The Rwandan Patriotic Front ended the 1994 genocide by defeating the civilian and military authorities responsible for the killing campaign. Its troops encountered little opposition, except around Kigali, and they routed government forces in operations that began in early April and ended in July. As RPF soldiers advanced south down the eastern side of the country and then swept west, they even stopped the killers in the act of attacking or preparing to attack Tutsi at several churches or camps for the displaced. More often they rescued Tutsi with no dramatic confrontation. They drove military, militia, and other assailants from the region and so made it possible for Tutsi to return from the swamps and bush and to emerge from their hiding places. The RPF soldiers saved tens of thousands from annihilation and relentlessly pursued those whom they thought guilty of genocide. In their drive for military victory and a halt to the genocide, the RPF killed thousands, including noncombatants as well as government troops and members of militia. As RPF soldiers sought to establish their control over the local population, they also killed civilians in numerous summary executions and in massacres. They may have slaughtered tens of thousands during the four months of combat from April to July. The killings diminished in August and were markedly reduced after mid-September when the international community exerted pressure for an end to the carnage. Carried out by soldiers who were part of a highly disciplined military organization, these killings by the RPF rarely involved civilian participation, except to identify the persons to be slain. In only a few cases, particularly in areas near the border with Burundi, civilian assailants reportedly joined soldiers in attacking other civilians.
Although the subject of substantial speculation, the RPF slaughter of civilians has been poorly documented. Even during the months when the RPF was just establishing its control, it was remarkably successful in restricting access by foreigners to certain parts of the country. Such limitations fed the speculation about RPF abuses but, at the same time, made it extremely difficult to prove wrongdoing.
Because this report focused on the genocide itself, we collected only limited data on crimes committed by the RPF. The information is sufficient, however, to demonstrate that certain kinds of RPF abuses occurred so often and in such similar ways that they must have been directed by officers at a high level of responsibility. It is likely that these patterns of abuse were known to and tolerated by the highest levels of command of the RPF forces.Not Hutu, Tutsi, nor Twa
The Ideology of National Unity
Virtually all persons killed by RPF forces were Hutu, but the RPF explicitly disavowed any hostility based on ethnic distinctions and from its earliest days proclaimed a nationalist ideology. Whether or not born of conviction, the stress on national identity made sense politically for a group drawn mostly from the minority and aspiring to political power in a situation where ethnic differences had been exaggerated. The RPF called itself an umuryango, literally a lineage or kin group, suggesting that all who adhered to it were expected to feel strong bonds and perhaps even a common origin.1
The group taught that Rwandans had lived in harmony before the colonial regime introduced distinctions among ethnic groups. As one of the most famous RPF songs related:
It is the white man who has caused all that, children of Rwanda. He did it in order to find a secret way to pillage us. When they [the Europeans] arrived, we were living side by side in harmony. They were unhappy that they could not find a way to divide us. They invented different origins for us, children of Rwanda: some were supposed to have come from Chad, others from Ethiopia. We were a fine tree, its parts all in accord, children of Rwanda. Some of us were banished abroad, to never come back. We were separated by this division, children of Rwanda, but we have overcome the whitemans trap....So, children of Rwanda, we are all called to unite our strength to build Rwanda....2
Once present in Rwanda and recruiting supporters, the RPF taught new members the same lesson. In training sessions during 1993 and early 1994, instructors presented extensive lessons on Rwandan history which stressed the destructive impact of colonialism on relations among Rwandans. They concluded by defining the RPF:
Inkotanyi are Rwandans who aim to lead Rwanda to development after too many years of poverty and darkness. Inkotanyi are not Hutu, Tutsi nor Twa...the Inkotanyi party accepts everyone who believes in its goals.3
After the genocide began, the RPF continued preaching the need for national identity to those who came under their control. At a just-established displaced persons camp at Rutare, north of Kigali, RPF organizer Athanasius Karisa explained the rules to new arrivals in mid-May 1994: they would be expected to elect their own leaders, to form work committees to build houses and gather food, to settle conflicts peacefully and to forget who is Hutu and who is Tutsi. A resident of the Byumba camp recalled meetings to talk about peace and living together.4 A reporter who spoke to RPF soldiers found that many invoked the code against ethnic bias, reciting it almost as if by rote.5
In their desire to emphasize bonds between Hutu and Tutsi, Kagame and other RPF leaders stressed the political rather than ethnic nature of the violence that began in April 1994.6 Even when they used the term genocide to refer to Tutsi victims, they often hastened to add that moderate Hutu too were suffering from the killing campaign. Dr. Théogène Rudasingwa, then secretary general of the RPF, was quoted in Der Spiegel of May 30 as saying, We are the only force that can put an end to the killing, and the Hutus, too, know that; they are just as much victims as the Tutsis.7
Recruiting Hutu Supporters
While still in exile, the RPF recruited well-known Hutu leaders, one of whom, Col. Alexis Kanyarengwe, was installed as chairman of the movement. Another,Seth Sendashonga, a bright young politician who had left the country because of dissatisfaction with Habyarimanas politics, served as liaison between the RPF and political parties opposed to Habyarimana within the country. As the RPF began more intensive organization within Rwanda in 1993, it continued to insist on the importance of attracting Hutu to its ranks. Its regulations supposedly specified that a new cell could be formally constituted only if the group included Hutu as well as Tutsi. This measure was meant to protect Tutsi from the risk of participating in easily identified monoethnic groups as well as to build a stronger, more broadly based party.
After the popularly acclaimed entrance of RPF troops to Kigali in late December 1993, numerous young Hutu found their way to training sessions at the CND or at RPF camps further north. Some prepared to be political organizers, others to be soldiers. At least one of the trainers was Hutu, as had been recommended by one RPF adviser.8 In a document prepared for use within the party, the adviser stressed that party organizers must not be just Tutsi:
These organizers should come from all social groups, with no discrimination whatsoever (Bahutu as well as Batutsi, Bakiga as well as Banyenduga [sic], educated people as well as those who are illiterate, officials from the central government as well as authorities from the private sector, etc...).9
Once the genocide began, RPF forces sought to locate and protect some Hutu leaders of political parties and civil society, arranging for their transport behind RPF lines as soon as it was possible. The most important of these leaders spent a brief period at Mulindi, the RPF headquarters in the north, while others were sent to the town of Byumba, or to camps like that at Rutare or to small centers like Kabuga. As RPF troops moved into communities, they quickly made contact withlocal leaders and educated persons and, initially anyway, sought the cooperation of those who were not clearly allied with the forces of genocide.10
Young Hutu at camps in RPF territory remember being heavily pressured in May, June, and July to join the RPF army or at the least to serve the party in other capacities. A medical student from the university was pressed by a lieutenant of military intelligence at Kacyiru in Kigali to give us a hand, help us out. The student asked if he could not assist without becoming a soldier and was told no. When the lieutenant suggested that a continued refusal might raise suspicions about what he had done during the genocide, the student agreed to join the military medical service. One who declined military service ended by working in the civilian administration and another served as a liaison for the RPF with foreign humanitarian organizations.11
The RPF even went so far as to encourage members of the government army and of the militia to cross over and join their ranks. At the end of May, General Kagame said on Radio Muhabura: Political party youthwingers who have been forced to join the Interahamwe to save their lives should denounce them and come over to the RPF.12 Kanyarengwe sent the same message, appealing to members of the Interahamwe who are ready to put down their arms and stop their barbaric acts to resume normal life behind RPF lines.13 Not many Interahamwe responded to these calls, but some did.14 According to one witness, one man who first terrorized the Marenga sector of Kayenzi commune as a member of the Interahamwe later joined the RPF troops, in which capacity he was able to intimidate people intokeeping silent about his past abuses.15 In another case, a councilor who had been involved in killing Tutsi women later identified victims for attack by the RPF in the commune of Rusatira.16Stopping the Genocide
Before April 1994, RPF leaders were well aware of preparations for the killing campaign.17 They sought to protect their adherents by calling on the international community to speed the implementation of the Arusha Accords. They also sought to strengthen bonds with various Hutu groups and even explored the possibility of joint training with militia of the MDR or the PSD, as mentioned above. When the genocidal forces began killing in Kigali and elsewhere, the RPF immediately warned that it would renew combat unless the slaughter halted. When the warning was ignored, RPF soldiers took to the field.
According to two highly-placed RPF leaders, they anticipated that the international community would help defend civilians should killings be launched on a massive scale.18 When neither the U.N. nor any foreign government showed any inclination to intervene, the RPF on April 9 proposed a joint operation with UNAMIR and the Rwandan army, with each to contribute 300 troops to end the slaughter. The RPF judged that number would suffice to stop the killings, most of which were being carried out by the Presidential Guard.19 The Rwandan army rejected the bid the next day nor would UNAMIR participate.
After this initiative failed, the RPF undertook on its own to halt the genocide. In one of the most dramatic cases documented, RPF forces arrived in the vicinity as government soldiers and militia were in the midst of what would have been a final assault on Rukara church. An account based on witness testimony relates that as sounds of battle between the RPF and government troops grew closer, thesoldiers fled and the local militiamen threw their remaining stones and spears at the church, and then ran away, too.20 In other locations, such as at Kabgayi diocese in central Rwanda, and at Rango south of Butare, militia waiting outside camps for the signal to attack Tutsi fled at the approach of RPF troops.21
The genocide took place in the context of war and the RPF wanted to win the war, not just to save theTutsi. In the first three days, the RPF 7th unit, commanded by Colonel Bagire and the 157th unit, commanded by Col. Fred Ibingira, defeated the Rwandan government forces in the northeast. The first mobile unit, under Col. Sam Kaka, pushed through to the capital, where they arrived on the afternoon of April 11, in line, as if out for a stroll.22 There they joined up with the 3rd battalion, headed by Lt. Col. Charles Kayonga, which had been stationed in the CND and had been engaged in action since the afternoon of April 7.
By April 12, these early successes caused RPF leaders to believe that they could win a total victory over the Rwandan army and they set out to do that.23 The military strategy involved sending a substantial force down the eastern frontier while simultaneously engaging the Rwandan forces in the capital and further to the northwest in Ruhengeri. The RPF counted on the government being determined to defend the northwestern quadrant, the home region of Habyarimana and many of the military officers. By keeping alive a threat in that direction, they reduced the possibility that the government would shift an important part of its forces from the northwest to other regions. Rather than striking hard at this area of enemy strength, the RPF advanced rapidly through weaker regions in the east and south, then headed west and northwest again, building pressure on the capital and the northwest.24 The RPF strategy, praised by other military experts, may have offered the best chance for military victory but did not present the best possible plan for rescuing Tutsi. The soldiers sent to Ruhengeri, where few Tutsi lived, had feweropportunities to save lives than they would have had in regions with a larger Tutsi population.
Rejection of UNAMIR II
When the Security Council discussed sending a larger peacekeeping force to Rwanda with a broader mandate to protect civilians, the RPF feared that the force might interfere with its goal of military victory. Its leaders may have been particularly concerned that the French might use the force to protect the interim government. Instead of welcoming the move and urging speedy implementation, the RPF spokesman in Brussels opposed it and asserted that there were no more Tutsi to be saved.25 On April 30, Gerald Gahima and Claude Dusaidi of the RPF political bureau reiterated this position in a slightly less forceful statement which declared:
The time for U.N. intervention is long past. The genocide is almost completed. Most of the potential victims of the regime have either been killed or have since fled.
The statement continued:
Consequently, the Rwandese Patriotic Front hereby declares that it is categorically opposed to the proposed U.N. intervention force and will not under any circumstances cooperate in its setting up and operation. In view of the forgoing [sic] the Rwandese Patriotic Front:
a. Calls upon the U.N. Security Council not to authorize the deployment of the proposed force as U.N. intervention at this stage can no longer serve any useful purpose as far as stopping the massacres is concerned.26
The RPF was, of course, right in declaring that the U.N. had failed to respond at the appropriate time, but they were wrong to conclude that U.N. action, even if tardy, would no longer serve any useful purpose. The tragic reality that hundreds of thousands had already been slain in no way negated the need to rescue tens ofthousands of others who were still alive. One member of the political bureau at the time claims that RPF leaders really believed that most Tutsi were dead and that only a few pockets remained.27 But they certainly must have known, as did observers abroad, that some 30,000 people were gathered at various sites in Kigali and that more than 20,000 clung to life at Kabgayi with another 10,000 at Nyarushishi. They must have supposed that thousands more still remained in hiding in Butare prefecture, where the killing had become widespread only ten days before.
Representatives of Human Rights Watch and FIDH, who were then receiving frequent telephoned appeals for help from Tutsi hiding in Rwanda, were shocked by the RPF opposition to a force that could save Tutsi lives. They urged the RPF to reconsider its position. On May 2, Eric Gillet of the FIDH wrote Col. Kanyarengwe:
We understand very well the reasons why the RPF would not want to accept an intervention force. But we cannot see any legitimate reason that the RPF might invoke to oppose a solution which would bring the necessary help to the civilian population without interfering with ongoing military operations.28
Diplomats at the Security Council also exerted pressure on the RPF, but without great success. On May 11, Radio Muhabura, the voice of the RPF, still maintained that the genocide is already finished.29 On May 18, the day after the Security Council authorized a second peacekeeping force, RPF vice-chairman Denis Polisi complained about the anticipated slowness in mounting the operation. He declared, People are still suffering every day. People are still dying and we think a month or two is too long....30 But he was referring expressly to humanitarian assistance and warned that if they did anything else then they would be considered an enemy force. Through late May the RPF continued to demand that the peacekeepers stick to purely humanitarian relief rather than engage in moreactive efforts to defend Tutsi from attack. It also insisted that the force be smaller than that the 5,500 troops set by the Security Council resolution of May 17.31
RPF opposition to UNAMIR II contributed to the reluctance of the U.S. and other powers to support such a force, a reluctance which in turn accounts at least in part for the slowness with which the operation was mounted.32 It is impossible to judge how many lives would have been saved had the RPF welcomed the new force and had the U.S. and other U.N. member states been in turn galvanized to send military aid rapidly.Human Rights Abuses by the RPF Before April 1994
According to investigations done by Human Rights Watch and the International Commission on Human Rights Abuse in Rwanda, mentioned above, the RPF was responsible for a number of serious human rights violations in the early years of the war in Rwanda. Between 1990 and 1993, RPF soldiers killed and abducted civilians and pillaged property in northeastern Rwanda. They attacked a hospital and displaced persons camps. They forced the population of the border area to flee either to Uganda or to displaced persons camps further in the interior of the country. While professing a policy of openness and commitment to human rights, the RPF hindered the investigation of the International Commission and made it impossible for its members to speak freely and privately with potential witnesses in areas under RPF control. The commission gathered most of its information from victims of RPF abuses who had sought refuge at camps in the zone controlled by the government.33
According to Rwandan human rights organizations, RPF soldiers killed hundreds of civilians in the town and prefecture of Ruhengeri during the offensive of February 1993. In some cases, the soldiers reportedly asked the victims to produce their political party membership cards and then killed those who belongedto the MRND or CDR.34 The RPF was widely accused of killing civilians in two incidents in November 1993. Investigators from UNAMIR examined the cases, but never issued a public report.35Killings and Other Abuses by the RPF, April to July 1994
The RPF killed thousands of civilians both during the course of combat, brief in most regions, and in the more lengthy process of establishing its control throughout the country. It had anticipated establishing a civilian administration in territory that it captured and, as mentioned above, had begun gathering information on local communities. This was particularly important because few of its leaders had ever known Rwanda as adults. It had also been training young civilians to serve as party organizers or cadres, abakada. Once combat actually began, the RPF advanced further and faster than expected. Hundreds of thousands of civilians fled before its forces, reacting to stories of RPF abusesmany of them propaganda from the interim governmentand following direct orders from local officials to leave. But hundreds of thousands of others remained and the RPF was apparently not fully prepared to begin administering such large numbers.
RPF leaders nonetheless quickly began moving civilians into camps, emptying the intervening zones of people. Kagame explained the policy on Radio Rwanda on July 27, saying that harmful elements were hidden in bushes and banana plantations. Therefore a cleaning was necessary, especially to separate the innocent people with the killers....36
Killings in the Course of Combat
In the course of combat, the RPFas well as Rwandan government forceskilled and injured noncombatants, sometimes through attack by heavy weapons, sometimes in exchanges of small arms fire. A witness in Mukingi commune recalled the arrival of the RPF at Byimana. She reported, There was shooting. We found the bodies afterwards, but we didnt know who had done thekilling.37 Outside of urban centers, the number of such casualties was relatively small, but certainly hundreds of unarmed civilians fell victim to weapons fire in the capital, in Byumba and in Gitarama.38 Each party has been accused of shelling such sites as churches and the central hospital in Kigali. We lack the data to establish whether these attacks were deliberate or so negligent as to violate international humanitarian law.
As RPF troops advanced, militia fought against them in a number of locations. The CDR spokesman Stanislas Simbizi supposedly led a battalion of militia into battle, a feat that he boasted about in a broadcast on RTLM.39 According to one account, the RPF advance guard striking south to Kigali in the opening days of the war met resistance from Interahamwe, as did troops at Kabarondo in Kibungo prefecture and at Gashora in the southern part of Kigali prefecture.40 An officer of the former Rwandan government forces confirmed that militia from the capital fought in the battle over Rebero hill and in subsequent skirmishes in Kigali. According to him, ten regular soldiers ordinarily went into combat with one hundred or so Interahamwe, who were so unprepared that they became cannon fodder.41 Members of the civilian self-defense force also were mustered against the RPF in battles in Gitarama and Butare, as discussed above, always with very heavy losses.
RPF leaders declared that members of the militia would be treated as combatants, a position in accord with international conventions. In late April, the RPF head of information, Maj. Wilson Rutayisire stated, When we meet Interahamwe we kill them and we are going to keep killing them,42 a policyreaffirmed in mid-May by Kagame who stressed that armed militia at the frontline are a legitimate target.43
In a number of places where widespread genocidal killing had occurred or where RPF soldiers encountered or anticipated encountering active resistance from Interahamwe, RPF forces took no care to distinguish militia who were armed and potentially dangerous from civilians. Such a case happened on April 15 when Interahamwe who had killed many Tutsi in their home commune of Sake, in Kibungo prefecture, retreated towards the Tanzanian border. A large number of civilians left with them, either of their own volition or because forced to go along to shield the militia. According to witnesses, the RPF attacked the mixed group of hundreds of civilians and militia at the hill Kanazi and killed all except three persons.44
At Rutongo, north of Kigali, RPF soldiers reportedly went from house to house killing unarmed inhabitants45 and at Murambi in Byumba prefecture, they killed seventy-eight persons, of whom forty-six were listed as children, between April 13 and 15.46 In Gitwe, an RPF soldier shot an old man in the leg as he was hurrying towards his home.47 When RPF troops took the church center of Kabgayi where thousands of Tutsi were confined in camps they killed Hutu civilians in the area and left some of their bodies, with the arms bound, in the woods on the church property.48 Outside Butare, two teenagers and a woman and the baby on her backall with identity cards showing they were Hutuwere found shot dead in a banana plantation immediately after RPF troops under Captain ThéonesteRurangwa moved into the area.49 According to several local and foreign witnesses, RPF soldiers killed civilians in the arboretum at the university and in the commune of Shyanda, at the home of Gatabazi, near Save.50
RPF forces also killed civilians in places where there had been little or no slaughter of Tutsi and where militia did not appear to threaten their advance. At Giti, for example, a commune known for its protection of Tutsi during the genocide, RPF soldiers swept through like fire.51
In many battles RPF soldiers defeated enemy forces with ease, but they took few, if any, prisoners. Many of the defeated retreated rapidly, but others were shot by the RPF even after they had laid down their arms. In one incident filmed by a video journalist, RPF soldiers appeared with their weapons pointing at government soldiers who were wounded and on the ground. According to the journalist, the RPF shot the captured soldiers after he had shut off his camera.52
Kwitaba Imana and Kwitaba Inama: Massacres at Public Meetings
The RPF massacred groups of unarmed civilians at a number of locations in eastern, central, and southern Rwanda after combat was finished and the government forces were gone from the area. These deliberate slaughters of noncombatants were clear violations of international humanitarian law.
On or about April 20, the RPF drove government soldiers from the small town of Byumba and then transferred the headquarters of its general staff there from Mulindi. Many civilians followed the retreating government soldiers, but hundreds of others sought safety in the stadium. RPF soldiers reportedly massacred 300 or more of these people. Major John Birasa commanded the troops in Byumba, but most of the higher ranking officers of the general staff were also in the town at thattime. According to one observer, some of those shot may have been denounced by others as having participated in the genocide.53
In some places, RPF forces killed civilians at meetings organized soon after their arrival in the community, a practice which gave rise to the bitter joke that kwitaba Imana, meaning to die, had come to mean the same as kwitaba inama, to attend a meeting.54 In Gishara on April 13, RPF soldiers invited the people to join a hunt to kill hippopotamus and enjoy a feast. After having questioned a few men about whether anyone in the crowd was a soldier or knew how to handle a gun, RPF troops launched grenades and shot into the crowd. Witnesses reported that they were attacked by RPF soldiers several days later in nearby Nyabwishongezi after having been called to a pacification meeting. Other residents of the same area related that family members or neighbors had been attacked by RPF soldiers who entered their houses and confiscated their identity papers before killing them.55
In several communities in Kibungo, people were promised food or salt if they would assemble as instructed. They were then attacked by soldiers. Twenty-two persons were reported killed near Rwamagana with others slain at Kayonza and Gahini.56
Witnesses declared that on June 5 in the Nteko sector, Mugina commune, Gitarama prefecture, RPF soldiers killed six men with old hoes and left their bodies in the woods at Cyumura. A week or so later, RPF forces surrounded and killed a group of civilians who had fled from the town of Gitarama to the hill of Muhanga at Gisoro. On June 20 and 23 and again on July 10, RPF soldiers reportedly attacked and each time killed some twenty people in Mugina sector of Mugina commune in Gitarama prefecture.57
In late July or early August, after thousands of people who had fled to the Zone Turquoise returned to Nyamabuye commune in Gitarama prefecture, the RPF was said to have summoned people living in or near the cell Kigarama to a meeting at Gatenzi. Witnesses declare that they were given salt and matches and were told that the meeting had been postponed until a larger number of people could gather. When the meeting was convoked again, dozens more people came. According to the witnesses, the men were tied up and taken to be killed with old hoes in the house of Rwamigabo. The women were slain in the house of Ntawugashira and the children were killed in the house of an old woman named Marguerite and then the house was burned.58
In Mututu, commune Muyira, Butare prefecture in early June, RPF soldiers asked children to go bring back the adults in their families who were hiding in the fields and bush. On June 10, after several hundred adults had returned, the soldiers directed them to assemble at the commercial center to be transported to a safer location to the east. The RPF reportedly killed a number of young men at the market place late in the afternoon and tied up some of the others. The crowd was directed to set out for the commune, about one hour away by foot. The soldiers reportedly killed some men on the way and threw their bodies in latrines or in a compost heap at a reservoir.59 In another report from the same area, witnesses said that RPF soldiers and armed civilians gathered men and adolescent boys at the home of a man named Rutekereza and then killed them.60
In August, a group of Rwandans and foreigners who were in the region to investigate possible development projects encountered a badly frightened man who ran from them when they stopped their vehicle. When they had caught up with him, he begged for his life. He related that people from his community had come home from camps in the Zone Turquoise, believing that peace had been restored. RPF soldiers then assembled a large number of people, encircled them and shot them dead. He showed the visitors numerous bodies covered by leaves in banana plantations and fields of coffee plants.61
RPF soldiers reportedly killed dozens of people, probably Burundian refugees, at the Nzangwa mosque in the region known as Bugesera. Foreign humanitarianworkers who tried to approach the site were prevented from doing so by RPF soldiers, but from a distance they could see that the building had been damaged, apparently by the blast of grenades.62
Witnesses from Nyaruhengeri commune reported that about a hundred people were killed by RPF soldiers at a meeting at Mumbeho. Others related similar incidents in the communes of Rusatira, Kigembe, and elsewhere in Butare prefecture.63
The only massacre by RPF forces that was documented in detail at the time was reported by Human Rights Watch/Africa in September 1994, as a result of an investigation carried out in late August. In that case, RPF soldiers arrived on June 19 from the direction of the hill Saruheshyi and assembled both local people and displaced persons from a neighboring camp in a field in the cell Nyagakombe, Rugogwe sector in the commune of Mukingi, Gitarama prefecture. They explained that they wanted to talk about transporting people to Rwabusoro in Bugesera. Without giving any reason, soldiers killed a woman named Sara and a man named Bihibindi. An hour and a half later, they opened fire on the crowd of hundreds of people. Some people fled down the road next to the field and were shot trying to escape by running through the woods on the adjacent hills. Others were caught and then killed with hammers, hoes, or other blunt instruments. The soldiers killed without regard to age, sex, or ethnic group. One of the victims was a Tutsi woman identified as the daughter-in-law of a man named Gahizi. Other victims of the attack included the wife, three children, and daughter-in-law of Karemangingo and ten people of the family of Rwabigwi.
Survivors hastily buried most of the bodies in three mass graves, one of which measured one meter by twenty meters and was said to hold about seventy bodies, mostly of women and children. Two other graves were considerably deeper and had originally been pits from which sand or clay had been excavated. The Human Rights Watch investigator photographed the graves and the remains of about twenty people scattered in the nearby woods. Approximately half of them werewomen or children.64 In addition, the body of a baby was visible floating in a nearby stream.65
Major Sam Bigabiro, who was reportedly implicated in the Mukingi killings, was later convicted by an RPA military court of having directed a similar slaughter in the nearby commune of Runda on July 2. After RPF soldiers offered local people the opportunity to move east to a zone fully controlled by the RPF, several dozen residents and displaced persons refused to leave. At Bigabiros order, RPF soldiers killed thirty to forty of these people.66
Summary and Arbitrary Executions
Within a day or two of the renewal of conflict, RPF soldiers began assassinating persons associated with the Rwandan government, the army, or political groups thought to be hostile to the RPF. In many cases, the soldiers sought out the targeted persons at their homes and also killed family members or others, presumably to eliminate any witnesses. RPF troops reportedly killed Sylvestre Bariyanga, former prefect of Ruhengeri, and his family on April 9 in the Remera section of Kigali. They are also accused of slaying Col. Pontien Hakizimana, former officer of the National Police, his wife and children and Major Helene Bugenimana, National Police officer, and three of her children, who were at Hakizimanas house. On April 12, RPF soldiers dressed as government troops, supposedly killed Emile Nyungura, a leader of the PSD party. In the Gishushu section of Kigali, some RPF troops are said to have slain Felicien Mbanzarugamba, an administrator of the Bralirwa brewery and others are reported to have killed Emmanuel Hitayezu, former minister of planning as well as his Tutsi wife. Théoneste Mujyanama, former minister of justice, and his family, were executed on April 16 while in another incident, Phénéas Bwanakeye of Kibuye was slain with thirty-two others in the household of his son in the Remera section of Kigali. On April 13, Emmanuel Bahigiki, former secretary-general of the planning ministry, left his home with his family and some Tutsi whom he had beenprotecting under the escort of RPF soldiers; the Tutsi were told to go on ahead but heard the shots that killed Bahigiki and his family. Claudien Habarushaka, former prefect of Kigali, was last seen being escorted by RPF soldiers.67
A number of people who had taken refuge under UNAMIR protection at Amahoro stadium were taken away by RPF soldiers and then disappeared. Among them were Charles Ngendahimana, younger brother of the assassinated politician Emmanuel Gapyisi, and Doctor Prudence, a physician who had been treating the injured and wounded in the stadium.68
Outside of the capital, too, persons of some stature in the community were reportedly killed by RPF troops, sometimes after having been well-treated for a brief period. Josias Mwongereza, a prosperous merchant from Kigali, spent the months of April to June at Gasharu, in his home commune of Murama in Gitarama prefecture. Although known to be a member of the PSD, Mwongereza was not particularly active in politics. When the RPF first arrived at Gasharu, they found some fifty people at his residence, both family members and Tutsi to whom he had given shelter. After several days, the military authorities insisted that everyone be evacuated further behind the lines. They were moved to Ruhango for several days and then the group was divided. The Tutsi were sent to Kigali or Kabuga and on or about June 25 Mwongereza and his family were escorted away at night by RPF soldiers and were slain. Six of the seven vehicles in which the family had been traveling disappeared and one, a Mercedes 190, ended up at the Finance Ministry. RPF soldiers occupied Mwongerezas properties and declared that they would leave when the proprietor himself appeared to claim them back.69
When the RPF arrived in the commune of Muyira in Butare prefecture on June 7, they reportedly promised to protect a local leader named Faustin Sekamonyo and his Tutsi wife. The family took up residence in a house next to the commune andchildren in the family worked for the RPF, including two sons who served as drivers for the soldiers. A family friend who came to visit them on June 10 found the house empty and said he was told by an RPF soldier that they had been killed by other soldiers.70
Eustache Kubwimana, a PSD leader and others of his party initially seemed to have established a good relationship with the RPF who arrived in their commune of Kigembe in Butare prefecture on July 7. But after they wrote the new authorities with suggestions on how to win public trust, five of those who had signed the letter were taken to the communal office by soldiers and never returned home. Kubwimana then fled to Burundi.71
A group of Americans and Rwandans working for Care International in Byumba prefecture sought to return to Kigali after hearing that Habyarimanas plane had been shot down. When they encountered a group of RPF soldiers, Daphrose Nyirangaruye, who was unarmed and posed no threat to military forces, was killed while others in the delegation were permitted to continue on their way.72
Also in Byumba, later in April, RPF soldiers killed a Spanish priest, Joaquin Valmajo, and three Rwandan priests: Abbés Joseph Hitimana, Faustin Mulindwa, and Fidèle Mulinda. On April 25 soldiers intercepted Father Valmajo and his Rwandan colleagues at Kageyo and prevented them from continuing on to Rwesero. They insulted them in front of UNAMIR soldiers, who did not intervene, and ordered them to go to the town of Byumba. Once there, Father Valmajo was in touch with Spanish authorities by radio for three days and then disappeared. After urgent inquiries from the Spanish government, an RPF official requested information from Col. Kayumba Nyamwasa, then deputy head of the general staff of the National Police and effectively the head of military intelligence. Colonel Kayumba reported that RPF soldiers had killed the priest and this conclusion was passed on to the Spanish government.73
RPF soldiers in some cases specially targeted the families of officers and soldiers of the Rwandan army. Several Rwandan army officers complained to Dallaire during April, May, and June about relatives who had been killed by theRPF. In one case, a Rwandan officer who signed the Kigeme declaration mentioned above found twenty-three of his family slain near the town of Gitarama.74
By April 25, the RPF had opened a corridor from Kigali to Byumba and had begun evacuating thousands of people to this position behind the lines. They took some from existing sites for the displaced in Kigali, like the Amahoro stadium or the Roi Faysal hospital, and collected others as they moved from house to house in those neighborhoods that they controlled in the city. Tens of thousands of other displaced persons gathered at Rutare, north of Kigali, where the RPF established a camp. Eventually some 35,000 persons would be housed in Byumba while another 150,000 would be at Rutare.75
At Byumba, the RPF executed some forty political leaders or persons of importance in civil society and at Rutare they killed another twenty or so. The RPF began executing these people even as they were escorting them to supposed places of safety. One human rights activist was taken to be killed on the road to Byumba but was saved by the screams of his wife. Because she was a Tutsi and the niece of a RPF officer, she was able to prevent the execution of her husband.76
The RPF Department of Military Intelligence (DMI) reportedly killed Celestin Seburikoko, an important Tutsi businessman originally from Butare, because he had supported the MRND. Like many in his position, he had contributed to Habyarimanas party as well as to the RPF and to the MDR, attempting to ensure his own security no matter which group ended up dominating the government. According to one witness, Kagame personally inquired about this case when the DMI seized Seburikoko at the end of April or beginning of May. Apparently convinced of Seburikokos harmlessness, Kagame reportedly agreed to prevent his execution, but ultimately did not and the businessman was slain two or three days later.77
A former sub-prefect and employee of the Ministry of Youth, Norbert Muhaturukundo, was also reportedly executed at Byumba as was Charles Mbabajende, one of the staff of the human rights organization LIPRODHOR, killed on May 8. In another case, a member of the human rights group ADL was detained for eight days and warned to give up his human rights activities when he was released.78
As tens of thousands of persons gathered at a huge RPF camp at Rutare, RPF authorities selected out community leaders and intellectuals whom they took away to help organize the camp. They were not seen again. One of those was Come Kajemundimwe, a physics teacher at a secondary school in Kigali. Educated in the U.S.S.R. where he had founded an association to bring together Hutu and Tutsi students, he had often opposed the Habyarimana government. As punishment he had been relegated to teaching secondary school instead of being posted to the university. He was said to have protected more than fifty people, Tutsi and Hutu, at his home in Kacyiru during the genocide. He was preparing to move the entire group to his home region of Cyangugu when RPF soldiers arrived and sent them to Rutare camp. Several days later, Kajemundimwe disappeared in the company of other people of education and stature.79
Political leaders and leaders of civil society who had seen the RPF as their rescuers and who expected to collaborate with them were frightened and angered by the executions and disappearances of their colleagues. Some of them wanted to leave Byumba but the RPF, anxious to maintain the appearance of collaborating in a multi-ethnic, multi-party coalition, made it impossible for them to go. A number of them protested to Kagame and other RPF authorities, both orally and through written notes. Seth Sendashonga, responsible for liaisons between this group and the RPF, wrote six memoranda to Kagame about the disappearances and killings and the resulting disaffection among supposed collaborators. At one point, the protesters met with Sendashonga and RPF chairman Kanyarengwe tovoice their fear and anger. The RPF leaders promised to convey the concerns of the group to Kagame, but the effort brought no change.80
The most widely known and condemned of executions by RPF soldiers were the slayings of the Roman Catholic archbishop of Kigali, three other bishops, and ten priests at Byimana parish, near Kabgayi in early June. The one priest who survived the attack related that the group of clergy were arrested by the RPF at Kabgayi and moved to Byimana on June 2. Several days later soldiers who were guarding the clergy burst into the room where they were gathered and shot them dead. The priest who managed to flee was later captured by RPF soldiers who agreed to release him only after he accepted their version of events, that is, that the soldiers carried out the killings in reprisal for the slaughter of their own families. When the RPF officially admitted responsibility for the slayings several days later, it declared that one of the murderers had been killed in flight and that the others were being sought and would be tried. Apparently none was ever caught and RPF authorities have never made public any proof to substantiate their claim that the slayings were unauthorized reprisal killings. Archbishop Vincent Nsengiyumva was known for his closeness to Habyarimana, but not all in the group held such a position. Bishop Thaddée Nsengiyumva, who was also murdered, had favored political reform and had sought to distance the church from Habyarimanas government.81
Summary Execution of Persons Accused of Genocide
RPF authorities insisted that both personal acts of vengeance and more general killing of those thought to have committed genocide were prohibited. Even very young and just recruited soldiers understood and repeated this to foreign journalists.82 On April 17, Kanyarengwe asserted that the RPF priority was to stop the killings and to arrest the criminals and hand them over to courts, so thateveryone could defend himself and be punished according to his crime.83 RPF vice-chairman Denis Polisi reiterated the policy a month later. Speaking of some 2,000 prisoners captured by RPF troops, he declared:
They will be held until a time comes when we can try them in properly constituted legal institutions. We have no policy of killing any one of them and it is our intention that we bring them to justice.84
Four months later, RPF spokesman Major Wilson Rutayisire reportedly said that there were only about 200 detained for genocide, raising the question of the fate of the others.85 RPF soldiers apparently regularly executed persons whom they thought guilty of genocide and, in contrast to statements made to foreigners, some of them readily admitted this to other Rwandans. At Kabuga, a RPF post just outside Kigali, an officer named Gasore assured a person who inquired about the situation in the area south of Kigali, Dont worry. We have taken vengeance for you in Bugesera.... In that area, where thousands of Tutsi had been killed in and near Kanzenze, the RPF had killed 300 Hutu, he reportedly said.86 Another survivor of the genocide who spent some time at an RPF post near Kizi, outside the town of Butare, declared:
I saw the the RPF soldiers bringing bodies in trucks at night and throwing them in toilets at Mwogo, near where they had dug their trenches. They brought men already wounded with their arms tied behind their backs. They brought no women. The soldiers were proud to show us that they were avenging us. We were ill at ease with this. We saw them dump bodies also in toilets of shops and houses at the little commercial center.87
Another witness related that persons leaving Zone Turquoise were held in the camp at Kizi, near the limit of the zone controlled by the French. There they were searched and interrogated. Survivors of the genocide who were temporarily lodged in shops at the commercial center joined in accusing those alleged to have participated in the genocide. In late August, the RPF supposedly put into effect a regulation requiring that an accused person had to be denounced by at least five persons before being executed. One accused person was reportedly hit on the head and thrown into a mass grave, but managed to escape and fled back to the Zone Turquoise.88
In some cases, RPF soldiers simply assumed that any people still alive in a community had killed Tutsi. When a survivor at Kabuga asked the RPF officer Gasore about the fate of people at Ndera, near Kigali, he is said to have replied that probably everyone in that region was dead, whether Hutu or Tutsi. When we arrived, he said, we supposed that those still alive were alive because they had collaborated and we killed them all.89 According to another witness, RPF soldiers decided that the people they found alive in the Bugeramanga sector of Murama commune, Gitarama prefecture, had all participated in the genocide. They killed some thirty people by striking them with hoes and then throwing grenades into the house where they were gathered. Among those slain were some Tutsi as well as Hutu.90 A witness from Butare prefecture related a similar event. Describing the arrival of RPF troops in early July, she said:
The first day, they killed in turn. The militia killed those who came out of hiding to flee, and when the RPF arrived here and found the bodies, they killed the others who were still alive on the spot.91
After the first days of combat, the RPF made more of an effort to investigate the past behavior of people before condemning them to disappearance or execution. In some cases, they turned to survivors who were or appeared to beTutsi to judge others. One witness related his experience when the RPF arrived at his house in Kigali on April 20:
They asked the women in the household, who looked Tutsibut in fact were notif the rest of us were good. When the women answered, yes, we were all taken away without trouble for evacuation.92
The soldiers consulted Tutsi first of all, but if they found Hutu whom they judged to be reliable, they also asked their opinion about others. In Muyira, the soldiers used survivors to guide them to the homes of supposed perpetrators and also asked a Hutu of importance in the community to name killers.93 When RPF soldiers arrived in the commune of Rusatira in early July, they killed persons pointed out by a Hutu councilor. At most houses, they threw the dead into latrines, but at one house with a flush toilet, they burned the bodies.94
Soldiers sometimes arranged for survivors to denounce supposed killers among the crowds grouped at camps for displaced persons. In April, RPF soldiers separated the men from the women among the displaced who had taken refuge at the Amahoro stadium, then protected by UNAMIR. They brought in survivors to point out supposed killers among these people and then removed those identified from the stadium. Those persons were never seen again.95
On June 11, RPF soldiers directed some 1,500 people of Mukingi commune to gather in the sector of Mahembe, near the Nyagafunzo stream, where they stayed for about two weeks. During that time Corporal Mandevu and a soldier named André Pake (nicknamed Brown) were in charge. At one point, the soldiers separated the men from the women. They questioned survivors and others aboutwho had participated in the genocide. On the basis of that information they took away some eighty people who were never seen again.96
In Rango, south of Butare, RPF soldiers summoned local people and displaced persons from neighboring communes to two meetings, one on July 8 and another on July 11. At the first meeting, they read a list of names of men, in most cases just their Christian names. They warned that any who did not come forward would be caught later. Those taken were locked up that night at the Rango Health Center and then disappeared. When the wife of one man asked soldiers where he had gone, she was told that he had gone to be interrogated and would return. She never saw him again. At the second meeting, soldiers asked survivors to identify purported killers and they then took those named away in vehicles. Those taken away did not return.97 On July 22, the hundreds of displaced persons who had been grouped at the parish of Save were called to a final meeting before being sent back to their homes. Soldiers asked the families of victims to point out the presumed killers. Some two hundred persons so indicated were taken away for interrogation. Most were never seen again but about a dozen were later released. Some of those freed, including a man named Mugiraneza, were taken away again by soldiers a few days later.98
In addition to gathering information from survivors and others in the community, RPF soldiers also conducted their own interrogations to discover supposed perpetrators of the genocide. During the last days of April or the first days of May, a foreigner reportedly witnessed the execution of persons in Gahini after they had been interrogated by soldiers.99 In Byumba and Kigali it was mostly soldiers of the DMI who did the questioning. Soon after arrival in Byumba, displaced persons from Kigali were summoned one after another to be questioned. One witness observed that the number of persons lodging in the same large room of a secondary school with him dropped from some one hundred to about sixty in the course of several weeks. Those who left had all been taken away by RPF soldiers. If the person being summoned was with other family members, the whole group was generally taken at once. Sometimes they left under the impression thatthey were being moved to Mulindi where they would have better lodgings and where they could assist in formulating government programs. But they were never seen again. They were ordinarily transported in two vehicles, a Volkswagen Jetta and a minibus. One evening at about 7 p.m., the witness and another man were summoned by soldiers and transported to a house near the hospital. They were both questioned but were eventually permitted to return to their lodgings.100 Another witness recalled his experience in Byumba:
The first day, I was imprisoned with fourteen people. They then took them all out. The same thing happened the next day and the day after. They put people in the room with me, then took them out and they did not return. This went on for eight days when they released me.101
One woman recounted that she had seen many people disappear during the three months that she was at Byumba, including women, children and household workers. She declared,
On June 2, two soldiers came to take my husband away. They came in civilian clothes, but I knew they were soldiers. Today they work for the DMI....After several weeks I went to the authorities to ask where my husband was. I went to Karera Denis, a captain who was the commander at Byumba. They said my husband was working for the family, the umuryango, as they called it. They said I should wait for him, that I might even have to wait four years before I heard from him. That was June 28, 1994.102
A foreign doctor working in Byumba reported two people killed and two wounded by RPF soldiers in mid-May and stated that others, including women, had come to the hospital for treatment for wounds they said had been inflicted by the RPF troops. He added that those recently wounded were victims of witchhunts,suspected collaborators. He remarked that There is a family-by-family screening of new arrivals that amounts to almost a paranoia.103
A witness from Rutare camp also declared that he saw groups of men being marched off behind a nearby school and that they did not return.104
When the RPF troops advanced through the commune of Ngenda, in the region known as Bugesera, south of Kigali, they reportedly directed the local people to a camp at Rutonde. After two days, the RPF soldiers took away the young men from the camp and, the day after, took away some older men. One who was taken but was able to return to the camp reported that others had been tied up, beaten on the head until dead and then thrown into the river. When the wife of one man who had supposedly been killed in that way tried to flee, she was caught by RPF soldiers who killed the child on her back and two other women by blows to the head. The woman herself was beaten on the head with a nail-studded club but survived. She showed a human rights investigator the scars of the beating.105
On July 13, RPF soldiers gathered several hundred displaced persons from Ntyazo, Ngenda, and Runyinya communes at a site near the town of Butare. They told them they were to be transported either to the stadium in town or back to their home communes. Instead they took them to buildings of the Groupe Scolaire and nearby veterinary school where they separated the men from women. The soldiers eventually released most of the women and a few of the men, but many of the men were held for interrogation and later disappeared. Witnesses in the area declared that for two days they had heard the sounds of people being killed in the woods next to the school.106
RPF soldiers occupied the grounds of the Kivumu church, north of Gitarama, during the month of July and used the site as a camp for displaced persons. During that month, they killed several hundred men, apparently after having interrogated them. Those who helped bury the dead stated that most had their arms boundbehind their backs and that they had been beaten to death. A researcher from Human Rights Watch/Africa was shown three mass graves on the grounds.107
When the RPF took Kigali on July 4, they ordered the population to assemble in several locations around the city. One person who was directed towards the site in Kacyiru reported:
And then they began to interrogate everyone there, especially the young men. To ask you what you were doing during this massacre. What you did. Especially since there were a lot of militia left when the city was taken by surprise. They didnt have time to get out of the city. They [the RPF] wanted to do a triage, the innocent and then the victims and those really guilty of genocide.108
The witness added that most of those interrogated had been men, that women were questioned less often. The questions asked concerned not just behavior during the genocide, but also political party membership and ethnic group. After questioning, those found suspect were put in a building apart which was called the house of the ibipinga, or the opponents. Those found probably trustworthy were pressed to join the RPF as soldiers and they were housed in a building belonging to the social security administration (caisse sociale). The new recruits were interrogated again concerning their activities and their ethnicity. The witness stated that relatively few Hutu passed the second interrogation. Those who did not were sent to the house of the ibipinga.109
After a few days, the new recruits were transferred to a RPF post at Masaka. According to the witness, some 120 of the new recruits were assigned to a detail called manpower, which was carried out at the headquarters of the DMI at Masaka. There the recruits killed civilians, first tying their arms and legs and then striking them in the head with a hammer or other blunt instrument. According to the witness, the bodies were burned and what remained was buried. He declared that he could smell the burning flesh and see the smoke every day. Himself a medical assistant, he said he was never assigned to do this work, but he did give medical excuses to about ten recruits who were disgusted by the duty and wanted a way to avoid it. He said that from what he heard, he believed that thousands wereslain in this way. The witness asserted that he was transferred about one month later to a military camp at Gabiro in the Akagera game park where the same kind of slaughter and burning of bodies took place in a detention camp adjacent to the military camp.110
The witness, described as credible by a former high-ranking RPF official, gave testimony that was convincing in its spontaneity and detail. Some of the practices he described, such as the screening by interrogation, the pressure on young men to join the RPF, and the use of the English term manpower among RPF soldiers, have been mentioned by other witnesses. We have no direct confirmation of his most serious charges, but there is some indirect corroboration. U.N. officials stumbled across a large number of bodies in a Kigali stadium several weeks after the RPF took power, to the great anger of RPF soldiers, and some U.N. officials had been told that there was a special RPF squad for disposing of bodies by burning them. (See below.) Journalists present in Kigali during July reported seeing a column of young men being marched under RPF guard to an unknown destination. When they questioned the authorities about them, they received different and not very credible explanations of who the young men were and where they were going.111 Four months after the events described by the witness, several U.N. employees arrived unexpectedly by helicopter at the Gabiro camp and observed large numbers of civilians, including women and children, who rushed forward, apparently to try to make contact with them. Soldiers reportedly drove the people back, beating them with sticks. The RPF commander of the camp was extremely angry at the U.N. employees, interrogated them at length, and detained them for several hours. Agents of the DMI interrogated the U.N. employees several times in the days after the incident.112Hindering Humanitarian Assistance
On several occasions, RPF soldiers violated the protection which is supposed to be accorded to medical facilities and other humanitarian assistance in general.At the end of June and the beginning of July, RPF authorities ordered the people in the central prefecture of Gitarama to move east to the region of Bugesera, in the southern part of Kigali prefecture. The forced removal of people from camps at Ruhango and Nyanza to Bugesera caused great misery to the 70,000 or so people who had to make the trek on foot. Soldiers reportedly obliged a group of orphans to wait at a river crossing for three days for no apparent reason and held up a truck full of sick and wounded patients for a day before it was allowed to proceed.113
RPF authorities also obliged humanitarian agencies to move east. The ICRC delegate in charge at Nyanza initially refused to close that hospital as directed by the RPF. According to witnesses not connected with the ICRC, the delegate was threatened several times by RPF soldiers, the last time by a Commander Bosco, accompanied by twelve heavily armed soldiers, one of whom pointed a rocket-propelled grenade launcher at his head. After the ICRC and MSF-Belgium opened a hospital at Rilima, in Bugesera, armed soldiers entered one night and abducted a woman and her child, who were never seen again.114Control of Information
The RPF established close control over foreigners working or traveling in areas under its authority. Information and liaison officers worked hard at shaping the ideas of outsiders while persons employed by foreigners were ordered to report on their activities and conversations. Ordinarily journalists and aid workers were allowed to travel in RPF territory only in the company of officially designated guides who sought to ensure that they travel just to approved areas, usually via the main roads. The RPF closed whole regions to UNAMIR and other foreign observers for weeks at a time.115
Although professing commitment to the ideals of human rights and to the values of openness and honesty, the RPF sought to limit investigations that might produce evidence of abuses by their soldiers. When a researcher from Human Rights Watch, accompanied by a journalist, was investigating the June 19, 1994 massacre at Mukingi, she was interrupted by twenty-five soldiers armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns who arrived in two vehicles from one direction while a foot patrol of another ten soldiers came on the doublefrom the other. The commanding officer, who would not give his name, directed the two women to get in his vehicle. He questioned them, including about the identities of persons whom they had talked with, and then escorted them from the area. When the researcher returned to her lodgings in the evening, an officer of the DMI was waiting to question her further about her work that day. RPF soldiers prohibited the head of the U.N. Human Rights Field Operation from entering such places as the area near the veterinary school in Butare where killings had reportedly taken place on a large scale (see below).116Accusations of RPF Abuses
The first reports of misconduct by the RPF were vague and clouded by the blatantly exaggerated propaganda put out by the interim government. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) began hearing accounts of RPF killings from refugees in early May and became sufficiently concerned to make public the allegations on May 17. At that time, a spokesman in Geneva reported that a field officer at the Tanzanian border had witnessed RPF soldiers shooting at refugees as they tried to flee across the Kagera River. He also stated that over the three previous days refugees coming from a dozen different locations in Rwanda had described RPF massacres. In some cases, refugees reported that people had been herded into a school and then attacked with machetes; in others, they declared that victims had been tied and thrown into the river alive.117
The RPF immediately denied the charges, which RPF vice-chairman Polisi characterized as laughable.118 On May 16, Radio Muhabura reported that genocide victims had been seen tied with their hands behind their back and thrown into the River Nyabarongo and stated that the bodies going down the river were said to be decomposing and not fresh corpses.119 The broadcast appeared intended to explain away the presence of corpses in the riversurprising given that the RPF had driven away the militia and government troopsand the fact thatmany of the corpses were tied up, a practice usual for the RPF but rare for genocidal killers.
No further serious accusations followed these early charges by the UNHCR. In fact, journalists and aid workers present in RPF territory generally agreed that there was no evidence of large-scale killing by its troops. In making known these judgments, they rarely indicated how limited was the information from which they drew their conclusions.120 According to the London-based organization African Rights, their researcher, unlike other foreigners, was permitted to travel extensively in RPF-controlled areas of Rwanda, unescorted by RPF soldiers or civilian members during the month of May. After visits to Byumba and Kibungo, she too reported that there is absolutely no evidence that the RPF is responsible for large scale indiscriminate killing of civilians.121
The special rapporteur for Rwanda, named by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights at the end of May, René Degni-Ségui, visited Rwanda briefly in June. In a report issued on June 28, he stated that in areas controlled by the RPF, the cases of massacres reported are rather rare, indeed virtually non-existent, but he added that this assessment might reflect lack of information rather than absence of killing.122 The wise caution was pertinent: the massacre at Mukingi, for example, was being carried out on June 19, during the four day period when the special rapporteur was in Rwanda. He also declared that the RPF had been guilty of summary executions, such as of the clergy killed at Byimana, and had carried out murders simply on the basis of a denunciation which he characterized as political assassinations.123
The U.N. Commission for Human Rights established a field operation in Rwanda in June. At the start, the operation consisted of a single person chargedwith the enormous tasks of gathering data on the genocide, monitoring the current situation, and establishing an office. She had no vehicle and virtually no resources. In addition, the mission was limited by the absence of a clear agreement between Rwandan authorities and the U.N., which meant that there were no official grounds for protest when the RPF excluded the investigator from certain areas. During this period, the operation issued no public reports of its findings, but submitted data to the high commissioner of human rights who was supposed to deliver them to the special rapporteur.124The Gersony Mission
The first convincing evidence of wide-spread, systematic killings by the RPF was gathered by a UNHCR team dispatched for another purpose. When the team and the head of the UNHCR attempted responsibly to bring the information to the attention of the international community, the U.N. decided to suppress it, not just in the interests of the recently established Rwandan government but also to avoid further discredit to itself. The U.S., and perhaps other member states, concurred in this decision, largely to avoid weakening the new Rwandan government.
Scope and Conclusions
After the RPF victory, the UNHCR sent a three person mission headed by Robert Gersony to find ways to speed the repatriation of the nearly two million refugees who had fled the country since April. In a briefing for colleagues at the end of his mission, Gersony remarked that he had begun the work with high regard for the RPF, which he believed to be the most highly disciplined force he had encountered in years of fieldwork in Africa. Its communications system functioned very efficiently, more efficiently than that of UNAMIR itself, he was told by UNAMIR officers, and orders passed down the chain of command were well executed.125 Although he and his team did not set out to gather information on RPF abuses, they became convinced in the course of the work that the RPF had engagedin clearly systematic murders and persecution of the Hutu population in certain parts of the country.126
Although few in number and pressed for time, the team covered more of RPF territory and spoke to a wider number and variety of witnesses than any other foreigners working in Rwanda during this period. They were permitted to travel freely by the RPF, which may have expected the results of their work to support their efforts to bring the refugees home. From August 1 through September 5, the team visited ninety-one sites in forty-one of the 145 communes of Rwanda and gathered detailed information about ten others. In these places as well as in nine refugee camps in surrounding countries, they conducted more than two hundred individual interviews and another one hundred discussions with small groups. They found the information provided by witnesses detailed and convincing and they confirmed the most important parts of accounts by independent sources in other camps or inside Rwanda.127
In the northwest, they gathered data on an alleged RPF massacre on August 2 of some 150 persons who had been trying to return to Rwanda from Zaire and they noted systematic and arbitrary arrests and disappearances of adult men in the prefecture of Gisenyi. But their harshest criticism dealt with the prefectures of the south and southeast: Butare, part of Kigali, and Kibungo, particularly those communes adjacent to the border. They reported massacres following meetings convoked by the authorities, murders committed by assailants who went from house to house, and the hunting down and murder of people in hiding. They also reported ambushes and massacres of persons trying to flee across the border to Burundi. They stated that the victims were killed indiscriminately, with women, children, the elderly, and the handicapped being targeted as well as men. They concluded that the great majority of these killings had apparently not been motivated by any suspicion whatsoever of personal participation by victims in the massacres of Tutsi in April 1994.128 They added that in some cases, repatriated Tutsi refugees had joined the RPF in attacking local Hutu. They stated that during the last week of August and the first week of September, some five bodies a dayon the average had been pulled from the Akagera River, many of them with their hands and feet bound.129
The team noted that field officers of the UNHCR, operating completely independent of themselves, had collected similar accounts from refugees fleeing Rwanda at various points along the border. In addition, UNHCR representatives had inadvertently discovered a large number of bodies when they made an unannounced visit to a stadium in Kigali which they were considering using for a transit center. They had also heard reports in Kigali that there was a special RPF squad designated for getting rid of the bodies of Hutu who had been killed and that it burned many of those bodies.130
A written note produced by the UNHCR estimated only that the RPF had killed thousands of persons a month,131 but Gersony himself reportedly estimated that during the months from April to August the RPF had killed between 25,000 and 45,000 persons, between 5,000 and 10,000 persons each month from April through July and 5,000 for the month of August. In press accounts based on leaked information, the figure most often cited was 30,000.132
The Gersony Report Does Not Exist
Gersony reported the results of his mission to Madame Sadako Ogata, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, who in turn informed the secretary-general. Boutros-Ghali and some of his subordinates were concerned not just about the extent of the abuses alleged and the eventual impact of the information on the still fragile Rwandan government, but also about the negative publicity for UNAMIR and other U.N. agencies operating in Rwanda with no apparent awareness of such atrocities. He directed Kofi Annan, who was traveling in northeastern Africa, to change his plans and go to Rwanda. There, on September 19, Annan, Gersony, and the secretary-generals special representative, Shaharyar Khan, briefed the Rwandan prime minister, the minister of foreign affairs and the interior minister onGersonys findings.133 The Rwandan government officials admitted that some soldiers had engaged in reprisal killings. But they rejected Gersonys allegations about the scale and the systematic nature of the killings and declared that it was impossible for thousands to have been killed without attracting attention.134
The news of Gersonys findings must have reached Washington soon after they arrived in New York. The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs George Moose contacted Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Prudence Bushnell in Bujumbura where she had just arrived from Kigali and directed her to return immediately to Rwanda to discuss the findings with officials there.
Annan and Khan went to visit one of the regions mentioned by Gersony and Bushnell, too, went down to the border region to attempt to check on Gersonys charges, but the time was too brief and their contacts too limited to allow them to learn anything new.135
Annan, apparently at Boutros-Ghalis direction, reportedly informed the Rwandan prime minister that the U.N. would do its best to minimize the attention given to Gersonys findings because the international community understood the difficult context in which the new government was operating. In the meantime, the information would be treated as awaiting confirmationthat is, it would be kept confidential. Without endorsing Gersonys findings, Annan nonetheless stressed that the killings must stop immediately. General Guy Tousignant, who had replaced General Dallaire as commander of UNAMIR, conveyed the same message even more bluntly to other ministers in the government, declaring that Gersony was probably right and that the slaughter must end.136 In the meantime, the UNHCR suspended its organized repatriation of refugees and UNAMIR posted some onehundred peacekeepers to the southeast, one of the regions where the most violence had been reported.137
U.S. officials were aware of the U.N. decision not to make the report public and agreed with it.138
Apparently in return for the understanding that the information would be kept quiet, Rwandan authorities agreed to investigate the allegations. General Tousignant and several other U.N. officials accompanied three Rwandan government ministers and five uniformed RPF officers to the east where many killings had supposedly taken place. The team reportedly worked for only one day, the day after the departure of Gersony and Annan. They left Kigali late in the day and spent some time in Kibungo, two hours distant by road. En route they visited a grave site at Rwamagana which had been identified by Gersony. They found grass already growing on the site and so decided that it was not recent enough to confirm Gersonys data. They returned to Kigali and never made a proposed second mission to the northwest because the presence of mines was supposed to have made the area unsafe. One witness connected with the group dismisses the investigation as a sham from the beginning, saying that no one wanted the truth known.139
The substance of Gersonys findings was leaked to the press.140 Rwandan officials reacted with new denials and by unleashing renewed attacks on the U.N. In New York, Boutros-Ghali ensured that there would never be a written document to call into question the efficacy of the U.N. presence or the behavior of the Rwandan forces. Gersony was told to write no report and he and his team were directed to speak with no one about their findings.141 The UNHCR produced aconfidential note of some three and a half pages for internal use, but even this minimal statement was not shared with the special rapporteur on Rwanda of the Human Rights Commission. He received a shorter two and a half page statement.142 When the representative of the special rapporteur tried in April 1996 to obtain more information about Gersonys findings from the UNHCR, he received a curt reply stating: We wish to inform you that the Gersony Report does not exist.143International Responsibility
Faced with full and horrifying information about a genocide where the moral and legal imperative to act was overwhelming, major actors at the U.N. and in various national governments had failed to intervene. Burdened with the guilt of this failure, they confronted a more complex situation when Gersony revealed the apparent extent of RPF killings.
Gersonys conclusions seemed solid, based as they were on a substantial body of data. Although the brief visits to the field by U.N. and U.S. representatives and the short-lived investigative commission did not confirm his findings, neither were they extensive enough to invalidate them. In addition, on September 15, Human Rights Watch/Africa published a report documenting the Mukingi massacre and other killings and reporting on the existence of mass graves at sites where RPF troops had organized a camp for the civilian population.
Leading authorities at the U.N. and in national governments were troubled by this information. They wanted the slaughter to end but they were reluctant to make any criticisms that might weaken the new Rwandan government. As one U.S. policymaker described the situation:
We have three choices. Support the former genocidal government. That is impossible. Support the RPF. That is possible. Support neither. That is unacceptable because it might result in the those responsible for the genocide coming back to win.144
Timothy Wirth, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, met Gersony in Kigali in late September and found the presentation of his work compelling. Wirth discussed the killings of civilians described by Gersony and by the Human Rights Watch/Africa report with authorities in Kigali, but without getting any conclusive response from them. In a briefing in Washington several weeks later, both Wirth and Assistant Secretary of State Moose rejected the conclusion that RPF killings were systematic and Wirth suggested that Gersony had been misled by prejudiced informants. Moose remarked, however, that the U.S., like Belgium and Germany, was supporting the RPF with its eyes open. He added that UNAMIR forces were going to be deployed more rapidly in Rwanda, presumably in hopes that their presence would reduce killings by the RPF.145
By refusing to deal openly and firmly with accusations of killings by the RPF, the U.N. and the international community shielded the RPF from reproach and from demands for increased international scrutiny of its policies and practices. The pressure brought by Annan, the U.S., and perhaps others behind the scenes, however, strengthened the position of moderates within the government who were seeking to end attacks on civilians. Partly in response to international pressure, partly in response to changes within Rwanda itself, RPF authorities ordered soldiers to stop killing civilians. The number of civilians slain diminished markedly after late September.146Responsibility Within the RPF
When faced with accusations of killings and other abuses by their soldiers, RPF authorities sometimes denied the charges or they admitted the killings but tried to minimize the numbers involved, such as claiming that victims of killings documented by Gersony numbered only sixty to seventy. If it was clear that RPF soldiers had killed, as with the clergy at Byimana, they responded quickly with statements of regret, explanations, and promises of punishment for the offenders. RPF leaders occasionally sought to justify civilian deaths as the unavoidable consequence of combat but most often they portrayed the killings as spontaneous acts of vengeance by recently recruited young soldiers who were not yet fully trained. Certainly some soldiers killed out of personal grief and rage, but the RPFhas not provided any evidence to establish that revenge was the motive in a substantial number of cases.
Vice-President Kagame and other Rwandan authorities have repeatedly declared their commitment to establishing accountability, including for soldiers who commit abuses against civilians. In September 1994, authorities said they had arrested soldiers who killed civilians and executed two of them.147 When a Human Rights Watch researcher presented evidence of the Mukingi massacre to Kagame in September 1994, the vice-president expressed his appreciation for being given the details of an affair that, he said, he had known about only in general terms. He stated that Major Sam Bigabiro had been arrested for killing civilians and might have been in command at Mukingi.
The case of Major Bigabiro was brought to trial in Rwandan military court in January 1998, but he was charged with the slaying at Runda on July 2, mentioned above, not with killing civilians in Mukingi on June 19. Bigabiro admitted ordering his soldiers to shoot more than thirty civilians, but said there were Interahamwe among the group, from whom he had taken two weapons. Some witnesses suggested that Bigabiro had ordered the killings after a young woman spurned his sexual advances. While the details of motivation and execution remained unclear, all the military witnesses insisted that Bigabiro had acted on his own and several stated that he had directly contravened the orders of his superior, Col. Charles Muhire, to deliver the entire group to a safe zone and to leave punishing the Interahamwe to the appropriate services. Both Bigabiro and his subordinate, Cpl. Denis Gato, were found guilty and sentenced to prison, Bigabiro for life, Gato for forty-five months.148 Twenty-one RPF soldiers had been charged with killing civilians in November 1994. Hundreds of others have since been arrested, but it is not known how many of this group are charged with serious human rights violations. Of the twenty-one arrested in 1994, six were tried by June 1998 and all found guilty. With the exception of Bigabiro, one lieutenant, and two sergeants, the others charged in 1994 were all either privates or corporals. Bigabiro received the harshest sentence of the six convicted by June 1998. Cpl. Innocent Niyonsenga, convicted of killing fifteen peoplesupposedly to avenge the deaths of family memberswas sentenced to only three years in prison and Private Rurisa Kizityo,was sentenced to five years in prison after having been found guilty of killing five civilians. He, too, supposedly acted out a desire for revenge.149
Revenge killings by soldiersor other crimes of passionas well as the unintentional killing of civilians in combat situations could never account for the thousands of persons killed by the RPF between April and late July 1994. Much of the RPF slaughter is hard to document: many victims disappeared and have not been found, alive or dead. Because of this, determining the approximate number of victims slain by the RPF may be even more difficult than estimating the numbers of those killed in the genocide. Evidence gathered thus far suggests that the death toll was highest in certain communes of Kibungo, southern Kigali, Butare and Gitarama. These indications, partial and tentative, point to a minimum death toll of 25,000 to 30,000 people, a figure in the lower range of Gersonys estimates. Given the current state of our information, it is impossible to say how many of those were active participants in the genocide or were engaged in any military action against the RPF when they were killed.
RPF soldiers engaged in two kinds of deliberate killings of civilians outside of combat situations: the indiscriminate massacre of individuals and groups, bearing no arms, and posing no threat to them and the execution of individuals, selected according to their reputations, political party allegiance, denunciations by others in the community, or after interrogation by RPF soldiers. In the first situation, no pretence was made of selecting victims; all were judged to be the enemy by the fact of being alive, including, sometimes, people who were Tutsi and, often, people who had protected Tutsi. In the first kind of killing, massacres sometimes took place after people had been called to a meeting and after they had been reassured about the peaceable intentions of the RPF. In the second kind of killing, men were sometimes separated from women, and victims were often tied before being killed and were slain by blows of a heavy instrument or a machete.
These killings were wide-spread, systematic, and involved large numbers of participants and victims. They were too many and too much alike to have been unconnected crimes executed by individual soldiers or low-ranking officers. Given the disciplined nature of the RPF forces and the extent of communication up and down the hierarchy, commanders of this army must have known of and at least tolerated these practices. According to several informants, Kagame himself was told about the killings of civilians in Byumba and did not intervene to stop them. The RPF has declared that soldiers who kill civilians will be brought to justice, but thus far few have been tried and most of them have been ordinary soldiers orofficers of low ranks. Col. Kayumba, recognized as the effective head of the DMI during the months when this agency was allegedly guilty of killing civilians, continues to enjoy the confidence of his high-ranking military colleagues. In early 1998, he was named chief of staff of the RPF.
When the U.S. and other powerful international actors insisted that the reported abuses be ended, killings diminished. Since RPA commanders had the capacity to reduce these abuses when subject to sufficient pressure, it appears that they had the capacity to halt the killings completely had they chosen to do so.
Despite talk of the need for accountability, the international community, like the RPA high command, has been satisfied with a mere pretense of justice for the 1994 abuses. It has not insisted on effective prosecutions of the most responsible officers, either within the Rwandan military system or from the international tribunal which is mandated to try crimes against humanity as well as genocide committed in Rwanda in 1994. Thus it has signaled that the killing of civilians, if perpetrated in the aftermath of a genocide, was understandable and would be tolerated, so opening the way to the further slaughter which took place in the months and years after.