL and Karubanda Junior Seminary.

At the University of Rwanda, some of Hutu students killed Tutsi colleagues and teachers of torture and killed girls after raping them.

In Communes that formed Butare Prefecture, a large number of Tutsis were killed in Simbi and Sovu in Commune Maraba, at Cyahinda Parish in Commune Nyakizu, Byiza Stadium in Commune Mbazi, at ISAR- Rubona and ISAR Songa in Commune Ruhashya and Nyaruhengeri Parish.

Pauline Nyiramasuhuko was convicted of Genocide crimes.

Butare Prefecture accommodated a large number of Burundian refugees who participated in killings and returned home after committing the atrocities.

Butare Prefecture borders with Gikongoro Prefecture. The latter had many killers who crossed to Butare to reinforce Hutus to kill Tutsis.

The Mayor of Huye District, Ange Sebutege has said that Butare Prefecture was turned into a killing ground where the severity of killings were much worse than other provinces.

He revealed that many leaders heading different institutions including the University of Rwanda, ISAR, IRST and SORWAR among others played a role in the Genocide.

“Their participation saw Genocide in the area executed at high level,” he said.

Butare was also home to the school of non-commissioned officers (ESO) which reinforced Interahamwe militia and other genocidaires.

Leaders’ participation

Many authorities from the interim government led by President Sindikubwabo from Butare highly participated in the killings of Tutsi.

Sindikubwabo hails from Save Sector of Gisagara District (in former Butare Prefecture). The former Prime Minister, Jean Kambanda hails from Gishamvu Sector as well as Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the former Minister of Family Promotion.

Butare was also home to the former Director General of a matchstick plant dubbed SORWAL , Alphonse Higaniro; former head of ISAR, Ntahontuye Ndereyehe Charles and the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Rwanda, Nshimiyumuremyi Jean Berchmas among others including parliamentarians and mayors of all 20 communes of the prefecture.

Others are Jean Chrysostome Ndindabahizi who headed Région Sanitaire de Butare; Emmanuel Munyangendo, the former Director of LABOPHAR and Simon Ntigashira, the head of National Museum.

The National University of Rwanda also had many intellectuals including lecturers, researchers and students who participated in the Genocide hugely.

Helpless victims who fled to Butare

The President of Ibuka in Huye District, Theodate Siboyintore has said that many Tutsis fled to Butare considering the fact that the killings of Tutsis had not yet started in the area. As he explained, they hoped protection in the area but were later killed.

“Many of them came from Nyaruguru, Nyamagabe seeking protection but were also killed,” he noted.

The death of Queen Rosalie Gicanda in Butare

On 20th April 1994, Queen Rosalie Gicanda was killed on the order of Ildephonse Nizeyimana from ESO.

Witnesses say that Nizeyimana partnerwd with other military officers including Lt Colonel Muvunyi Tharcisse and others from Ngoma military barracks led by Lt Ildephonse Hategekimana and gendarmerie led by Major Cyriaque Habyarabatuma and Interahamwe militia.

Those who stormed the home of Gicanda nearby headquarters of Commune Ngoma include Lt Bizimana alias Rwatsi, Lt Gakwerere, Corporal Aloys Mazimpaka and Dr. Kageruka.

At the queen’s home, they found other hunted people including Jean Damascène Paris, Marie Gasibirege, Aurelie Mukaremera, Callixte Kayigamba and Alphonse Sayidiya.

Others include Uzamukunda Grace who survived gunshots and died of natural cause after the Genocide.

She was a daughter of Jean Damascène Paris who provided testimonies of circumstances under which Queen Rosalie Gicanda and other people who stayed with her were killed.

Captain Nizeyimana was convicted of Genocide crime and sentenced to 35 years while Lt Colonel Muvunyi was also convicted of Genocide crime and handed 15-year jail term.

Killings continued until Inkotanyi intervened

People who talked to IGIHE have revealed that killings of Tutsis in Butare were overseen by Minister Nyiramasuhuko in collaboration with his son Ntahobari until RPA soldiers rescued Butare on 3rd July 1994.

However, killings continued in rural areas but genocidaires fled as Inkotanyi intervened.

Clement Mbaraga is a survivor from Butare whose five siblings were killed but parents and one sibling were rescued by inkotanyi.

“We hid on the roof of Brother’s House in Kabutare. We heard gunshot as Inkotanyi arrived to rescue nuns staying there,” he said.

“In the next morning, there was extreme silence. We saw residents and soldiers fleeing. Inkotanyi came here and saved us. That is how we were rescued,” added Mbaraga.

Séraphine Namana and Jeanne Umurerwa also revealed that they were desperate waiting for the death but they hope was restored as Inkotanyi captured Butare.

Beatrice Munyenyezi is among people suspected of playing a role in the killings of tutsis in Huye.

Every sector has a Genocide memorial

Each of 14 sectors in Huye District has a Genocide Memorial. Butare District currently has 18 memorials of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and three graves.

“Due to the severity of Genocide, there are some sectors which have more than one memorial while others have three memorials and graves. This shows the uniqueness and how Tutsis were killed in a large number in Butare,” Sebutege noted.

Efforts are underway to relocate remains of Genocide victims from graves to memorials.

According to Sebutege, Huye will start building a Genocide memorial at district level which will have different sections.

One of them will be reserved for exhibition of history of Genocide against Tutsi in former Butare Prefecture.

Many Tutsis were killed at the National University of Rwanda.