Genocide fugitives

Ntongwe-Mugina: How Burundian Hutu refugees comitted genocide in Rwanda

 

MuginaON MONDAY, hundreds gathered in the rural Mugina Sector, Kamonyi District, to welcome the Remembrance (Kwibuka) Flame that is on a countrywide lap of honour.


Bagirishya survived the killings. TOP, youths deliver the Flame to the podium on Monday. The New Times/ JP Bucyensenge.

The torch, which symbolises hope, is on a three-month national tour ahead of the April 7 start of national mourning as the country marks 20 years since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Mugina, a 40-minute drive deep in the village from the Kigali-Muhanga highway, was chosen to host the Flame due to its particular experience during the Genocide.

Mugina commune was the scene of some of the cruellest, barbarous and most elaborate killings of Tutsis during the Genocide.

mugina survivor
Pascal Mukiga, 53, a survivor.

“There were so many Tutsis here  but only a handful survived,” says Jean Baptiste Bagirishya, a survivor whose relatives and friends perished in the Genocide.

More than 35,000 Tutsis were killed in Mugina in just days.

Two leaders, two stories

mugina jeandamascene
Jean Damascene Niyotumuragije

When massive killings targeting Tutsis across the country started early in April 1994, thousands fled their home areas and gathered mainly at Mugina Catholic Parish.

At first, survivors say, they were shielded by the then bourgoumestre (mayor) Callixte Ndagijimana.

Some survivors remember when Ndagijimana called public meetings to speak against the killings.

The news then started spreading to other parts of the country that Mugina was safe for Tutsis and thousands thronged the area from as far as Kigali and Bugesera and the surrounding districts of Ntongwe, Taba, Runda and Musambira, with hope to survive.

The fleeing Tutsi took refuge in a church that sits just metres from the ground where the Kwibuka Flame was received on Monday.

“Ndagijimana was a real hero,” said Bagirishya. “He paid the price for protecting Tutsis and opposing the killings.”

The Ntongwe mayor Charles Kagabo is said to have opposed Ndagijimana on saving the fleeing Tutsis. The latter was murdered.

Testimonies show Ndagijimana was called to a provincial meeting around April 17, but killed on his way back to Mugina.

“After his death, the killings began,” Bagirishya says, lamenting the lack of information on the whereabouts of Kagabo.

Online information indicates that he remains at large.

“They (the killers) had got room to kill us and they immediately started organising themselves. They surrounded the church [a few days after the mayor’s murder] and the killings started.”

Burundians enlisted

The killers, who included Interahamwe militia, soldiers and gendarmes (local policemen), used grenades, live bullets and traditional weapons, including machetes and clubs, to kill the thousands of Tutsis who had gathered in Mugina.

“We were so many at the church,” recalls Jean Damascene Niyotumuragije, a survivor.

So, Burundians who were then staying at a refugee camp called Nyagahama in Ntongwe commune were then called in ‘for help’.

“They called it msaada (a Swahili word for help),” Bagirishya said.

Twenty vehicles were mobilised to pick the Burundians to assist in the killings, eyewitnesses’ say.

“That is when things became worse. We tried even to organise a resistance but they overpowered us,” Bagirishya said.

“The Burundians have never been brought to justice. They just returned to their country after the Genocide.”

Ibuka, the Genocide survivors’ umbrella body, has previously called upon government to work out a mechanism to prosecute the Burundians either from their country, or bring them to Rwanda to face justice.

Other areas where Burundians are said to have participated in killings include Ntyazo (current Gisagara District), Bugesera and Umutara region in the Eastern Province.
 

From the New Times

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