In the early days of the genocide, Tutsi saw the prefecture of Butare in southern Rwanda as the ultimate haven. For nearly two weeks, it held out the hope of safety, largely because the prefect, backed by the local police commander, insisted on protecting Tutsi. Following his model and covered by his authority, most of his subordinates offered protection too. The burgomaster of Nyakizu was one who did not: he launched the first killing campaign in Butare directly in opposition to the prefects efforts to keep order. Already experienced in using force to build his political base, he imitated leaders at the national level in exploiting ethnic bonds to tighten his hold on power. With the assistance of supporters loyal to him personally and to MDR-Power, he murdered opponents of the genocide and intimidated other dissenters into silence. He led National Police, soldiers, and the people of Nyakizu and adjacent communes in massacring Tutsi at the Cyahinda church, on hilltops where they had taken refuge, and along the paths as they tried to flee.Butare: The Prefect and the Prefecture
Hutu from the northern part of Rwanda sometimes used to say there are no Hutu in Butare, meaning that the Hutu population there was so fully integrated with the Tutsi that it had lost any distinctively Hutu characteristics. With a population more than 17 percent Tutsi, Butare was the prefecture with the highest concentration of Tutsi and it was reputedly the part of Rwanda where Hutu and Tutsi had intermarried most often. The old royal capital of Nyanza, in the northwestern corner of the prefecture, had been renamed Nyabisindu to purge it of its association with the past, but it remained nonetheless a historical symbol unifying Hutu and Tutsi of the region. The town of Butare, long second only to Kigali in size and importance, had been eclipsed in the 1980s by the northwestern town of Ruhengeri, but it remained very much the focus of interest and activity for Butare prefecture. It was above all a university town, home to the National University of Rwanda which was established after independence, and to a number of other institutions of higher education, including the Groupe Scolaire, the first high school in Rwanda. As intellectual center of the nation and focus of a region where Hutu and Tutsi long lived together, Butare had a reputation for tolerance and moderation. In the Habyarimana years, a branch of the university had been opened in Ruhengeri and an important number of northerners had been awarded posts in faculty and administration on the Butare campus. With its predominance challenged by the Ruhengeri campus and the character of its faculty changed, theButare campus was no longer the model of moderation it had once been, but the ideal of respect for the individual once associated with it continued to figure in the image of the prefecture as a whole.
The prefect, Jean-Baptiste Habyalimana, was the exemplar of the openness and rationality for which Butare was known. The only Tutsi prefect in the country, he was also the only member of the relatively small Liberal Party to direct a prefecture. He was exceptional, too, in having been able to pursue higher studies abroad and he had received a PhD in engineering from an American university. A slender, bespectacled figure, he looked very much like the intellectual that he was. While he was in the U.S., several friends had counseled him to claim political asylum rather than return to Rwanda where Tutsi suffered such discrimination. But he had great faith in his fellow Rwandans and a strong sense of the need to bring home the skills that he had acquired abroad. He returned in 1990 to teach at the university and was almost immediately swept up in the October arrests. Later released, he returned to teaching, which he reluctantly gave up in July 1992 when he agreed to accept the post of prefect. Soon after, he told a Human Rights Watch researcher that the nomination proved the correctness of his decision to return home: now he had the opportunity to play a leading role in enhancing democracy and respect for human rights.1Nyakizu Commune
In many respects, Nyakizu was much like other communes in Butare, desperately poor and densely populated. It was located in the southwestern corner of the prefecture, on the border with Burundi. According to the March 1994 figures, the population was 61,366 with a density of 451 persons per square kilometer, far more than the land could productively support within the constraints of the technology available.2 Because farmers were forced to keep their fields in almost constant cultivation, the fertility of the soil was declining. In the western part of the commune, where the hills were higher and the slopes sharper, erosion was a serious problem. More people lived in the eastern part of the commune where the hills were lower and broader, both easier to cultivate and less eroded. In addition to food staples like beans or sorghum, some farmers raised a small amountof coffee to sell for cash to buy such necessities as soap or, if they were wealthy enough, to pay the costs of sending children to school.
The commune itself was the main source of salaried work, with some sixty employees, followed by the Catholic and Baptist churches with their associated schools and health centers. A small number of traders, profiting largely from commerce across the frontier to Burundi, rose far enough above the usual level of poverty to own vehicles and solid homes.3 Although those with paid employment earned usually less than a hundred dollars a month, the approximate salary of the burgomaster, they lived a far more comfortable life than did ordinary farmers.4 In addition, they often had cash available to acquire land when their poorer neighbors were in need and forced to sell or rent their fields. The salaried elite thus built up larger holdings of land which the land-poor or landless then cultivated in order to earn a living. The elite were also able to pay for at least some of their children to leave the commune to attend secondary school, making it far more likely that they would have well-paying jobs in the future.
More than 18 percent of the population of Nyakizu was Tutsi in early 1994, just above the percentage for the prefecture as whole and considerably above the national level, which official statistics placed at some 8 percent.5 Extremists would argue that the large number of Tutsi in the commune increased the likelihood of RPF infiltration and even of actual attack across the nearby border from Burundi. The RPFs Radio Muhabura also reportedly talked of strong RPF support in the commune which added weight to these charges.Burgomaster Ntaganzwa: Victory Through Kubohoza
Like the prefect of Butare, the burgomaster of Nyakizu, Ladislas Ntaganzwa, was relatively new to politics. Trained as a medical assistant, he was working at the Cyahinda health center in Nyakizu, his home commune, when multiple political parties were authorized in 1991. He was strong and athletic, proud of the karate thathe had mastered at secondary school. Respected for his competence in medicine and generally liked by people of the commune, he had become head of the local branch of the MDR. He organized a vigorous youth wing, the Jeunesse Démocrate Républiciane (JDR), and with its help used kubohoza to destroy the MRND. A communal councilor related:
In kubohoza, what they were doing was forcing people out of the MRND and into MDR. To give you examples of people who were treated this way, there was Ndekezi Thadée who was a victim of kubohoza. He was beaten, but afterward, he agreed to join the other party....And there was Mutagano Innocent who did not agree to change parties and was injured.6
Another person who lived through the experience described it this way:
The MDR came to knock on the door. You had to come out. Go to your room and bring out your MRND card. And then they could beat you or force their way into your house. You would bring your card, and...there were these poles on which they placed the card after stabbing a hole in it. They did the same thing to your MRND hat, impaled it and displayed it on a pole. The card represented the person who was the target of kubohoza. After being the target of kubohoza, the person was now visibly MDR.
They also beat up people, although they did not do this to women. But they beat up respected older men, including my father. They brought you with the group and herded you to a public place like the market, as if you were a goat. They herded you with the others who were also being targeted by kubohoza, the people who were called abahoza. The JDR chanted and sang, Weve done well! Our party has won! They did this openly during the day. They passed from house to house, gathering the group of people to be targeted. They herded everyone together, with the JDR singing and they beat those who resisted.7
The enforcers of kubohoza even made written reports of their campaigns, in which they noted the names and places of residence of the persons liberated along with remarks about whether cards or hats were taken at the time of thevisit. They extorted payments from the victims in order to guarantee that the party president, Ntaganzwa, look favorably on the requests for admission to the MDR. Should Ntaganzwa not accept the requests, the unfortunates would continue to be harassed until their next opportunity to apply for admission.8
By the middle of 1992, Ntaganzwa was feeling strong enough to turn kubohoza against the burgomaster himself, Jean-Baptiste Gasana, a member of the MRND. According to people in the commune, supporters of Ntaganzwa came to Gasanas home with trucks full of machetes and other weapons, suggesting that they would be used against him. Some informants claim that he was beaten. Gasana fled his home and then left the commune with his family.9
The PSD had helped Ntaganzwa and the MDR break the power of the MRND. In November 1992, after Gasana left, the PSD leader and Assistant Burgomaster Jean-Marie Gasingwa was named interim burgomaster, sparking a new political struggle in the commune. Ntaganzwa now tackled Gasingwa, who was only twenty-four years old and recently named as assistant burgomaster. The contest in Nyakizu had reverberations at the national level. With Ntaganzwas forceful tactics, the MDR stood a chance of taking Nyakizu, thus establishing a first foothold in a region where the MDR had never before been strong. Athanase Sebucocyero, an important official in the ministry of transportation, was from Nyakizu and, according to witnesses in the commune, served as Ntaganzwa's chief supporter in the national level of MDR. At the same time, the PSD was in the process of establishing itself as the leading party in the prefecture and it was anxious to support Gasingwa who might be able to resist the MDR and to keep Nyakizu within the PSD camp.
During the time when the MDR was fighting to establish its predominance, crime was increasing in Nyakizu, as elsewhere in Rwanda. Local authorities repeatedly expressed concern over the mounting number of robberies, arsons, and violent attacks on persons, including five murders in the course of 1992. Often the line between common crime and politically motivated attacks was blurred. Political activists engaged in kubohoza might rob as well as beat political opponents while criminals might cover their wrongdoing by claiming to be acting for political ends.10
In behavior that presaged the comportment of many authorities during the genocide, officials did little to halt this violence. The local judicial official declared he was unable to carry out his responsibilities. The interim burgomaster asked to be relieved of his functions. Other officials avoided going to work if they believed a conflict was in the offing.11
As partisan struggles grew, authorities ordered an election for burgomaster with a limited number of voters, as was done in other communes at the time. On March 23, 1993, Ntaganzwa ran as a candidate for burgomaster against Gasingwa of the PSD and Etienne Muragizi of the PL. Ntaganzwa and Gasingwa each received seventeen votes, while Muragizi received two.12 The several dozen electors, apparently fearing reprisals if Ntaganzwa were not chosen, at first asked authorities simply to designate the new burgomaster. When officials insisted that another election be held, members of the MDR threatened that if the PSD candidate won, the party would be forced to leave the commune.13 A second poll was taken in May and Ntaganzwa was unanimously elected. According to one of the participants in the election, We elected MDR to save our lives. I needed to save my life and my family. I was afraid....The threat was real.14
Once elected, Ntaganzwa used his authority as burgomaster to consolidate his own power and that of his party.15 First he removed opponentspersonal and politicalfrom the communal payroll. When he took office, the financial situation of Nyakizu was desperate. The debt of some U.S.$30,000 that had burdened the commune in 1990 and 1991 had nearly doubled to more than U.S.$50,000 by theend of 1992. Ordered by his superiors to cut costs, Ntaganzwa began by eliminating the posts of employees who were long-serving and apparently competent but who had not given him their unqualified support. This effort brought Ntaganzwa immediately into conflict with the prefect, who sought to ensure that fiscal considerations not be used to cover a form of administrative kubohoza. The powers of the prefect to intervene were limited, however, so long as Ntaganzwa had the support of the communal council for the decisions. After extensive correspondence, Ntaganzwa emerged the victor on most of these questions.16
But Ntaganzwa could not bring the entire administrative system into line right away. Gasingwa, for example, his chief rival and the PSD candidate for burgomaster, could not be simply removed from his post as assistant burgomaster because he was named by the Ministry of Interior. As long as Gasingwa was in place, other communal employees and councilors also retained their membership in the PSD or its ally, the PL.
The burgomaster continued to rely on the young people who had helped bring him to power. To increase their effectiveness, he organized them by sector, each of which had its youth president. In November 1993, on the same day when the commune dismissed several employees for lack of funds, Ntaganzwa rehired a youth organizer whose job had been ended in 1989. The national government, though facing a severe shortage of funds, was to pay part of the youth organizers salary in Nyakizu and in other communes. The hard-strapped local and national authorities found money for these posts just as preparations for the genocide were intensifying. Some months before, Bagosora had noted in his appointment book that young people formed an important pool of recruits for the self-defense program.17
Ntaganzwa also developed links with many intellectual, religious, and business leaders in Nyakizu. One of the most influential of this circle was FrançoisBazaramba, a Hutu refugee from the 1972 massacres in Burundi who was the youth director of the Baptist church at Maraba.17a The Baptists, important first in Burundi, established themselves in Rwanda in the 1950s and were usually identified far more with Hutu than with Tutsi interests. In addition to helping to direct one of the two Baptist churches in Nyakizu, Bazaramba was connected through marriage with other persons in the Baptist system. A man of some means, he ran a prosperous bar along with his other activities. Among others in the group were Geoffrey Dusabe, the school inspector who had considerable influence because he supervised teachers throughout the commune and distributed their salaries; Sampson Marembo, from the sector of Rutobwe; Festus Nyamukara, director of the primary school at Nyantanga; and Celestin Batakanwa, the director of the Center of Integrated Rural Artisanal Education (CERAI), a vocational secondary school at Muhambara.
Those communal councilors who were MDR and loyal to Ntaganzwa also formed part of his circle, but those whose party ties or views on Tutsi differed from those of Ntaganzwa were informally and unofficially replaced by men from Ntaganzwas own network.18 As one observer commented,
In sectors where the councilor was not MDR, he would be eclipsed by one of two other persons, either the representative of MDR or the JDR representative. In Rutobwe, for example, the councilor had been MRND before. Under pressure he had switched to MDR. But he had a wife who was Tutsi, so no one listened to him. The representative of the MDR was Sampson Marembo. He replaced the councilor at the end of April 1994. Even before that, he was the real head of the sector. In Rutobwe sector, the JDR members were called to meetings but the councilor was not.19
Faced with Ntaganzwas official authority as burgomaster, his informal network of support, and the ever-present threat of violence by the JDR, the vast majority of the population came to accept Ntaganzwas control. Asked to define the basis of his power, people said repeatedly and simply: fear.
When Ntaganzwa became burgomaster, the MDR was still a single party, but several months later it divided into MDR and MDR-Power. Forced to chose hiscamp, Ntaganzwa opted for MDR-Power and thus acquired a new weapon to forge support, the ideology of ethnic loyalty. Like Hutu Power politicians at the national level, Ntaganzwa saw that he and his party could benefit from identification with the Hutu cause.
By the time the MDR divided, Ntaganzwa was strong enough to prevent any challenge by supporters of the other branch. He was even able to block a visit from the prime ministera leader of the MDRto the commune in late 1993, so denying her the opportunity to contest him on his own territory.20 Most of the MDR-Power leaders at the national level, such as Donat Murego or Froduald Karamira, were from other regions of Rwanda, but the future interim Prime Minister Kambanda was from Gishamvu, the commune adjacent to Nyakizu. He appears to have had a special relationship with Ntaganzwa and came to see and reward him during the genocide. (See below.)
With the arrival of Hutu Power, kubohoza was used to enforce not just political loyalty but also ethnic solidarity. A politically active businessman declared, When Hutu Power was installed here, everything changed. Anyone who was Tutsi or who did not speak the language of Hutu Power was the enemy.21 By early 1994, MDR-Power claimed to be the only channel for Hutu to oppose the RPF, Ntaganzwa was its unquestioned local leader, and force was the normal way of separating supporters from the enemy.The Border and the Burundians
Rwandans who lived near the frontier traded easily across the border at a number of points where there were no government agents and they crossed the river between the countries easily and often. Many had friends or relations in Burundi whom they trusted to keep them informed of events there. Their own observations and information from their contacts in Burundi made them think there was no danger of RPF attack from Burundi.22 But, as in Gikongoro, civilian and military authorities further removed from the frontier saw the situation from a larger perspective and many of them supposed that the RPF could suddenly mount an attack from the south just as they had once launched an invasion from the north.Although they took no concrete measures to defend the frontier, they talked enough about the possible danger to plant fear among community leaders in Nyakizu.23
On April 23, 1993, the communal council first took note of a recent warning from the Ministry of Interior about the possibility the RPF could be transporting arms in fake funeral possessions, then it went on to look at the specific threat to Nyakizu. The minutes from that meeting read:
As Nyakizu commune is located on the frontier, it is possible for the Inkotanyi to infiltrate easily here. The chair asked the councilors to give their opinions and proposed solutions for preventing the Inkotanyi from infiltrating and bringing in arms. Each participant spoke and everyone recognized that it is not easy to stop the Inkotanyi because they may have valid identity cards delivered by Rwandan authorities. They suggested restoring the old system of laissez-passer. Since it seems difficult to do this surveillance and since the councilors themselves cannot do it, they asked the representatives of the parties to get their supporters to help the councilors keep track of who was entering the commune by patrolling at night. The interim burgomaster agreed to put the decision into effect immediately.24
Turning to the political parties to help organize patrols was an important precedent for the genocide, establishing that security was as much the concern of the party and the individual citizen as of the government. The reliance on citizens to deal with problems of insecurity in Nyakizu paralleled efforts in other communes to recruit citizens for patrols to counter growing crime.25
After the assassination of President Ndadaye, approximately 15,000 primarily Hutu Burundians flooded into Nyakizu, a number that equaled one quarter of the total population of the commune. Some 13,000 of these refugees were installed in a large camp at Uwimfizi in Nyagisozi sector, not far from the communal officeand Cyahinda church, while the rest found shelter with Rwandan families in the commune.26
Having been driven from their homes by the largely Tutsi army in Burundi, many of the refugees feared and hated Tutsi and encouraged similar feelings among the Hutu of Nyakizu. As the refugees began arriving, some Tutsi in the commune were frightened by rumors that Hutu would attack them. A Tutsi woman from Nyagisozi explains, When the Burundians arrived here in Nyakizu, some Tutsi families fled to the church. They sensed even then that something was wrong. Assured by the burgomaster that they were not in danger, they returned to their homes.27 During the month of November, unidentified assailants destroyed several bars owned by Tutsi in Rusenge sector, people from Yaramba sector accused others of supporting Inkotanyi, and people from Maraba speculated that some from their sector had gone to Burundi to join the RPF and wondered what kind of welcome people would give them the day that they came back. The councilor from Maraba commented that all conflict between two individuals has begun to have an ethnic coloration.28
According to regulations, the refugees were not supposed to cultivate or engage in trade, but many were soon participating in local economic life, making use of contacts established when they were still in Burundi. Many sent their children to the local school and formed drinking friendships with local people.29 More important for the history of the genocide, the Burundians also became part of the political life of the commune. François Bazaramba, the Baptist youth director, was named chief of the camp, an official post that allowed him to serve as liaison between the refugees and the government and other outside agencies. With his church connections and his own origin as a refugee from Burundi, he was well suited for the job. As one of Ntaganzwas closest associates, he drew therefugees into the group supporting the burgomaster.30 The communal administratorthe equivalent of a burgomasterof the Burundi commune of Kabarore was among the refugees. He was reportedly lodged at a house belonging to another one of Ntaganzwas inner circle.31 One witness described the changes that followed the arrival of the refugees:
It became more tense when the Burundians came. They wanted to continue the killing that they had started over in Burundi. [A]fter the arrival of the Burundians, there was only one party here [MDR-Power]....The Burundians were favored. They were given the right to speak in meetings. They even had their own burgomaster of the Burundians, who fled together with the Rwandans to Zaire.32
Burundian refugees had engaged in military training at camps elsewhere in Rwanda for some time and those newly arrived in Nyakizu soon began similar activities. In November, 1993 the office of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Kigali protested this training which violated international convention and U.N. regulations and asked the Rwandan authorities to halt it.33 Ntaganzwa did not intervene although he must have known that some fifty refugees were being trained not far from the communal office.34 According to one witness, Ntaganzwa had been selling arms to militants even while they were in Burundi. He had acquired the weapons from Rwandan authorities, claiming he needed them to defend the frontier and then had sold them at a profit to Burundians.
A leading Hutu businessman and former parliamentary deputy, Ange Nshimiryayo, wrote to warn the prime minister about the growing probems inNyakizu.35 At the end of November 1993, Prime Minister Uwilingiyimana visited the commune to try to ease tensions between Hutu and Tutsi and, specifically, to warn the refugees that they must halt their military training.36Training and Arms
Witnesses from Nyakizu state that some young men from the commune began their own military training sessions as early as September or October 1993, with local military reservists as instructors.37 Most of the Rwandans trained appear to have been from the JDR, but young men from other parties also were included, so long as they were Hutu.38 Several witnesses report having seen young men picked up in the communal truck from throughout Nyakizu and taken to a training site. Another reported that young men were taken out of the commune for training.39
Once the Burundians arrived, Rwandan militia trained together with them, sometimes under the supervision of Bazaramba.40 Another who reported that the intellectuals had learned how to shoot from the Burundians added:
Before the genocide, there was military training going on here. It was former soldiers who trained people. I never saw them directly, but they did training at night and exercises. At four in the morning, they would run and do exercises. They didnt sing [as soldiers in training in Rwanda commonly do],but you could hear their feet....Burundians helped in the military training, including these 4 a.m. exercises.41
Nyakizu received three new commando rifles in an official distribution in January 1994 and apparently other arms were delivered through informal channels as well.42 Once the genocide began several dozen men, former soldiers and members of Ntaganzwas circle, brought out firearms and grenades. Ntaganzwa and his supporters stockpiled traditional arms as well as firearms and distributed them when the killing began. Assailants obtained spears from the neighboring commune of Gishamvu where they were made by specialists, but they made their own cruder weapons, such as nail-studded clubs.43
In February, 1994, the popular PSD leader Gatabazi was assassinated in Kigali and the CDR president Bucyana was lynched in retaliation the day after, near Butare. As people on all sides became more frightened, Ntaganzwa launched a new campaign of kubohoza in which political and ethnic loyalties were now completely intertwined. One witness declared:
Many people were imprisoned in February 1994. It was a time of great kubohoza. They were saying Inkotanyi are attacking. They traumatized a lot of people looking for accomplices of the Inkotanyi. They had many meetings, particularly in February.44
One older man reported:
Kubohoza was very strong here. I myself was a victim. My wife was Tutsi, and in February 1994, they brought me to my knees and made me give money [for party membership dues]. I was PL, but they made me give 2,000 francs[about U.S.$10] and become MDR-Power. They also put me in prison, beat me, and threatened my wife.45
Beginning in February 1994, the communal administration insisted that the security patrols begun the previous April be done more regularly. As one witness remembers:
There had been organization before and people guarding and such, but in February there was a whole new level of organization. Before there had been patrols, but in February...they were each night. The councilor or cell leader was involved in organizing them....People who were not in the burgomasters party and also the Tutsi were obliged to join the patrols, but they did not work at the barriers.46
In addition, during this period, a contingent of gendarmes was sent from Butare to help maintain order in the commune.
In March 1994, a newly arrived group of Hutu refugees got into a dispute with the political leader and businessman Ange Nshimiryayo and on March 23 tried to shoot him.47
As these signals of danger to Tutsi and moderates multiplied, an unidentified person circulated a handwritten list of Extremists in the Commune of Nyakizu, naming the burgomaster and his group at the head, many Burundian refugees, the youth organizer, several policemen, teachers, and the inspector of schools, Geoffrey Dusabe, and his friends. The list was sent to the prefect who wrote to ask Ntaganzwa about it. The burgomaster replied by denying that there were any problems in Nyakizu except for sickness and hunger.48
Shortly before the genocide began, leaders of MDR-Power from Nyakizu met several times with their counterparts from communes in Gikongoro. During thisperiod, Ntaganzwa himself was reportedly seeing the sub-prefect Biniga.49 The burgomaster went to Kigali for a meeting on March 31 or April 1, just after the March 30 meeting on civilian self-defense at the army headquarters (see above). According to one witness, neither his wife nor his driver knewor would admit to knowingexactly where he had gone or for what purpose.50Beginning the Genocide
The use of violence against political opponents, the identification of all Tutsi with the RPF, the ideology of Hutu power, growth of insecurity, the pressure from the Burundian refugees, the training of the militia, and the demand for loyalty to the burgomaster all worked together to prepare for genocide in Nyakizu. As elsewhere, the catalyst would be the killing of Habyarimana, but as one informant asserted, If the president had not died, still something would have happened.51
As in other parts of Rwanda, most residents of Nyakizu heard about the death of President Habyarimana from the radio. That same afternoon, witnesses saw smoke from the first houses burning far away in the Gikongoro commune of Rwamiko and, soon after, people fleeing from Gikongoro began arriving in Nyakizu.52 At first, people were unsure what was happening. The restrictions on movement and the cancelling of the Friday market meant they could not gather news from others as they usually did. But as people began arriving from Gikongoro, Hutu as well as Tutsi were afraid and some fled their homes.53 A Hutu informant from the northern-most sector of Gihango recalled:
The first people who fled Gikongoro arrived in our sector on Thursday and...said that the Interahamwe had attacked them. Their houses were being burned in Gikongoro all the time from Thursday through Saturday. When we saw the people whom we knew, I thought to myself: this is the war....I fled with my family on Tuesday of the next week, after I saw houses burningnearby. I was really afraid....I fled with Gikongoro people toward Rusenge...where I got information about the war: it was a war for killing Tutsi. At the beginning, I didnt know who was attacking whom. It was just houses burning. Gikongoro people said that...it was first of all for killing Tutsi and...so we returned home.54
In Rutobwe sector, removed by the entire length of the commune from Gihango, people also learned on Tuesday, April 12, that it was Tutsi who were being targeted. The prosperous trader Charles Rwahama gathered the information from Tutsi at the church of Cyahinda and brought the news to Rutobwe. As one witness recalls:
We saw smoke, but we didnt know who in particular was in danger. But Charles Rwahama came to tell us that it was Tutsi especially who were seeking refuge in the parish. He decided to go to Burundi...He went together with his younger brother who was a student. He left his family behind. He didnt know anything about the seriousness of the situation, or he would have taken them....And when he came back, his family was dead.55
A survivor from Bunge described how hostility grew against the Tutsi:
When we heard that the president was dead, we also heard that Kigali was having problems. And here, when you spoke to Hutu, you got no response. Except they said threateningly, Things are going to happen. Hutu stopped speaking to us completely when they saw people coming here from Gikongoro. We knew that now it would be our turn. We knew we would have to seek refuge. Then one week after the presidents death, houses began burning here.56
Gathering the Tutsi, Mobilizing the Hutu
As was so often the case during the genocide, public reassurances masked the secret organization of the killings. A Hutu witness who lived near the communal office reported:
We saw the burgomaster at the center and asked what we could do so that it [the violence] would not happen here. It is the Interahamwe of Damien Biniga who are doing it, thats what the burgomaster said. The Tutsi here dont have to worry because there are no Interahamwe here. We are all MDR and PSD. After reassuring us, he held another meeting with his inner circle at the communal office to tell them what was really going to happen. I saw him summoning them to this meeting by name. I was not invited because he did not trust me.57
Ntaganzwa used his inner circle of party and personal supporters to carry out the genocide, backing up the cooperative members of the official hierarchy and supplanting those opposed to the slaughter. He sent them first to organize patrols in each sector and particularly to monitor the area to the west and north where people were arriving from Gikongoro. Some were hoping to flee to Burundi, but others expected to find safety at Nyakizu. The burgomaster insisted that the Tutsi go to Cyahinda church rather than seeking shelter with families. Ntaganzwas supporters, JDR and MDR leaders, communal councilors, cell leaders, and police, both communal and national, all helped direct the new arrivals to the church. According to one witness from Gikongoro:
I was in Mubuga....The assailants from Gikongoro were behind us together with the sub-prefect of Munini [Biniga]. In front of us was Nyakizu, and the burgomaster of Nyakizu was at the border...reassuring us: If you come to my commune, youll be safe. He was together with the community leaders and with some ordinary people. They did patrols in the night to reassure the people that Nyakizu was safe.58
According to a Nyakizu resident:
As the Gikongoro people came fleeing in this direction, they were saying: There are cadavers! But the burgomaster said That is not going to happen here. I am protecting you.59
Another elderly survivor recalled:
The burgomaster welcomed people who were being pursued, saying, Go to Cyahinda. And the intellectuals and other authorities assisted people to come to Cyahinda. That is how I came with my family to Cyahinda.60
Ntaganzwa directed a communal employee to organize the Tutsi at the church by their sector of origin and to appoint a leader for each group, thus reinforcing the impression that he did intend to take responsibility for their welfare.61
In addition to controlling the flow of people, the patrols were supposed to prevent troublemakers from Gikongoro from raiding Nyakizu or, alternatively, to prevent infiltration by the RPF who might hide among the crowds. Initially Tutsi took part in the patrols.62 As a Tutsi from Yaramba recounts:
I participated in the patrols from April 7 through April 11. They said, The president is dead and Inyenzi are going to invade. We all did turns during the nights....If we encountered a person whom we did not know, we put the person somewhere, and in the morning we called the chief of the hill [chef de colline] who would ask, Who are you? to see if the person was Inyenzi or not.63
One patrol in the Cyahinda sector captured a man who had come to pillage. They turned him over to the burgomaster, who put him in the communal lockup but then freed him the next day. After this incident, the burgomaster directed people, Keep your eyes open. Stay together. Do not let anyone be alone.64 Tutsi then began to realize that the patrols were not so much for general security as to keep track of their movements and they stopped participating in them.
Even while the authorities were taking measures supposed to promote security, Ntaganzwas men were promoting fear of the Tutsi. A witness from Rutobwe linked the anti-Tutsi propaganda directly to Ntaganzwas meetings with his circle:
At these meetings, every sector was represented by one or more people, friends of the burgomaster, who kept his secrets. They were the abanyamabanga.65 From Rutobwe, the person was Celestin Batakanwa of the CERAI. Those people trusted by the burgomaster came out of the meetings and they spoke to others. They went to the leaders of the party, saying: Be careful, those Tutsi are going to kill us. There are RPF all over. They have hidden arms.
In this way, by spreading these rumors, they made a large part of the population afraid of the RPF. I remember once I was speaking with one of my students, and I told him: You're crazy to say that all Tutsi are armed RPF. Even though he said these things, I really didn't believe that he was serious. Did you ever see an RPF soldier? I asked him. But he was serious. They cultivated fear.66
The message reached even ordinary people on the outskirts of the commune. One said that he had heard rumors that the Inkotanyi would take power. It was said that the Tutsi had to be killed, or they would kill the Hutu.67 Many people prepared for the worst. One Hutu married to a Tutsi woman said they had discussed the situation and decided simply to remain in their home and to die together.68
The First Killings
On April 13, RTLM warned that Inyenzi were hiding themselves among crowds of people fleeing into the prefectures of Gitarama and Butare. The shrill Valérie Bemeriki broadcast: I have told you repeatedly...that the Inkotanyi say that they will make their breakthrough especially in the prefecture of Butare and thatthey will find an opening there and we are not unaware that they have accomplices everywhere there....69 That night assailants killed the first Tutsi, quietly, along the banks of the Akanyaru River, in the sector of Nkakwa.
A Tutsi survivor who lived in a house from which he could see across the river into Burundi, reports having seen groups of armed Hutu patrolling along the banks of the river on the Burundi side for several days. On April 13, they stopped a group of Tutsi, apparently from Gikongoro, who had forded the river and they brought them back across to Rwanda, where armed civilians were waiting. The Rwandans and Burundians together used machetes and other traditional weapons to kill the Tutsi, then threw their bodies into the river. Because both the burgomaster and the ordinary people of Nyakizu had frequent contacts with people on the other side of the frontier, this kind of cooperation was easily arranged. One witness who lived near the river stated, Rwandans promised Burundians cows if they would help. I heard neighbors say this and, after the massacres, the cows were given.70
Also on April 13, in the sector of Maraba in the center of the commune, a young Tutsi night watchman saw the local patrol pass through a cluster of shops and houses and begin to mount the hill towards the bar owned by François Bazaramba. Sector president of MDR-Power, head of the Burundian refugee camp and supporter of Ntaganzwa, Bazaramba reportedly had organized the local patrol and was in the group that night along with a former communal policeman and a former councilor. The watchman saw the patrol intersect a group of twenty-one people who were hurrying through the night, including the elderly, women and children. Presumably they were coming from Gikongoro and headed for the border. The patrol forced them to go up the hill and to sit down next to Bazarambas bar. The watchman followed a short distance behind, afraid of being seen in the bright moonlight. He saw them kill four men, apparently the strongest of the group, bludgeoning them with hammers and clubs. Then the former councilor intervened to stop the killing, saying that the patrol should take the people to the authorities in the morning. The patrol stopped, threw the bodies of the four they had killed into a latrine and in the morning took the others to the communal office.71
Thursday morning, the school inspector Geoffrey Dusabe led a public meeting in the market square at Birambo in Yaramba sector, apparently to rally people to participate in patrols. Among the other party activists who attended was a youngman named Kabano, the head of the JDR for the sector. A Tutsi teacher from Yaramba who was present at the market found the atmosphere so hostile by midday that he decided to leave. Later in the afternoon he heard that Tutsi were fleeing on a nearby hill and he and his brother went to ask them for information. On their way home, they were intercepted by a patrol of some twenty young men led by Kabano. The patrol forced them to sit down and began interrogating them about why they were not participating in efforts to ensure the security of the commune. The teacher said he had to return home for something to eat and to get his arms before beginning. They were allowed to leave, but that night their house was surrounded, apparently by the same patrol. In the morning, the women of the household succeeded in leaving, with the family cattle, and the teacher slipped out to hide in a banana grove. From there, he saw the patrol loot the house and then drag out his father, who had been unable to flee with the others because he was sick. The JDR assailants piled dried banana leaves around him and set him on fire. When the teacher left his hiding place that night to flee Nyakizu, his father still had not died. The women of the family were killed later in the commune of Kigembe where they had sought shelter.72
While Dusabe was conducting the meeting for the eastern part of the commune at Birambo, the burgomaster was mobilizing the rest of Nyakizu through a meeting at Cyahinda. He warned that people must carry out the patrols just as he had directed. He also ordered local people to stay away from the church, thus beginning the isolation of the Tutsi that would end in their elimination, a pattern found also at Kibeho, Kaduha and elsewhere.73
Shortly after the meetings to mobilize the population, Ntaganzwa directed his subordinates to collect all the weapons held by the Tutsi at the church, a measure just like that taken at other massacre sites. But a university intern working temporarily at the commune refused the order, apparently with the support of the assistant burgomaster Gasingwa. The student states:
On Thursday, April 14, at around 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon, the burgomaster told us to go take from the Tutsi anything they might use to defend themselves, such as spears, arms, any kind of weapon. They had these arms for protection, because they had come with their cows and their houseshad been burned. Now, the burgomaster instructed us to confiscate these arms. We refused. We said that these people had come with their herds and they were afraid. They wanted to protect themselves. To take away their arms would be too difficult....We said, let the people guard their herds, because right now they are really upset.74
Ntaganzwa was angered at this insubordination but did not force the issue. Instead he met with his inner circle at the communal office and then left to continue his work elsewhere in the commune.75
Despite efforts to direct all those in flight to Cyahinda, large numbers continued to head for the frontier. On Thursday, there were so many that they formed a line stretching from Nyarubuye to the hill of Kwishorezo, just overlooking the river, a distance of more than three kilometers. Three barriers had been set up in Nkakwa, the sector at the border, but the guards had not halted the flood of people, supposedly because they were overwhelmed by the number. The apparent reluctance of the sector councilor, Albert Nzimbirinda, to participate in the killing (see below) may help explain this failure. Once in sight of the river, the Tutsi hesitated before attempting the crossing, intimidated by armed patrols on one side or the other. Hundreds gathered in an open area at a small commercial district on top of one of the hills bordering the river.76
According to several witnesses, Ntaganzwa arrived at Nkakwa at about 6 p.m. in a red pickup truck. He was apparently accompanied by two or three teachers and the head of the communal police. Using a hand-held loudspeaker, Ntaganzwa supposedly exhorted people to protect the commune by keeping the rebelsmeaning the Tutsifrom fleeing to Burundi. He declared that the men intended only to take their wives and children to safety and then to return to attack Rwanda. Since Nkakwa was close to Burundi, the people there would be particularly vulnerable to attack.77 After speaking at Nkakwa, the burgomaster wenton to another border sector, Rutobwe, where he is said to have delivered the same message.78
Approximately an hour after Ntaganzwas departure, the killers, under the direction of two leaders from the JDR and another from MDR-Power, attacked the Tutsi using machetes and other traditional weapons. One witness reports, Rutobwe did not have many Tutsi, so people came from there to help at Nkakwa.79 Some Burundians also crossed the river to assist. Witnesses from Nkakwa say Ntaganzwa returned twice during the night to supervise the killing.80
As dawn approached, Ntaganzwa was busy going around the commune collecting carefully chosen supporters, those who were sure, to finish the work at Nkakwa. One witness reports:
Those who participated [in the] killing at Nkakwa....had been chosen by the burgomaster and his friends. The people selected for thisthe burgomaster knew what he was doing. He had sorted people out and had chosen those who were active in the MDR. These people meant to kill, and they also pillaged.81
To ensure that local Tutsi residents not take flight, Ntaganzwa used the loudspeaker to make an announcement as he went by in the vehicle:
Stay at home. There is no problem. We're taking care of the people who attack us. I believe that this message was directed particularly at Tutsi who were in their homeswhich was nearly all of them. They didn't know that people were being massacred at Nkakwa all throughout the night. We didn't hear anything. The killing was just by machete.82
At first light, Ntaganzwa returned to the border accompanied by several vehicles full of assailants whom he had picked up in various parts of the commune. Awitness returning from his work as a nightwatchman that night says he heard the burgomaster give orders as he dropped off the killers, Get to work. Leave no one alive.83 The leaders brought by Ntaganzwa organized the local assailants into groups and used drums and whistles to communicate with each other and to frighten the victims. After killing most of the Tutsi on top of the hill known as Mu Gisoro, they pushed the others back towards the river. Burundian killers waited on the opposite bank determined not to let the Tutsi cross. They shouted that the Tutsi must not be allowed to enter Burundi and become official refugees and obtain protection. Caught between the two groups of killers, hundreds of Tutsi were slaughtered. Very few escaped, scattering to hide in the bush. Of these survivors, many were caught later that day or in the following days by patrols. Ntaganzwa sent National Police to the border later on Friday to help with searches and witnesses report that they then heard gunfire from that direction.84 The bodies of those killed near the river were simply thrown in the water. The others would be buried in a number of mass graves on the hills Kwishorezo and Mu Gisoro.85
After finishing at the rivers edge, the killers set out to hunt down local Tutsi in their homes, both in Nkakwa and in Rutobwe. One witness awoke to hear others in his household giving the alarm because a neighbors house had just been attacked. He remembers them saying, Over at Rwamgampuhwes house, they have just set fire. He was at home! He has been killed with his children!86 A Baptist pastor and the director of the Baptist school are said to have participated in these killings.87 According to one Tutsi farmer from Nkakwa:
The killing had gone on all night. They came to attack my home at 4 a.m. It was a group of five neighbors. I saw them coming. My wife and children had gone to hide with Hutu families, and I stayed at the house to guard the cows. When I saw them coming, I went to hide behind a latrine. They broke downthe doors of the house and took everything inside. They took all of the animalsfour cows, two pigs, seven chickens. They began to burn the house, so I fled into the bush. My wife and children were found and killed. And my mother. They were all killed by the people of Nkakwa.88
As this testimony and many others make clear, some Hutu tried to protect their Tutsi neighbors, particularly those to whom they were bound by the ties of marriage, clientage, or long-standing friendships. Other Hutu opposed the killings on the grounds of principle. Such seems to have been the case with the communal councilor, Albert Nzimbirinda, who apparently refused to kill and even tried to stop others from killing, an effort which led to his removal several weeks later.89 Perhaps anticipating that Nzimbirinda would refuse to participate, Ntaganzwa had made sure that JDR and MDR-Power leaders were on the spot to replace him in directing the slaughter.
The killers pillaged the goods of their victims, whether Tutsi in flight or local residents. One witness recounts seeing people returning from Nkakwa with bags of beans, clothing, mats. As the news spread that the family of so and so has fled and they have left behind their belongings, other people not involved in the killings went off to loot, some of them apparently unaware that a massacre had taken place. During the morning many people returned from Nkakwa and everyone brought back something on his head. The witness continued:
One man came by with cushions for a couch. He had six of them. He wanted to sell them in order to buy beer. Where did you get this? I asked. At Charles [Rwahama]90 place! he told me.
The National Police took the beer and the beer-crates from the stock at Charles place. They took everything until it was empty....Ordinary people had nothing to fear. They were encouraged by the example of the National Police.People were returning with things which they had found free. There was no punishment. It was like a festival. And they were selling these things for next to nothing. For example, a radio normally costing 20,000 francs now cost 2,000 francs. As usual, they bought beer with the money.91
After men pillaged larger, heavier, and more valuable items, women helped themselves to what was left.Cyahinda
The Catholic church at Cyahinda, a weathered fifty-year-old brick building, sat atop a hill within view of the communal office. A major social center for the commune, it offered a place not just for religious services, but also for meetings of womens associations, youth groups, scouts, and various other organizations throughout the week. To the left of the long church building were large, flat grounds and to the right, the land fell off steeply. In addition to its religious programs, the church ran a primary school, a vocational high school and a health center at Cyahinda. A large complex of school buildings extended behind the church, enclosing several sizable courtyards. Just down from the church complex, on the road to the communal office, there was a commercial and residential center where many of the employees of the church lived. The main intellectual center of the commune, Cyahinda was viewed as a Tutsi community, in part because the priest and several other church employees were Tutsi.
When a researcher from Human Rights Watch first visited the church in November 1994, the main doors, marked by bullet holes, stood open. A burn mark on the inside wall just above the door showed that at least one grenade had been thrown in through that entrance. Bullets shot into the church had left holes on several walls and had broken some of the stained glass windows. There were blood stains on the floors and walls. Bleached bits of human bone were mixed with the dirt on the ground around the church. Just next to the church was the grave of the priest. Three mass graves lay behind and below the church and a long line of graves ran next to the church on the right side. Behind the church, on the left side, was a long row of latrines that had been stuffed full of bodies.
The Tutsi who arrived at Cyahinda beginning on April 8 hoped to find sanctuary there as many had in previous such disasters, a hope that Ntaganzwa encouraged. Others who had planned instead to escape to Burundi were alarmed by news of the massacre at Nkakwa and Rutobwe and so they too sought shelter atthe church. With violence behind them and violence ahead of them, they had little choice.
On Friday morning, April 15, assailants leaving the killing at Nkakwa and Rutobwe began attacking Tutsi elsewhere in Nyakizu while fresh recruits joined in the work as well. They killed some Tutsi that morning and drove many others from their homes, which they then burned so that they could not return.92 Even those Tutsi who had not yet been attacked had good reason to fear and many fled to the church. As one witness states, When we heard gunfire [at Nkakwa], we knew we could not escape south to Burundi, so we went to take refuge at Cyahinda.93
The burgomaster went to see Tutsi who remained at home and told them to go to the church.94 According to one elderly Tutsi from Cyahinda sector:
The burgomaster arrived at my home together with communal police, the National Police, and militia. They instructed me to go to the church. The burgomaster reassured people that even though they could see people fleeing from other places, there would be no violence in his commune.95
The witness did not really believe this promise. He states, I saw guns and machine guns. I thought it was for killing, but the burgomaster said that it was for protecting us. We had doubts, but we were not sure. He felt he had no choice but to go. Within twenty minutes, this man and his family gathered a few belongings and hurried to Cyahinda. When he arrived at the church, he turned and saw his own home burning on the hill behind him.96
The local Tutsi who arrived on Friday found the church, the buildings of the school, and the yards surrounding them overflowing with people and their animalsand other possessions. One survivor estimated that Tutsi from six communes were there. The church was full she said. It was really full.97
As the gangs of assailants went about burning and pillaging, an employee of the commune and sector head of MRND raised the alarm, saying the commune was being attacked from Gikongoro. Once he had gotten a crowd together and excited at the Maraba health center, Ntaganzwa arrived to take over, announcing that it was Tutsi who were the real threat to security. He reportedly asked why nothing had yet been done in his commune, when the killing was already finished elsewhere. According to several informants, Tutsi in the vicinity were taken and killed on the spot as soon as Ntaganzwa had finished speaking. Other Tutsi in Maraba fled when they heard of the killings.98
On Friday, April 15 assailants launched a preliminary attack against the Tutsi at Cyahinda at about 10 a.m., just as the killing at Nkakwa was winding down. A witness who was hiding in the bush at Nkakwa that morning states, I heard people saying that they should go over to Cyahinda, where there were many Tutsi, and help in the killing there.99 Some of the attackers were armed with guns and fired into the crowd around the church. The Tutsi scattered and started throwing stones to defend themselves. They had the advantage of a superior location and drove back the assailants, who were trying to fight their way uphill. After about an hour, the attackers drew back, some of them carrying off the animals or goods they had plundered. Others began searching for individuals and small groups hiding around the edges of the church complex, while Tutsi tried to find safety in the church itself or in its adjacent buildings. Some of the Tutsi gathered the injured and moved them to a protected area where they could receive care. Profiting from a lull in the shooting, others fled the church to take refuge at nearby Nyakizu hill or headed out of the commune altogether. At the same time, other Tutsi arrived, believing the church still offered the best hope of sanctuary. The parish priest, Abbé CharlesNcogoza, advised the people at the church to defend themselves as best they could.100
At about 2 p.m., the burgomaster arrived in the communal pickup truck, accompanied by National Policemen, communal policemen, and a former soldier named Kambanda.101 Witnesses report that some of the intellectuals who joined Ntaganzwa were armed, including Geoffrey Dusabe, François Bazaramba101a, a university student, and the director of a vocational high school.102 They were backed by approximately two hundred Burundian refugees, some of whom were also armed, by the MDR-Power activists and by one to two thousand others.
Several witnesses, including one from Gikongoro, stated that Damien Biniga, sub-prefect of Munini, participated in the attack along with his Interahamwe. They said that some of the attackers from Gikongoro wore banana leaves across their chests or tied in clumps on their arms so that assailants could be easily distinguished from victims. They also used the greeting Power and they saluted each other, Turatsembatsemba abatutsi or We will exterminate the Tutsi.103
Using a loudspeaker to address the crowd, the burgomaster demanded that they put down their weapons. Some did so. One of the National Policemen began threatening those who refused. The burgomaster then insisted that the people fromGikongoro leave the church, perhaps wanting to divide the crowd so that it would be easier to attack.104
He said, Everyone [from Gikongoro] must leave, or you will see what happens. And he counted to three, One, two, three. And just after that, they began to fire. It was chaos. Everyone ran. Many people fled from the church, but many others of us stayed there and hid. I hid behind some houses of the convent. There were some militaires [National Policemen] who found me there. One of them wanted to kill me, but the others said to leave me alone. They knew my husband [a Hutu] and said that he was a good man.105
Since early on April 15, Burundian refugeesparticularly women and childrenhad left their camp and headed towards the border. Men capable of fighting stayed in Nyakizu, probably about one thousand of them, and many of them killed ferociously. One witness, who identified the Burundians by hearing them shout in Kirundi, declared:
The Burundians were killing anyone they saw. At the church, the shooting continued. People were scattering, coming out of the church. And the Burundians were hunting them down.106
When the afternoon attack began, the Tutsi took a stand on the large soccer field behind the church and school. There, near the summit of the hill and protected by school buildings on either side, they again hurled rocks to defend themselves. In July 1995, a survivor from Gikongoro walked over the site with Human Rights Watch and FIDH researchers, recalling the massacre:
When the attack started, we scattered, running down to the soccer field to fight....Most of my family died on the soccer field. Three children died here. My wife died here....I myself got shot. This was on the 15th of April. We were destroyed together. I lay down with my dead family as the killers attacked....The attackers included military men and civilians, one person in uniform with lots of civilians. Since they did not have many bullets, they shot only the strong people and attacked the weak ones with machetes. And I was shot in the leg. I couldnt run, so I lay down among the cadavers. The attackers whom I saw were not drunk. They wore banana leaves. The ones in Gikongoro had also worn banana leaves. And they wore chalk on their faces so that you couldnt recognize them. They wore that both in Gikongoro and here.
When the first line of civilians with traditional arms was failing, they moved back and the second line of attackers which had been behind them came forward. They had guns and they shot, which caused us on the soccer field to scatter. Then, the first attackers came forward again and they chased us, moving onto the field with machetes to attack us.107
During the afternoon a large group of Tutsi fled from the parish. One of the group recalls:
We left with many women and children. I carried children, and my wives carried children. We left everything else behind, including the pigs. We left in a big lineso that nobody else could get in between us. At that time, the attackers had turned their attention in another direction. They were engaged in shooting and didnt pursue us. They had not yet formed a human enclosure around the church. On the path to Gasasa, we did not encounter attackers. We could see that elsewhere people living around there were watching and even assisting in the attack. The neighbors who did see us were afraid to attack us, because we had strong men in the line, and they knew that one of the National Policemen had already been killed. Local people avoided us, except for saying Kagame has deceived you.108
During the attack, the Tutsi managed to kill two National Policemen. As the police moved forward firing across the field, some Tutsi came out of buildingsbehind them and ran to overpower them. They killed one policeman by machete, but apparently shot the second with the gun taken from the first.109 The national radio would later report the incident, saying that National Police who were trying to reach the church to protect the Tutsi had been attacked by salvos of bullets from automatic weapons.110
In another incident that afternoon, a Tutsi charged the burgomaster with a machete in an attempt to kill him. According to one survivor:
Just after he [the burgomaster] spoke, one man ran up to try to kill him. He said, I am going to die, but I will save a lot of people. He was stopped, of course, but this frightened the burgomaster, so he left right after that. He took his family to safety in Butare and went to get more military men.111
Another informant who saw the event confirms this version. She reports that the assailant, who was her uncle, was stopped before he even reached the burgomaster and that the burgomaster was not injured in the attack.112
Ntaganzwa and his supporters made full use of these incidents to heighten fear of the Tutsi exactly as the disciple of the propaganda expert Mucchielli had directed. The burgomaster traveled throughout the commune with his head bandaged warning the population that RPF soldiers were in the church, hiding in the midst of the Tutsi civilians. He insisted that everyone must help defend the commune. A Hutu witness from Rutobwe recounts:
The burgomaster went around doing propaganda meetings, during which he said that the people of Cyahinda had thrown a grenade at him and that he had escaped by a miracle. There were witnesses who said that it was only a stone, but the burgomaster said that it was a grenade. He got in his pickup truck with his head bandaged and went around telling the population: They tried to kill me! People saw that his head was bandaged and they believed. I believed itmyself when I saw his bandage. Only later did I find out that he had taken advantage of the stone to arouse anger in the commune: a stone had become a grenade. And the truth? Well, people saw the bandage and believed it was the truth.113
Eager to multiply pretexts for the massacre, Ntaganzwa and his circle also claimed to have found a list of names of people who had given money to the RPF, a claim just like that heard in so many other places in Rwanda. The witness who reported this remarked:
I did not know if this was true, but it generated a lot of anger among the people. And who could verify these claims? Those who knew the truth were afraid, and people were not supposed to be going out.114
Although many Tutsi had been killed or wounded, they had successfully withstood the attacks on Friday. By that evening, Ntaganzwa saw the need to reinforce the attackers, especially because the Burundians who had played such an important part in the assault declared that they would not continue their work the next day unless they could be assured of more support from the Rwandans. The burgomaster apparently called for reinforcements from Butare and from communes in Gikongoro. He also decided to take measures to improve participation among the people of his own commune.115
Large numbers of people had turned out to pillage, which was not surprising given the overwhelming poverty and actual hunger in Nyakizu. Even if the person targeted were just as poor as the pillager, the criminal still went home richer than he had begun. And if the target was in fact more prosperousin the case of some traders and members of the elite, considerably more prosperousthe pillagers were indeed happy to share in such a festival. At Cyahinda, some of the assailants also pillaged the schools and health center, disappearing down the paths laden withmattresses from the dormitories, computers from the offices, and microscopes from the health center.116
If many wanted to steal, fewer were ready to destroy or to kill. Out on the hills, a JDR leader had to insist that assailants burn and destroy houses instead of just pillaging and moving on to the next target. The National Police reportedly had to press people to attack persons because they were too focused simply on looting and leaving.117 One woman fleeing with her children to Cyahinda thought they would be killed when they stumbled on a group of assailants on a back path through the sorghum fields. But, as she reported, They were busy killing cattle and cutting them up. They were too busy with that to bother with us. So we were able to get to Cyahinda.118
To turn pillagers into killers and resisters into participants, Ntaganzwa decided to eliminate several moderate Hutu leaders who were providing a model and a cover for others who would not kill. The most important was Jean-Marie Vianney Gasingwa, the PSD leader in the commune and Ntaganzwas rival for political control since more than a year before. As assistant burgomaster, Gasingwa spoke with authority as well as reason. He asked people, Why kill? What will it get you? Why do it?119 He had refused to disarm the Tutsi the day before the massacre, thus encouraging a similar refusal from a university student who worked as an intern at the communal office, and perhaps from others.120 The student recalls that after the Friday massacre, Gasingwa and several other moderates had decided to spend the night at the communal office:
We were at the commune, and the burgomaster sent a message calling us to Nyagisozi: Come to my place for a drink. They went, but I didnt go because I was guarding my home....On their return, they had walked about 100 meters,and [they were killed] ... [by] a group of Burundians accompanied by friends of the burgomaster. [The killers] were armed with machetes....Saturday morning, I was at my place and I got the news that my friends had been murdered. And you are also in danger, I was told by the person who brought me the news. I decided to flee.121
Three other communal employees, Jean-Damascene Nkurikiyeyezu, the cashier, Jean-Marie-Vianney Ntawukuliyayo, the accountant, and Cansius Kalisa, the agronomist were killed with Gasingwa. A fifth government employee, the director of the Centre de Formation de la Population, was slain later while passing the communal office on his motorcycle, which was then appropriated by National Policemen.122
The national radio reported these murders, but in one of the cynical deceptions common during the genocide, it said the moderates had been slain by Tutsi from Cyahinda church. Thus those committed to the genocide not only rid themselves of dissidents but used their deaths to heighten fear and hatred of the enemy.123
According to a witness from the commune, Killing these officials was very important in shaping popular thinking (sensibilisation).124 Several other persons corroborated this judgment, one of them saying, When the party leaders got killed, that scared the lesser PSD people.125 As in so many other places in Rwanda, people who had begun just by fearing the RPF now had reason to fear their own officials and political leaders. Because Ntaganzwa had already demonstrated his ruthlessness before April 6, people could easily believe that he would use force against any who opposed the genocide.
Beginning the next morning, April 16, the National Police added their direct pressure to the threat implied in the Friday night murders. One witness declared:
The National Police appropriated the pickup trucks at the commercial center and beginning on Saturday, they took everybody along the road. Lets gofight the RPF! As if there were RPF in each Tutsi family and in the buildings at the church and the CERAI. They believed that there were lots of soldiers at the church. But, in fact, there were no soldiers of the RPF at the parish. There were ordinary people. Cyahinda was full of children, women, and men, not soldiers.126
During the night, most Tutsi had stayed put at Cyahinda, in part for lack of any clear idea where else to go, in part because guards were present to keep them from leaving. Some witnesses report that on Saturday morning fresh troops arrived from Butare, probably more National Policemen. Ntaganzwa and his assistants organized local assailants more tightly than before in groups of about fifty men. In some cases, the leaders presented themselves with their groups already assembled, in others, the burgomaster named the heads. Most of the groups included one or two policemen, former soldiers or others with guns, to strengthen a force otherwise armed with traditional weapons.
A survivor of the massacre recounts what happened in a brief time of quiet just after dawn:
People began to assemble in groups, looking for members of their families. It was just after daybreak....I went up to some buildings in the church complex to look for my three children. I was in a kitchen there, just behind the door, when the firing started again. This was around seven or eight in the morning. If I had not been behind the door, I would have been killed. The bullets hit the door, and people came falling into the room shot dead.127
Groups of attackers came rushing up the hill from several directions at once, trying to surround the Tutsi and to push them into a smaller space where they could be more easily slaughtered.
The killing went on all day, but still the Tutsi were so many that the assailants could not get to the church building. The killers went home in the late afternoon, establishing a schedule that they would follow for the next few days. As one witness reported, They came exactly at 7 a.m. each morning, just like government employees. They worked until 5 p.m. and then came back the next morning at 7again. In the evening, they went home singing Hutu Power songs to feast on the cattle they had pillaged.128
On Saturday evening, a large group of Tutsi arrived from Kivu commune in Gikongoro, driving their cattle before them. Many may have been survivors of the killings at Muganza church who had fled from there Friday night. They were such a large crowd that people along the way were apparently intimidated by them and let them pass. Tutsi at the church were at first suspicious, afraid that some Interahamwe might have infiltrated the group, and tried to drive them away. But then the Cyahinda crowd accepted the others, who thus swelled the mass to confront the assailants the next morning.129
Promises of Help, Threats of Reprisals
On Sunday, April 17, the killing started again in the morning, but stopped for a time in the early afternoon with the arrival of Prefect Habyalimana, Major Habyarabatuma, and other officials. Habyalimana and Habyarabatuma were struggling to keep control in the prefecture in the face of multiple challenges to their authority, of which the killing at Nyakizu was the most serious. In the face of the growing hopelessness of the situation, the prefect sought to reassure the Tutsi. According to a woman who was at the church:
He came and spoke to the crowd. He announced that he would bring troops to defend the Tutsi and that he would bring food....The killing died down for a little while just after his visit. But very soon after, it started again.130
That evening, as the prefect was returning to Butare, the national radio announced that he had been removed from his post. He was never able to keep his promise to help the people at Cyahinda.
Sunday afternoon, Ntaganzwa and his supporters continued their intimidation of those who were not participating in the killing. They wanted to ensure that no new leaders stepped forward to replace Gasingwa and the others killed for opposing the genocide. The burgomaster, the director of the vocational high school, four National Policemen and about thirty others from the neighborhood called on a teacher who had considerable standing, both because of his education andbecause he came from a large family. They searched his house, looking for Tutsi. Although they found none, they warned the teacher, If you do not come with the others [to kill], you are an accomplice of the Inkotanyi. He was so frightened by the threat that he did not dare go out to the road after the incident. He reports, I said to myself, If they see me, they can send someone to kill me.131
The same day that this visit took place at the southern most limit of Rwanda, Froduald Karamira, Vice-President of MDR-Power, approved such searches in a statement on Radio Rwanda. He said:
The people...are now systematically searching all homes, looking for any person hidden there, any person who has not done patrols with others, who has not been seen with others, because such a person is suspected of hiding guns, since there are armed people who are not in military uniform who have hidden among the people....132
Whether or not Ntaganzwa and his group heard this particular statement before visiting the teacher, they were in fact carrying out the policy of the national leaders like Karamira whose words they virtually echoed in threatening the teacher.
Other dissidents, too, would have heard Karamiras speech or similar pronouncements and they would have understood the meaning of Habyalimanas removal. They would have understood that Ntaganzwas killings and threats had the backing of those above him both in the administrative hierarchy and in the party system. With no likelihood of support from higher authority outside the commune and with the local leaders of the opposition dead, those who might have opposed the genocide in Nyakizu gave up. Some fled, like the student intern. Those who stayed formed a disapproving, but silent block who went into hiding, refused to participate or participated as little as possible. Many continued to take risks privately to protect Tutsi with whom they had ties, but they did not dare oppose the genocide publicly.133
On Monday morning, police, national and communal, former soldiers and armed civilians joined in launching a more vigorous attack on the parish. By this time, the civilian attackers had grown to such numbers that they could completelyenclose the complex to cut off any escape. Witnesses watching from a distance described it as a fence of people, with various groups assigned to guard each area. These witnesses say that they could see sub-prefect Biniga organizing these groups to form the cordon of killers.134 The armed attackers moved methodically from one building or enclosure to the next. A survivor of the massacre described a courtyard in the church complex this way:
Here it was completely full of people, and they shot into this dense crowd with machine guns. A lot of people died here. There are no bullet holes on the walls, because the crowd was so dense that the bullets went into their bodies. Even if the bullets passed through one persons body, they went into the body of another person.135
The assailants with guns then forced their way into the church through the main doors and the doors on the right side. Others, armed with machetes, clubs, and spears, followed closely behind.
The violence was so extraordinary in scale and ruthessness that a witness, hiding in her home and watching from the window, rubbed her eyes in disbelief and asked the person with her, Do you see what I see?136
That day a second important outsider came to offer help at Nyakizu, but to the killers rather than to their intended victims. Interim President Sindikubwabo stopped briefly at the communal office in the course of his tour to mobilize the people of southern Rwanda. His audience was small because most of the people of the commune, including the burgomaster, were busy attacking the church. A witness who was among the 200 or so persons who heard him speak reported that he said:
People of Nyakizu, this is the first time you have had a visit from the president of Rwanda. I have come to encourage you and to thank you for what you have done so far. I am going back now to get some people to help you with this work and to see about a reward for you.137
Another witness saw the visit as a turning point. He recalls:
In the evening, the information about this visit spread in the sectors. On the radio they said that the president had passed at Nyakizu and had told people, We have to do as in 1959! In Kinyarwanda, Mukore nko 1959! This referred to the revolution....The president just passed through. He gave permission. The participants said to themselves, We are following the true path. We have been blessed by the president. The others are Inkotanyi.138
According to another informant, Sindikubwabo told people, Even if you have to demolish the church to get rid of the Tutsi, do it. I will take responsibility.139
Unlike the prefect, Sindikubwabo was in a position to keep his promise. The next day twelve soldiers arrived in army jeeps, under the command of a young lieutenant, most likely Lt. Ildephonse Hategekimana from the Ngoma camp in Butare. The soldiers brought some heavy weapons which they used to fire a few rounds at the church from the communal office across the valley. They joined the other assailants in slaughtering those left at Cyahinda. They pursued people throughout the church, into the vestry, the sacristy, and onto the altar, leaving walls splattered with blood and brains. After nearly two years and countless washings, the stains remained as a testimony to the massacre. By Tuesday night, April 19, the killing at Cyahinda was complete, and the church and surrounding buildings and grounds were strewn with corpses.
That weekend in mid-April, the church at Cyahinda, some 1,050 square meters in area, probably sheltered between 3,000 and 3,500 people. The schools and outbuildings in the complex may have held 4,000 to 5,000 more. It is more difficult to judge the number who might have been on the grounds. The land falls away rapidly on the right side of the church, so it is unlikely that more than a few hundred people would have been there, but in front, behind and to the left of the church, there was space for several thousand to gather.
The total Tutsi population of Nyakizu just before the genocide was about 11,300,140 of whom perhaps 7,000 to 8,000 went to Cyahinda. There were also thousands of Tutsi from outside Nyakizu who took shelter in the church complex. On April 15, prefectural authorities estimated that 20,000 people were at Cyahinda,many of whom would have been women, children, and the elderly.141 Adolescent or adult males actively defending the church probably numbered fewer than 4,000 to 5,000.
The maximum number of persons with firearms in Nyakizu in early April was apparently between sixty and seventy, including some thirty National Police, twelve regular soldiers, five or six communal policemen, and another two dozen civiliansformer soldiers, Hutu power leaders, and militiawho had been given guns and grenades. At the height of the attack on Cyahinda, when the soldiers were present, there many have been as many as thirty assailants armed with guns. In terms of other attackers, one witness estimated that half the commune or as many as 10,000 assailants participated. A report filed in March 1994 records a population in Nyakizu of some 24,700 Hutu males, about half of whom would have been under the age of fifteen or sixteen.142 Of the some 12,350 adult Hutu males, perhaps 10 to 15 percent would have been too old or unable to participate in the attack for some other physical reason. This leaves a group of potential adult male assailants of some 10,000, some of whom refused to participate and others of whom were occupied elsewhere in the commune at the time. It is possible that some women or adolescents, say between the ages of thirteen to fifteen, also participated, but no witness has ever indicated sizable numbers of either group among those who besieged the church. In addition, there were assailants from neighboring communes, probably at least several hundred, and an equal or larger number of Burundian refugees. The attackers were not strong enough to storm the church for the first three days, even with the help of a certain number of guns. Once they entered the building, they needed two days to finish the killing. This suggests that there were fewer assailants than victims, perhaps between 6,000 and 8,000.
Just after the massacre, clergy in Butare who knew the church well estimated that 5,500 Tutsi died in the Cyahinda massacre.143 The number may have been considerably higher, perhaps between 10,000 and 15,000, men and women, old people and young, all condemned for the simple fact of being Tutsi. Apparently the last to die from the attack on the church was a schoolgirl who was thrown alive ina deep hole, probably filled with cadavers. Other children came to give her water to drink. When the burgomaster learned of this, he ordered the hole covered.144The Hilltops
The hill from which Nyakizu commune draws its name rises steep-sloped in the center of the commune. More than 2,000 meters high, it provides a clear view of surrounding sectors. Sparsely populated, much of it is planted in trees that provided some protection to those in hiding. Some people came directly to Nyakizu hill, assuming it would afford more safety than other locations. One woman recounted:
We were fleeing and arrived at Nyakizu and...decided to hide near the forest. There was a Hutu living nearby who agreed to hide us. He invited me to go inside, but I was afraid. I had the three-year-old on my back. I went to hide outside in the sorghum. The child began crying, and the attackers heard the cries. They came. I tried to put the child on my back, but I was shaking so badly that I could not tie the knot in the cloth.145 I started to run. Behind me, the attackers were chasing me. The child fell. The attackers hit the child on the head with a stick, and the child died.
I kept running. Ahead, I encountered another attacker. I gave him 9,000 francs [about U.S.$50] to save me....He had banana leaves on his hips and along his neck and shoulders. He had a machete. He was like a madman. He grabbed me by my clothing at the neck and dragged me. I made signs that I had money, and he let me go. By this time it was night, and I decided to return to Nyakizu hill.146
Others who were on their way to Cyahinda stopped at Nyakizu when they saw that the church was under attack while still others who were first at the church fled to the hill during the days of the siege.
As was often the case elsewhere, the first attack at Nyakizu hill was a preliminary skirmish. On Saturday, April 16, a group of people, mostly from theeastern sectors of the commune, attacked armed with traditional weapons. A former soldier and employee of Bazaramba at the Baptist Church led the charge. The night before Bazaramba had reportedly given guns to him and a nightwatchman at his bar. As at Cyahinda, the Tutsi at Nyakizu defended themselves by throwing stones, benefiting from their position higher on the hill. According to one participant, there was no plan to the defense except not to be killed like sheep and all, men and women, children and the elderly, joined in. The Tutsi fended off the attack without fatalities, but some felt that their position was too vulnerable and they fled to the church even as some people were leaving Cyahinda for the hill.147
On Sunday, a larger crowd of assailants attacked the hill, armed with four guns. Witnesses report that Bazaramba himself led the charge.147a According to a survivor, The attackers were numerous enough to fill the whole market place....They were stronger than we were, because they had guns.148 Another witness remarked, They killed like people go to the fields, going home when they get tired,149 leaving the remainder of the work to be finished the next day.
On Monday, April 18, the people at Nyakizu hill could see that Cyahinda was encircled. Hearing the gunfire and the explosions of the grenades, they knew that the work there would soon be completed and that the crowds of killers would be able to focus on Nyakizu. Several groups of Tutsi who managed to break out of the encirclement and to make their way to the hilltop confirmed that the massacre at Cyahinda would soon be over. Many Tutsi decided to flee Nyakizu hill before Tuesday morning.
Some trekked on to another peak of the Nyakizu ridge known as Gasasa. There they found Tutsi from the sector Gasasa who had fled to the hill together on April 15 after a meeting with their cell leader and councilor. Other Tutsi had come from Cyahinda, swelling the group to many thousands. On April 18, they had discussed the grim choices they faced but did not reach a common decision on what to do. The next day, most left, in three groups heading in different directions. A fourth group, those who would have trouble fleeing, stayed at Gasasa. The one point that all accepted was that those who fled should leave their cattle behind on the hilltop. They hoped that this rich booty would distract the killers and give them more time to escape.150
The killers attacked at Gasasa on April 20 and 21, after the assault on Nyakizu hill. A survivor described what he saw:
The attackers came from all the sectors of Nyakizu and with them were Burundians. The first attackers came from...Cyahinda. The others came from the left side. They surrounded the hill, taunting us, watching us. They formed a circle around the hill, then they sat down. They were not in a line exactly, but in groups that formed a kind of circle around the hill....There were different groups of attackers who were off burning houses, and there were others who were sitting surrounding the hill.
Then a person blew a whistle, and they all came together and they began climbing the hill toward us. I saw them climbing. I saw them coming and I heard three guns behind me. There were also shots coming from the right side. And I saw the burgomasters truck in front, but the burgomaster was behind us, up on top of the hill with a hand-held loudspeaker.151
When the attack began, the burgomaster immediately recognized the risk that the attackers might focus more on securing their share of the loot than on the killing. From his commanding position on top of the hill, he announced over his loudspeaker that the attackers should leave the cows alone, that they would be compensated later for not touching them at the time.152 One man who survived came a short distance down the hill and hid behind a tree. He recounted:
My wife and my children were killed by machetes here on this hill. You know, they didnt kill the children who were younger than two years old, and down the hill...a woman was killed. I saw her child trying to nurse at her breast and the killers said, Dont worry, well give you something to drink!
They finished killing by 2 p.m. and then they shouted out that those who were hiding should show themselves. By 4 p.m. I was still here hiding, and I saw the red truck with the burgomaster and some councilors inside. They [got out and] looked to see if any of the people were still alive by kicking the bodies. They shouted, I see the body of so-and-so, as they went examining the bodies. And they shouted, Have you seen the body of the Gasasa counselor? No.Youve done nothing unless we find this body! Find him! They also wanted the body of the leader of Kinyaga cellule, which is in Cyahinda sector, but he was killed at Nshili. The burgomaster wanted to see the bodies of the local authorities.153
When Human Rights Watch and FIDH researchers visited Gasasa in July 1995, they followed the path that wound in a spiral around the hill. Alongside it were a number of mass graves. They passed through fields of coffee plants, where bones, clothes and household goods were scattered. They examined a skull, half covered with earth, its mouth open in a perpetual scream. They stopped to investigate a childs red sweater and found the little rib cage intact inside it. Past the last destroyed house, on the flat hilltop, there was only tall grass littered with the remains of the people who had sought safety there: a broken rosary, a school notebook with an agriculture lesson in fine penmanship, womens underwear, wooden vessels for holding milk. There were large mass graves on top of the hill but they did not contain all the bones. Scattered about were ribs, vertebrae, shoulder blades.Flight
On April 19, the people from Gasasa hill set off in three groups, one towards the west, through Nshili to Burundi, another to the east towards Gishamvu and then to Burundi, and a third to the northeast to Muyogoro in Butare. Those who fled from Nyakizu hill also took different paths, some heading northeast for the hill Bitare, on the border of Nyakizu and Gishamvu, others striking out more directly east to the main paved highway that led south to Burundi, others heading west to Nshili, hoping to pass through that commune to get to Burundi. All were attacked, no matter which way they headed. One person in the group to leave Nyakizu hill for Nshli reported:
After we arrived in Nyarure [in Kamana sector, Mubuga commune], we were attacked by the local people who killed many among us. A military man from Gisororo named SenkindiI knew him, because my father had land and a wife at Gisororo, so I knew people theretold everybody to sit down. Then they attacked. They shot and killed the three strong men who had been protecting the group and then the civilians attacked the group with machetes. I was already injured and I fell. I was with three children. They cut off the head of one of the children. My sister-in-law was killed with her whole family. Oneof the children fell down and dead bodies fell on top of the child. The child survived underneath the dead bodies. The burgomaster and a soldier led the attackers.154
Of four groups that left in one night along the same route to the southwest, the one that left last had the most survivors because by the time they arrived the attackers had run out of ammunition and were too tired to kill as thoroughly. A survivor who made the trek in the last group relates:
We arrived at Gisenyi [Gisororo sector, Nshili commune]. The burgomaster and the soldiers attacked until there were no more bullets. So the burgomaster said, Leave them. Theyll be killed by FRODEBU. When we got to Burundi, we encountered FRODEBU [members] who killed some of the people. But the Burundi government sent its soldiers to welcome refugees.155
Another large group that headed to the east found the same kinds of civilian and military killers, wearing the same leaves used by assailants elsewhere, and motivated by the same goal. According to an elderly Tutsi man who was part of this group:
We left with about 1,600 all grouped together in a line. At Agatobwe, they shot at us, at our line. We fled out on the highway. There was no other way to escape, because on the small paths people with traditional arms were waiting for us. But on the open road, we were in a better position to defend ourselves. We had machetes and small sticks.156
At 6 a.m., we met soldiers....They asked us, Why are you fleeing? They ordered us: Go back and sit down at Nkomero [the commercial center near the border]. We saw people coming wearing leaves and carrying machetes. The soldiers disarmed those who tried to escape, while the local people threw rocks at them and hit them with machetes. The local people were approaching from one side, and the soldiers were approaching from the other. Then the soldiers started shooting. People hid in sorghum fields and others swam theriver to Burundi. Many of the large group stayed together and were killed together. It was not easy for them to scatter and flee, because the attackers would follow after them and cut them down with machetes.
The attackers wore leaves. The women wore the leaves on their hips. The men wore them crossed like an X across the chest, in the style of intore. They had chalk around the eyes, as if for kubandwa, and they shouted tuzabatsembatsemba! [We have come to exterminate!]157
Ntaganzwa, Bazaramba, Dusabe and others chased those who fled to Bitare, on the Gishamvu border.157a A woman from Nyakizu declared:
At Bitare, the attackers included neighbors [from Nyakizu], some government people, including former soldiers and communal police and our burgomaster. I saw that the attackers had vehicles. There was an attack by the burgomaster of Nyakizu, Ntaganzwa Ladislas, who said Come ahead, but you will not get away.158
By April 22 the killers had finished at the church and on the hilltops, having done their best to execute the threat shouted by one killer during an attack, You are snakes. Your god does not exist. We will exterminate you.159