KIGALI - A police constable was killed on Thursday evening when an unknown person threw a grenade where he stood guard at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre main entrance. Ignace Munyantamati died instantly at the city memorial site while his colleague, Jacques Ntimugura, was rushed to King Faisal Hospital after sustaining injuries. They were both standing on guard at the Gisozi-based museum’s main gate near the road.
“The grenade was thrown by someone who seems to have been on the road in front of the museum entrance,” said Richard Nkurikiyinka, Local Defence Unit personnel who also guards at the country’s main Genocide memorial. He said the incident occurred at around 7:15pm.
In another incident that occurred about the same time, a speeding car killed one university student and injured four others who were attending a Genocide memorial function near Kigali Institute of Management (KIM), 12 kilometers on the Kigali-Kayonza highway.
The car steered right into the group of students at around 7:10pm. Even though the two incidents occurred around the same time, it is not clear whether they were coordinated or just coincidental.
In an impromptu press briefing at his office yesterday, Police Commissioner General Andrew Rwigamba refrained from admitting the two incidents were connected or unrelated, insisting that police were still carrying out investigations into both cases.
By press time, no arrests had been made over the Genocide museum incident, but Rwigamba said police had arrested the man rammed into the group of mourners. He said the driver, whose names we had not established by press time, had violated traffic rules because he crossed from his lane to the opposite side.
“He (the driver) told us that he failed to control the car because he was on a high speed, thereby swerving off the road on the opposite side of his lane,” the Police chief said, adding however that the man’s confessions were yet to be believed.
The dead student identified as Fred Gasasira, was among a group of mourners who had just emerged from laying wreaths at graves of Genocide victims near the institute.
Nkurikiyinka said that the Gisozi incident happened after he and another policeman had just finished their shift and gone home.
“When I arrived home, I heard a loud explosion from this memorial. I immediately rushed back only to find Munyantamati lying dead. We immediately arranged for the body and the other victim to be taken to the hospital,” Nkurikiyinka said.
“He (Munyantamati) tried to get hold of the grenade before it could explode but it was too late,” he said of his fallen fellow guard.
When The New Times visited the scene of the crime Friday morning, things had returned back to normal although police had apparently deployed heavily around the museum as hundreds of survivors continued to give decent burials to their loved ones who were killed during the Genocide.
But it was evident that the grenade attack at the museum had heightened the usually sombre mood that usually hovers over the site which, during this mourning period, is frequented by many people.
Rwandans are since April 7 observing a one-week official mourning in remembrance of the 1994 Genocide in which at least one million Tutsis died.
The marks of the museum blast could be seen at the main entrance although the scene had been cleared of blood and grenade fragments earlier on.
Eyewitnesses said that moments after the incident, the centre was thronged by many government officials including the Chief of General Staff Gen. James Kabarebe.
Previously, police foiled an attempt by extremists to set ablaze a Genocide memorial site in Cyangugu, Western Province.
The latest incidents are likely to cause public panic especially among Genocide survivors, who have seen at least nine of their colleagues, killed by alleged Genocide suspects since the beginning of the year. But apparently, survivors and many other Rwandans remain undeterred by the incidents.
“We shall not be intimidated. In 1994, we saw and lived through the worst conditions human beings can ever face. We shall continue remembering our beloved ones despite the continued sabotage by the perpetrators of the Genocide,” said Jean-Marie Vianney Mugabowindekwe, one of the people who buried their fallen relatives at the site yesterday.