The making of Bisesero massacre

On 29 June 2020 at 02:00

June 27, 1994, Bisesero, western Rwanda. A convoy of French soldiers of the Turquoise "humanitarian" operation reveals to the genocidaires hundreds of Tutsi civilians who think they are coming to rescue them. They are then nearly two thousand in hiding since the massacre which, a month and a half earlier, on May 13, made nearly fifty thousand victims among their own. But then the French leader of the convoy leaves without them, explaining that he will not be able to rescue them until three days from now. Within this period, half of the Tutsi survivors of the May 13 massacre will be exterminated. They have just discovered themselves in the eyes of a militia chief serving as a guide for the French, the latter taking care, after having abandoned the Tutsi civilians, to accompany him to the place where they took him to serve as their guide. Earlier, however, the Tutsi denounced him as one of the genocidal leaders of the region. The French are therefore aware that by releasing him, the latter will warn his hierarchy, indicate that the Tutsi are still numerous, indicate the place where they are hiding, and above all indicate the time they have left to exterminate the survivors.

However, there were solutions: keep the genocidal guide in quarantine for three days, escort the Tutsi on foot to the French camp in Gishyita (an hour on foot), while night was falling and the genocidaires had returned home, escorting them to Kibuye where they would have arrived at 9 p.m., leaving French soldiers on the spot until reinforcements arrived. There were solutions.

Then the second round of the Bisesero genocide will be able to be set up exactly according to the conditions which prevailed in the massacre of the fifty thousand Tutsi civilians a month and a half earlier in the same place. Once the guide has informed his hierarchy, the Interahamwe [genocidal militia formed by French soldiers of Operation Noroît in 1992 and 1993] are called from other regions (Cyangugu, Gisenyi…). As was the case a month and a half earlier, buses full of murderers are sweeping over Bisesero. As was the case on May 13, the Tutsi saw the reappearance, in the hands of the killers, of these new sharp machetes on both sides, and of which former genocidaires remember today that soldiers of Turquoise distributed them by taking them from their boxes of their Jeep then parked at Colonel Simba’s in Cyangugu.

There ends the comparison. At the end of June, the Tutsi are only two thousand. On the morning of May 13, there were fifty thousand. At the end of June, exhausted, decimated, the Tutsi could only hide. Before May 13, their courage and their intelligence had led the Interahamwe to fear these men, women and children in rags and unarmed! So why couldn’t the Tutsi have withstood the May 13 massacre? Here is the answer.

Faced with so much bravery, the genocidaires had become afraid and no longer wanted to risk their lives to exterminate them. Therefore, a solution had to be found to overcome the last pocket of resistance to the genocide. White soldiers were called in to supervise these genocidaires from everywhere and to give them courage. The scenario was simple: encirclement of the mountains by the Hutu population supervised by the Interahamwe, then opening of heavy weapon fire by the white soldiers, then machine gunning by the white and Rwandan soldiers, finally entering the scene with the Interahamwe and Hutu population finishing the fewsurvivors.

All the Tutsi, among the survivors of the May 13 massacre, did not see the Whites during this great massacre. The latter were in fact only several dozen among a crowd of thousands of Rwandan genocidaires. But they were in charge. Some Tutsi only saw them on May 12, during the preparation for the massacre, others only saw them on the 13, others on both days, others did not see them at all.

Now back to June 27. Why do those Tutsi who saw the Whites of May 13 then trust French soldiers when they come out of their hiding place? An answer is given to us by Simeon Karamaga, deputy chief of the resistance at Bisesero.

Simeon only saw them on May 12, when they gathered in Ruhuha with the Rwandan genocidaires. When asked why he discovered himself to join the French soldiers on June 27, he who had just detailed the circumstances in which he had seen Whites joining his assassins the day before the great massacre a month and a half earlier, he replied: “There they called us. Imagine yourself dying for a long time. If someone calls you to tell you they’re going to save you, you don’t hesitate. "(Interview with Simeon Karamaga:

This is what said other Tutsi survivors who had in memory these Whites of May 13 when they decided to discover themselves. They have nothing left to lose. Besides, aren’t these white people deployed on a humanitarian mission? Why, they may legitimately wonder, would they necessarily have a link with those of May 13?

Now let’s ask ourselves. On June 27, 1994, there was an opportunity to show the press that Operation Turquoise was there to save civilians threatened with massacre. Why then deprive yourself of such a demonstration in front of the journalists then present in the convoy? The opportunity was however unexpected! Tutsi civilians being exterminated come out everywhere and ask for the protection of the French humanitarian mission, all this in front of journalists! It’s a gift for Turquoise communication! So why not take this opportunity to make the front page of all the newspapers? Why ?

This question I am asking here is one that I was once asked to take into account by Bruno Boudiguet, author of "Friday the 13th in Bisesero". I think he had just realized the reason for Turquoise’s abandonment of the Tutsi from Bisesero on June 27, 1994.

Because the answer to the question may well be that risk should not have been taken that survivors testify to the active participation of these white soldiers (French for some witnesses) in the May 13 massacre. And then as for the demonstrations to the press of the alleged humanitarian character of Turquoise, was it not the Nyarushishi camp that had been chosen to fulfill this function?

Simeon Karamaga died last May. He is one of those rare men whom you are given to meet in your life, rare by an exceptional courage such that it would have been necessary to call on external forces with heavy weapons to overcome men and women like him, ragged civilians with sticks and stones! So let’s not be silent on the sole reason why the Tutsi of Bisesero were defeated on May 13, at the risk of depriving them of the honor they deserve.

To do this, we need to listen to all the witnesses without sticking to those who have not seen the May 13 Whites. Rwandan television viewers heard some of Bisesero’s survivors testify to the active participation of Whites in this great massacre. The fact remains that these survivors suffer from the fact that their country, with too few exceptions, relay their word insufficiently.

There is a long list of survivors who do not understand that the story they bear witness to is still not accessible in memorials. They are at their disposal. History is written slowly, but witnesses are not eternal. Today it is time to offer to the fifty thousand Tutsi who died for the most part on May 13 under the fire of heavy weapons, the one and indivisible truth for burial.

Serge Farnel is the author of Rwanda, May 13, 1994. A French massacre? (Aviso / L’esprit Frappeur-2012) and Bisesero. The Rwandan Warsaw Ghetto (Aviso-2014).

His investigation into the active participation of white soldiers in the great genocidal massacre of May 13, 1994 in Bisesero is recorded on the website: (in French) a version of which is also available in English: This investigation was continued by Bruno Boudiguet, author of Friday the 13th in Bisesero (Aviso-2014).

Simeon Karamaga died last May.
Serge Farnel is the author of Rwanda, May 13, 1994. A French massacre?