How the Genocide Against Tutsi was planned and perpetrated from 1st to 7th March 1991-1994

By Dr. Bizimana Jean-Damascène
On 3 March 2020 at 03:44

Every week, the National Commission to fight against Genocide (CNLG) exposes certain facts relating to the planning of the genocide perpetrated against Tutsi in 1994. The facts set out below relate to the period from 1 to March 7 from 1991-1994.


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); Halidou Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso); André Paradis (Canada); Rein Odink (Netherlands) and Paul Dodinval (Belgium).

The committee found several unmarked graves in these prefectures. 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 Côme Bizimungu 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, Agathe Kanziga. According to the commission, other highly placed officials had been directly involved in the Bagogwe massacres. They included Joseph Nzirorera, a Government minister, Colonel Elie Sagatwa, adviser to President Habyarimana, and Protais Zigiranyirazo, son in law to the President, and an influential figure.

According to a secret report by the Rwandan intelligence services of the time, 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.


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.

Figures published by a Kigali prefecture commission on May 5, 1992 indicated that the killings had resulted in the following victims and damage:

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 Gashora 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, Ruhuha, Musenyi, Karama, Gitagata, Mayange, Rango, Ntarama, Murago, Kigusa, Kayenzi.

The commission was composed of:

- François Karera, Sub-prefect, president;
- Dancille Mukarushema, Sub-prefect at the prefecture of Kigali;
- Djema Gasana, sub-prefect of Kanazi Sub-prefecture (Nyamata);
- Gratien Mwongereza, vice-president of the Nyamata Court of First Instance;
- Daniel Shumbusho, deputy public prosecutor at the Nyamata prosecution;
- Dominique Muhawenimana, head of the intelligence service in the Kanazi sub-prefecture;
- Bernard Gatanazi, interim mayor of Kanzenze.

From its composition by the only members of the agents of the State, some of whom had been clearly implicated in the massacres, it is clear that it could not be neutral.

Among the senior officials responsible for the assassinations of Tutsi at Bugesera, we can cite:

- Minister of the Interior and Communal Development Faustin Munyazesa who supported the plan of the massacres because he did not punish the criminal authorities who were under his responsibility;
- The Minister of Justice, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, who did not take the necessary measures to prosecute the perpetrators of the massacres;
- Prefect Emmanuel Bagambiki who led meetings which prepared the massacres;

- The sub-prefect Faustin Sekagina of Kanazi who seconded the prefect Bagambiki;

- The mayor of Kanzenze Fidèle Rwambuka, direct supervisor of the massacres;

- Colonel Pierre-Célestin Rwagafirita, chief of staff of the gendarmerie, for failing to deploy gendarmes to put an end to the abuses and safeguard the security of property and people;
- Colonel Venant Musonera, commander-in-chief of the Gako military camp, whose soldiers were heavily involved in the massacres;

- Ferdinand Nahimana, director of ORINFOR;

- Jean-Baptiste Bamwanga and Jean-Baptiste Nubahumpatse, journalists of Radio Rwanda who respectively read on Radio Rwanda the press release as direct and public incitement to the massacres;

- Dominique Muhawenimana, head of the intelligence service in Kanazi sub-prefecture, who spread lies that the Tutsi - especially the Liberal Party (PL) leaders in Nyamata, including Gahima - intended to exterminate the Hutu;

- The first deputy of the Nyamata prosecutor, Déogratias Ndimubanzi, was also denounced by human rights associations and by the private press for having participated in the Bugesera massacres.


The commune of Mbogo, current District of Rulindo, experienced bloody massacres of Tutsi in 1992, but in February-March 1993 they became widespread in order to systematically kill well-targeted Tutsi families, especially in the Ruhanya sector, Bukoro cell. During the nights of February 25, 26 and 27, 1993, the family of old Gatanazi was attacked. Eight people were burned alive in their homes. Only two children survived, Antoine Kabanda and his sister Vénantie Gasengayire. The victims were: Michel Gatanazi, an 80-year-old man, Charlotte Kabanyana, wife of Antoine Kabanda, Agnès Gatanazi Kamurenzi, 74 years old, Tharcisse Nilingiyimana, Félix Niyibizi, 6 years old, Olive Nyirahene, granddaughter of Gatanazi (one of Kabanda’s four children), Jacqueline Tuyizere and Béata Uwingabire.

Apart from Gatanazi’s family from Mbogo commune, other Tutsi were killed during the night of March 1 to 2, 1993. The victims were Jean Habimana’s wife, Catherine Mukamana; her child Muganajabo, 4 years old; her infant Ndayambaje, 9 months; Nyirabandi, 62; Uzayisenga, daughter of Habimana, born in 1958; Donata Musabyimana, sister of Habimana and Mushatsi, son of Habimana, born in 1986. The only survivor of this family was the son of Habimana, born 1990, but he was gravely burned and injured.

After the Gatanazi family massacre, the mayor of Mbogo commune, Vincent Twizeyimana, was informed, but he never went to the massacre site to bury the victims. Even the neighbors let the bodies decompose in the open air. The sector councilor and the head of the cell were not affected at all by this barbarity. Alerted by human rights associations and journalists who had gone to investigate the massacre, the bodies were buried by other Tutsis who had come from Shyorongi where they had taken refuge.

Senior authorities from Mbogo commune were at the head of the planners of these killings, including: Major and member of the national assembly Stanislas Kinyoni, member of the MRND, the bourgmestre of Mbogo Vincent Twizeyimana and the sub-prefect Alexis Kanyamibwa who headed the sub-Murambi prefecture in which Mbogo commune was located.

Intellectuals from Ruhengeri and Byumba invent a plan of genocide against the Hutu with a view to mobilizing for the extermination of the Tutsi

On March 4, 1993, intellectuals from Byumba and Ruhengeri signed a mobilization document for Hutu from the northern region, which they entitled: "Distress call for nationals of the disaster areas of Ruhengeri and Byumba". Its authors were: Charles Ndereyehe Ntahontuye, Jean-Bosco Bicamumpaka, Faustin Musekura, Phocas Kayinamura, Christophe Ndangali and Stanislas Sinibagiwe. The document was also signed by the prefect of Ruhengeri, Baliyanga Sylvestre and that of Byumba, Bizimana Augustin. The document reproduced the content of the minutes of a meeting held in Kigali on March 4, 1993, which brought together several nationals of the prefectures of Ruhengeri and Byumba, as well as their prefects.

In this document, the RPF is completely demonized of all evils and an appeal is launched for civil self-defense, which means putting in place the instruments to kill those who were qualified by extremists as the country’s enemies, namely the Indiscriminately Tutsi and opponents of the regime.

To push the population of the northern region of the country to support this hatred that these intellectuals were disseminating, they would on the negative effects of the war, the displacement of populations, to lie that the RPF is preparing a genocide against the Hutu. This lie would play an important role in the conscience of the Hutu populations in order to participate in the extermination of the Tutsi, in particular among the displaced people from Nyacyonga who played a crucial role in the genocide against the Tutsi since April 1994.

Here is the essence of the message that the minutes revealed:
"The RPF wants at all costs to take power by force of arms and to purely and simply annex Rwanda to Uganda in order to realize the Machiavellian dreams of Museveni and to erect a Hamite empire in the interlacustrine region. The Inkotanyi are part of the Ugandan army. It was Uganda that attacked us. (...) The Banya-Ruhengeri and the Banya-Byumba regret that, since October 1, 1990, the Rwandan government has not denounced the responsibility of Uganda in this conflict.

Political, administrative and other officials must take all necessary measures to make Rwandans aware of the gravity of the situation and to feel fully involved in the defense of the country.

There is a need to mobilize the population to provide defense and civil protection in order to guarantee national sovereignty. (…) There is a genocide taking place which prevents the children of Ruhengeri and Byumba from continuing their studies because of the war. This intellectual genocide cannot continue. ”


On 1st March 1993, a group of mainly academics and staff from various institutions working in Butare issued a press notification, condemning the ongoing peace talks between the government and the RPF at Arusha. The group had been formed earlier in 1992. It was made of University lecturers, and their students, academic researchers, and employees from various institutions based in Butare.

The group demanded that the French military be kept in Rwanda, noting French support for the Rwanda government both in Rwanda, and internationally. They claimed that RPF fighters were not Rwandans, rather that the country had been attacked by Uganda. They repudiated the RPF’s identity as Rwandans.

On 1st March 1993, the group sent a letter to President François Mitterrand of France, asking that the French military remain in Rwanda. The letter was signed by 34 University lecturers, 30 different members of the University staff, 12 researchers, and staff from the Institute for Research and Technological Sciences (IRST), 14 teachers from Groupe Scolaire Officiel de Butare, in which they sought the retention of his soldiers in Rwanda. The letter was signed by 34 University lecturers, 30 University staff, 12 researchers and agents from the Institute for Research and Technological Sciences (IRST), 14 teachers from Groupe Scolaire Butare, 25 from other public administrative departments in the town of Butare and nearly 300 students.

The vast majority of these intellectuals were actively involved in the genocide committed against the Tutsi in 1994.


The reports from foreign embassies in Rwanda in 1994 show that the month of March saw increased incitement to genocide. In a telex sent on 1st March Belgian Ambassador to Rwanda, Johann Swinnen, informed Belgian authorities of broadcasts on the extremist Radio Television Libre de Mille Collines (RTLM) which were “inflammatory statements calling for hatred, even the extermination of the other part of the population”.

A document from the Belgian intelligence services dated 2nd March 1994 cited an informant from the ruling MRND who had revealed to the Belgian authorities that the MRND had drawn up a plan for the extermination of Tutsi in Kigali should the RPF open hostilities. According to the informant, “If things go wrong, the Hutu will massacre them without mercy" adding that “regional divisions no longer exist and the morale of the army has never been so high”.

On 3rd March 1994, Major Podevijn of UNAMIR informed his commander, General Romeo Dallaire, that weapons had been distributed to the militia in the Gikondo neighbourhood, one of the most important areas of support for CDR. On 10th March, UNAMIR discovered several quantities of heavy weapons destined for the Rwandan army and, reported increased recruitment of militia and military personnel. Dallaire requested authorization from the UN to seize these weapons, and asked for reinforcements for the peacekeepers. He never got a response.


The acts of violence committed against the Tutsi during the two years preceding the genocide were perpetrated in different regions of the country, which demonstrated that the genocide could be executed throughout Rwanda without any constraint.

Those who planned the genocide had their time to mobilize the population to commit the genocide, especially through Radio Rwanda, Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) and the newspaper Kangura.

When the planning of the genocide became evident to the international community, it did nothing to prevent it, instead, some countries continued to support the government which planned the genocide by supplying it with weapons and speaking on behalf of the international community.

Kigali, 2nd march 2020

Dr. Bizimana Jean-Damascène
Executive Secretary