Minister Kabarebe hails Bisesero Genocide resistance

Karongi, 10 April 2017 – Defence Minister James Kabarebe has hailed the courage, bravery and heroism of the people of Bisesero who put up one of the toughest resistance against Interahamwe during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Minister Kabarebe was speaking today in Karongi District as genocide survivors, residents and Rwandans from across the country came together to honour the memories of over 50,000 Tutsi killed in Bisesero.

During the Genocide, Bisesero literary became a battlefield as Tutsis tried to defend themselves against the Interahamwe militia. Armed with mainly stones, spears and other traditional weapons, Tutsis managed to hold back the killers for several months until the militia received reinforcement.

Reinforcement by soldiers, gendarmes, policemen and more militias from other parts of the country such former prefectures Cyangugu, Ruhengeri and Gisenyi finally quelled their fighting spirit, Eric Nzabihimana, a survivor testified.

On 13 and 14 May a mega-attack was launched that left thousands dead, but survivors kept fighting for their lives. Between 27 and 30 May, more attacks were carried out claiming thousands more.

Minister Kabarebe pointed out that the tale of the Bisesero resistance has become a symbol of fearlessness, determination and heroism of the people who used stones and sticks against guns and machetes.

A memorial that stands at the hill depicts the perilous walk that Tutsi underwent in their battle for survival.

“Bisesero memorial site is an indelible symbol of the massacres of Tutsi here and will remain as an everlasting reminder of the heroism and resistance of the people who had fled on these hills,” Minister Kabarebe said.

He said that commemorating the Genocide is an occasion to pay respect to its victims and an opportunity to look back at where Rwanda came from, where it stands today, where it is heading.

“The Bisesero resistance reminds us that those who planned and executed the Genocide were defeated by courageous Rwandans who fearlessly stood to build a new Rwanda,” Minister Kabarebe said.

The Defence Minister further pledged his support to survivors in order to help them improve their wellbeing and called for concerted efforts in fighting Genocide denial.

Brief History

Also known as the Memorial of Resistance, Bisesero Genocide Memorial serves as the final resting place for over 60,000 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi.

In May 1994, residents from neighbouring areas took refuge at Bisesero. As Interahamwe kept on hunting down and killing Tutsis, thousands trekked from miles away to take refuge at Bisesero.

As the killings drew by, Bisesero residents had organised a resistance to fight back. They had refused to succumb to Interahamwe militia. Bisesero residents were put to a tactical preparation to fight back anyone who had come to attack the village.  They took strategic cover on top of a hill called Muyira where they could spot the militia.

On 13 May, upon knowledge that Bisesero residents had organised a resistance, Interahamwe mobilised Heavy Artillery.  Many survived the first attack. They stayed in hiding until 13 June when French soldiers came to Bisesero, claiming that their intention was keeping people safe and stopping the Genocide.

After the French arrival, hundreds of residents came out of hiding seeking help from them. Not long after the French had left the area, Interahamwe came back to finish what they had started. On 30 June, the French came back only to find almost everyone slaughtered.

Rwanda remembers thousands abandoned by UN troops to be killed at Nyanza-Kicukiro

Kigali, 11 April 2017 – As events to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi get underway, today, Rwandans from across the City of Kigali gathered at Nyanza Hill in Kicukiro District, to remember over 3,000 Tutsi abandoned by UN Belgian troops to be killed by Interahamwe militia and genocidal government soldiers.

When the Genocide began on 7 April 1994, thousands of Tutsis from various corners of Kicukiro neighbourhoods sought refuge at former Kicukiro Technical School known as ETO.  The school was a base of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) peacekeeping forces; the refugees thought that the forces would protect them.

In her testimony, Irene Rwizihirangabo, who survived the Nyanza massacre, recounted the ordeal that those who had fled at ETO Kicukiro went through.

Following the killing of 10 Belgian peacekeepers that were part of the UNAMIR, the peacekeeping troops received orders to leave Rwanda. Regardless of the tension that had built up as Interahamwe surrounded ETO Kicukiro, the UN troops there also decided to leave.

A select group amongst the refugees pleaded vainly with the troops commander to stay, to protect them from Interahamwe militia and genocidal government soldiers.

On 11 April 1994, UNAMIR Belgian troops left ETO Kicukiro.  Their departure was simultaneous with the entry of Interahamwe militia and genocidal government soldiers.  The latter took the refugees to Sonatube where then Mayor of Kigali City, Lt Col Tharcisse Renzaho ordered that they instead be taken to Nyanza Hill and killed there because Sonatube was too visible as it is along the road to the airport. Nyanza was a secluded area.

“We were shocked to see UN peacekeeping troops leaving people targeted by killers in danger. They abandoned us in time of need. That was an act of cowardice,” Rwizihirangabo said.

The abandonment of refugees at Kicukiro is a symbol of failure by the United Nations to protect Tutsis during the Genocide.

“Under a heavy downpour, starved Tutsi were forced to march to Nyanza. Those too weak to march were killed on the way. When we arrived at Nyanza, our identification cards were checked before mass killing began. The militia shot and threw grenades in the crowd before using machetes to finish off those of us who were still alive,” recalled Rwizihirangabo.

The next morning, Interahamwe and genocidal government soldiers attempted to finish the slaughter; RPA soldiers stopped them. The latter rescued close to 200 Tutsis who had survived the massacre.

Each year, on 11 April, a memorial ceremony takes place at Nyanza, in memory of the Genocide victims murdered in cold blood after UN troops abandoned them. A march is held from former ETO Kicukiro to Nyanza Memorial site, followed by a night vigil to remember the victims.

Speaking at the event, the Speaker of the lower chamber of parliament Donatille Mukabalisa called on Rwandans to come together to support Genocide survivors and ensure that they are not alone.

“Those who left us to die taught us to value ourselves and depend primarily on our own means for solutions,” Speaker Mukabalisa said.

Nyanza Hill in Kicukiro District is known as one of the places where mass killings took place during the Genocide against the Tutsi.

Nyanza-Kicukiro Genocide Memorial serves as the final resting place for over 11,000 victims of the Genocide. About 3,000 of them were killed on site while 8,000 were murdered in other parts of Kicukiro.

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Rwanda honours politicians who paid the price for defiance

Kigali, 13 April 2017 – The official Kwibuka23 Commemoration Week (7-13 April) was concluded today with an event to honour politicians who opposed the genocidal plan and paid the ultimate price for defiance.

The event took place in Kigali at Rebero Genocide Memorial, which serves as the final resting place for over 14,000 victims of the Genocide against Tutsi and 12 politicians who were killed for standing against the genocidal government in 1994.

The politicians buried at Rebero Genocide Memorial include:

  1. Landouard Ndasingwa (Liberal Party)
  2. Charles Kayiranga (Liberal Party)
  3. Jean de la Croix Rutaremara (Liberal Party)
  4. Augustin Rwayitare (Liberal Party)
  5. Aloys Niyoyita (Liberal Party)
  6. Venantie Kabageni (Liberal Party)
  7. Andre Kameya (Liberal Party)
  8. Frederic Nzamurambaho (PSD President and Agriculture Minister)
  9. Felicien Ngango (PSD)
  10. Jean Pierre Mushimiyimana (PSD)
  11. Faustin Rucogoza (MDR)

The former President of the Constitutional Court, Joseph Kavaruganda, is also buried at the memorial. Former Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, is buried at the National Heroes Mausoleum at Remera and was also honoured today.

Special guests included Senate President Bernard Makuza, Sports and Culture Minister Julienne Uwacu, Ibuka President Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, CNLG ES Dr Jean Damascene Bizimana, the Executive Secretary of the National Forum of Political Organisations, and the dean of the diplomatic corps.

After laying a wreath on the graves of the victims and observing a moment of silence, Senate President Bernard Makuza said that the 12 politicians were killed for choosing the righteous path.

“The politicians buried here should serve as an example to all of us as politicians. Remembering them reminds us that above anything else, politicians should endeavour to improve citizens’ wellbeing.  Bad leadership generates bad results, whereas good leadership brings people together to achieve positive results,” Senate President Makuza said.

The Senate Speaker reminded politicians and other guests convened at Rebero that the 1994 Genocide was no accident.

“The truth is that the Genocide was no accident. It was not a natural disaster. The history of divisionism goes way back to the colonial era when Rwandans were divided into unfounded ethnic groups,” He said.

He further reiterated that politicians should always bear in mind that it is their responsibility to cement the current constructive politics that the country enjoys.

Families and friends of the politicians killed in the Genocide also laid wreaths on the graves of their loved ones.

Although the national Mourning Week concludes today, Kwibuka23 activities will continue until 4 July 2017 – the date Rwanda was liberated from the genocidal regime by then Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA).

In 1994, Rebero served as a refugee for those who had survived the killings at Nyanza-Kicukiro. This was after the RPA troops had captured the strategic hill of Rebero in order to fight genocidal forces. The survivors were relocated after a few days due to intense fighting in the area.

Rwanda remembers families completely wiped out in the Genocide

Rubavu, 27 May 2017 – Last night, over 800 genocide survivors from Students and Former Students Genocide Survivors Associations of AERG and GAERG convened at Rubavu Stadium in Rubavu District to commemorate families that were completed wiped out in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Joined by Rubavu district residents, the event kicked off with a Walk to Remember towards Commune Rouge Genocide Memorial where wreaths of remembrance were laid to the burial place of over 4600 Tutsi killed in the Genocide.

A completely wiped out family is a family whose members were entirely killed, with no survivor to continue the family line. To-date, 7,797 completely perished families composed of 34,823 members have been identified in 17 districts. The target is to cover all 30 districts of Rwanda.

“Remembering the families completely wiped out is paying tribute to those killed in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi as none of their relatives survived to remember them. We remember their names, we recall their good deeds, we remember their dreams and aspirations. This serves to call to mind their lives to ensure that their memory never fades away,” GAERG President Olivier Mazimpaka said.

Since 2009, the families completely wiped out are remembered annually under the theme, “You Will Never Be Forgotten While I Am Still Alive.”

Rubavu is part of the former Gisenyi Prefecture and served as place where authorities trialled the genocide. In 1991, 1992 and 1993, the Bagogwe people (a group of Tutsi living in current Musanze, Nyabihu and Rubavu Districts) were systematically murdered. Men and women were killed at Mukamira and Bigogwe military barracks. Others were thrown into Nyaruhonga caves in Nyabihu District.

The Genocide against the Tutsi began on 7 April 1994. After three days, almost all the Bagogwe people living in the area had been killed. The militia who carried out the murders there were then transported to other parts of the country to reinforce other genocidal forces which were perpetrating the killings.

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