A Rwandan man survived the genocide against the Tutsi only to be murdered in cold blood 25 years later. Neighbors who spoke at the funeral three weeks ago had no slight doubt of who might be responsible for the murder and why.
‘’These are not just thugs as some local government officials suggested. Jean-Paul Mwiseneza was killed by those who massacred his family in 1994 and kept targeting him like the rest of us since the genocide ended’’. Edouard, one of the survivors of Nyamata area said.
His corpse was found lying on a small trail near his native village, stabbed many times and dismembered. They killed him in the same cruel fashion almost the one million Tutsi were killed in the 1994 genocide.
Mwiseneza was a young boy in Nyamata when, in the spring of 1994, the Hutu militia, the government regular army, and police, along with the majority ordinary Hutu population in his village, rounded up thousands of the village’s Tutsi, who sought refuge inside the Nyamata Catholic church. Nearly all were subsequently murdered. Mwiseneza was left for dead amidst thousands of corpses.
He received several machete blows that disfigured his face for the last 25 years. The visible scars on his forehead became a constant indictment to his murderers who live just next door. He was known to never shy away from calling out his murderers who were released from prison in 2006, Gatera, a friend of him told me.
Today, Nyamata church is one of the largest genocide memorial museums in Rwanda. Click here to take a virtual tour of Nyamata genocide memorial Museum.
The killing of Mwiseneza, like the murder of hundreds of other survivors who were killed in similar circumstances after the genocide, apparently bother no one in Rwanda. No official condemnation from the highest levels of Government. No coverage in Rwanda’s mainstream media and obviously no public protest calling for justice.
A YouTube video featuring survivors’ indignation at the victims’ funeral ceremony was soon removed by the local newspaper that posted it a few days later. I suspect fear or Self-censorship to be the reason.
I have been closely following the killing of genocide survivors in Rwanda for the last 10 years. Hatred of the killers and indifference of the society after the killing are quite disturbing.
It does not take even a second to realize so much hatred in the methods the killers use to finish off their victims.
Decapitation, removal of genitals and other forms of body mutilation are common aspects of all the assassination I documented.
It is a type of hatred that all the survivors of genocide can easily relate to—the one we lived in every single day during the 100 days of genocide.
Hatred is written everywhere on the corpses of victims as if the perpetrator desperately wants to send a clear message to the public. But it is, unfortunately, a message that moves no one in Rwanda.
One survivor killed is a too big number at least for us the survivors. And every survivor beheaded after the genocide, Rwanda as a country should feel beheaded too. But, If a Government that takes pride in stopping the genocide is not moved by the murder of a genocide survivor, what else in the world will move them?
It is no wonder that the killing of survivors happens again and again since the end of the genocide.
In October 2007, a 47-year-old genocide survivor Paul Rutayisire was hacked to death and all his body parts were chopped into pieces. In the same month, many other survivors were killed across the country including Mukabatsinda Espérance who was killed after being raped.
In 2010, Laurence Mukaroza of Kirehe in the eastern province of Rwanda was murdered in retaliation of her testimony against the genocide perpetrators during Gacaca courts–the community trials set up to try those accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide. The police found her corpse with sticks inside her private parts.
In most of these cases, there was little to no public prosecution of the perpetrators.
Ibuka, the umbrella body for the survivor’s organizations in Rwanda, has documented about 170 cases of survivors who were killed in connection with the genocide between 2005 and 2010.
A taboo subject …
Since then, reporting on the killing of survivors became more like a taboo subject that is seen as a counter-narrative to the Rwandan Government’s success story of reconciliation and forgiveness in the aftermath of genocide.
However, the killing of survivors is not the only genocide-related matter that survivors and non-survivors alike tend to avoid.
Reparation, the politicization of genocide memorials, embezzlement of the money allocated to the support of needy survivors, institutionalized and often coerced forgiveness are equally thorny topics that no one talks about in Rwanda.
It may come as a surprise to some outsiders, but the 300,000 people who survived the genocide remains a marginalized group in Rwanda.
It all boils down to power and its consolidation. Survivors and the weak Rwandan civil society will safely speak out only when it is in the best interest of the government.
It was an outrage when one Rwandan official was arrested in the UK but it is business as usual when hundreds of genocide survivors are murdered in hate crimes.
It is OK to protest when the International Tribunal for Rwanda releases a dozen genocide convicts, but it is not OK to protest when the Government releases thousands of genocide criminals who end up killing the survivors.
The recent killing of Mwiseneza and the indifference that followed mark another example of the little-known challenges that survivors have to face on a regular basis in Rwanda. Ends.
By Albert Gasake.
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