On the occasion of the 23rdcommemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi, Francis Kaboneka, the Minister of Local Government joined residents of Bugesera at Ntarama Genocide Memorial on April 9th. According to Kaboneka, “saying that Genocide was caused by presidential plane crash is an act of torturing survivors”.
During this commemoration week, a tour of different genocide memorials across the country is organized to commemorate the genocide and deeply understand its history. The Ntarama Genocide memorial is a rest home to over 5,000 genocide victims.
In their testimonies, Chantal Niwemugeni, who survived the genocide in Ntarama and Silas Ntamfurayishyari who saved several Tutsi in Ntarama, recapped the cavary endured there.
Niwemugeni said that after the presidential plane crashed down, his father told them that militiamen were going to exterminate them because their family figured on the list of Tutsi to be killed. Besides, her two brothers had joined RPF-Inkotanyi troops. Thereafter they went to the church of Ntarama as they thought that no one could kill them from God’s temple.
She said that the first time they were attacked by militiamen at the church, they resisted and succeeded to push back the militiamen which guarantee them peace as the sooner most, buses full of soldiers loomed at the church started. Killing started by throwing grenades and tear gas while the militiamen were busy using traditional weapons to finish up those who were still alive.
She recounted that they finally left the church seriously wounded and fled to Butare, from where they hardly moved towards Kimpiri as they were being shot, pushed to the papyrus. Niwemugeni stayed in the papyrus until RPF troops arrived in Ntarama and rescue them.
Silas Ntamfurayishyari said that he was a soldier at Gako military barracks. He said that he was shocked by the persecutions of the Tutsi soldiers including some of his friends. Ntamfurayishyari said that he rescued 18 Tutsi by taking them to Burundi where he fled and later joined RPF troops. He regrets serving genocidal army but he is proud to be in a divisionism free Rwanda.
On behalf of Min.Francis Kaboneka, persecution of Tutsi in Bugesera took place so long ago. He said that many Tutsi from different areas of the country were forced to resettle in Bugesera since 1959,1964,1971,1972 and 1992 so that they can be killed by the Tsetse fly. They lived in deplorable conditions but they endured with it. He said that the government settled Hutu in the surroundings of Bugesera so that they control the Tutsi and prevent them from escaping or fleeing the country.
During the above stated periods, the Tutsi of Bugesera were constantly massacred whereas those who survived were threatened until the eventual genocide in 1994.
He urged Rwandans to strive for better life, to transcend the scars caused by the Genocide against the Tutsi, nurture the culture of unity and reconciliation to their offspring and fight against genocide ideology.
Ntarama memorial site is among the six proposed to belong under UNESCO responsibility, after Gisozi, Murambi, Bisesero, and others.
Jean Baptiste Karegeya