How Habyarimana’s regime eliminated rights activists opposing Tutsi extermination plan

On 9 March 2021 at 10:57

Planning the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi went hand in hand with silencing anyone who could stand in the way. The National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG) yesterday on 8th March 2021 launched a book dubbed ‘Rwanda 1991-1994: The Preparation and Execution of Genocide Perpetrated against Tutsi in Rwanda’ revolving around actions that characterized the preparation of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis since 1991.

From page 44 to 45, the book published in three languages (English, Kinyarwanda and French) shows how the regime of the then President Juvenal Habyarimana silenced and killed some foreigners attempting to denounce preparations of the Genocide.

Many of them were murdered; others were jailed, especially journalists who revealed the truth, for example Kameya André, the editor of the newspaper Rwanda Rushya. It was in this context that Antonia Locatelli was murdered.

Antonia Locatelli, of Italian nationality, was the Director of the Centre d’Enseignement Rural et Artisanal Intégré (CERAI) in Nyamata. Her assassination occurred on the night of March 9-10, 1992, shot dead by a gendarme Épimaque Ulimubenshi.

This Italian educator in Nyamata had welcomed Tutsi refugees fleeing the killers and had alerted several public and private institutions, including the Archdiocese of Kigali on which CERAI Nyamata depended.

Antonia Locatelli had also provided information on the massacres against the Tutsi to Radio France Internationale (RFI). She was killed immediately after the broadcast of her interview in the evening newspaper of RFI. Herkiller was never worried, a sign that it was a remote-controlled act and supported act by the Rwandan regime.

Besides Antonia Locatelli, another foreigner, Brother François Cardinal, a Canadian, who ran the Butamwa Rural Youth Training Center in which young people were acquiring various skills, was also murdered.

He lived in this center with three other brothers including the Canadian Paul Latraversse, Rwandan Karake Evariste and Rwibandira Pierre Servillien.

As stated in the letter dated 2nd December 1992 from Dr. Iyamuremye Augustin, Director General of the Intelligence Service, on the night of 29th to 30th November 1992, Brother Cardinal, aged 50, was murdered by a group of nearly 6 people wearing military uniforms.

He was shot in front of the room he lived in. His assassins then entered his room and stole between Rwf200, 000 and 400,000. The Director General of the Intelligence Service concludes this letter affirming that the population of the region complained of the poor functioning of the security services and the criminal investigation police and suspected that these services were accomplices of the criminals and other offenders.

The assassination of Brother Cardinal does not seem to have surprised those who knew him, in particular diplomats accredited to Rwanda. On November 30, 1992, one day after his assassination, the newspaper Kinyamateka met with diplomats who had visited Butamwa where he was killed.

Kinyamateka reveals that one of these diplomats affirmed that this assassination was foreseeable as long as the brother was repeatedly warned on the phone that he will be killed, and that his killing had been organized by Colonel Elie Sagatwa, the brother in law and personal advisor to President Habyarimana.

The genocide took place in 1994 before the assassins of Brother Cardinal were prosecuted, which proves that in its article, Kinyamateka was correct in claiming that top officials were behind his assassination.

Antonia Locatelli was killed after providing information on the massacres against the Tutsi to Radio France Internationale (RFI). Photo :Centro studi Valle Imagna