Survivors of the 1994 Genocide agaisnt the Tutsi have said they owe their lives to the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA), a former military wing of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) that stopped the massacres.
To them, their survival is proof that the perpetrators failed to achieve their goal.
They accuse the international community of failure to stop the Genocide and delivering justice.
“We pay tribute to RPF Inkotanyi for their role in liberating Rwanda and particularly President Paul Kagame who has since been a counsellor, a friend and a leader to the Genocide survivors,” said Jean-Pierre Dusingizemungu, the president of Ibuka, an umbrella organisation for Genocide survivors’ associations.
Dusingizemungu made the remarks at a night vigil and candlelit event at the Amahoro National Stadium on Monday.
Earlier, during the national commemoration event, one of the survivors, Fidele Rwamuhizi, gave a moving testimony of how he was saved by RPA from both the killers and stray dogs that were feasting on dead bodies.
A former ActionAid employee who lived in the former Gikongoro prefecture (now Nyamagabe District), Rwamuhizi fell into a catsh-22 situation on April 6, 1994.
“I had come to Kigali to visit my brother, François Munyemana. As we shared a drink around 10pm, Munyemana, who was working at the airport, received information of the shooting of President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane. Considering that people were being killed on a daily basis in cold blood, we knew what was coming,” said Rwamuhizi.
As Rwamuhizi recounted, the stadium was filled with screams of Genocide survivors overcome by bitter memories of the killings.
Several people were overcome with trauma, screaming and crying hysterically, leaving medical staff in a frenzy.
“I was staying at my brother’s house in Nyamirambo; the next day (April 7), a group of armed men from the nearby hill, Mount Kigali, was deployed in the neighbourhood. We took refuge in a nearby mosque because we were convinced that no one would attack a mosque and since we were many, we believed we could even protect ourselves from the killers,” Rwamuhizi said.
Despite Rwamuhizi’s perceived safety, soldiers and Interahamwe militia launched an attack on the mosque.
On April 14, a group of militiamen went to the mosque and attempted to convince the Tutsi who had sought refuge there to return to their homes.
“We were about 390; their aim was not to convince us to return home, they wanted to know who was at the mosque and how many people were there. The next day, they attacked us.”
“No place was safe anymore, we all scattered to different directions. I had two old friends, Ramadhan and Yousouf, living in the neighbourhood in a place known as Rafiki. I went there and I begged them to hide me and they did but after some weeks it was getting more dangerous for them to have a Tutsi in their house so I had to relocate,” said Rwamuhizi.
For days, Rwamuhizi roamed the hills in Nyamirambo suburbs hiding from the killers.
In his testimony, he recounted a scenario of how his sister-in-law and brother were killed after the killers’ attempt to rape her.
They shot her dead while her husband (Rwamuhizi’s brother) was slaughtered.
“I hid in trenches and manholes, spent sleepless nights. I kept moving toward the RPA controlled area. One night as I was in a trench hiding, I was attacked by stray dogs that were feasting on dead bodies, but luckily, RPA soldiers came to my rescue. I owe my life to them,” he said.
His pregnant wife had travelled from Gikongoro to Butare (now Huye District) to give birth.
She was killed and the baby is yet to be accorded a decent burial.
“We will be reburying her remains this year,” Rwamuhizi said.
Rwamuhizi dismissed claims that the Genocide was sparked off by the downing of Habyarimana’s plane.
“I grew up at a hill where there were no Tutsi men; the entire neighbourhood was made up of widows and children. Little is said about the massacres that happened in Gikongoro but people were brutally and systematically killed and dumped in Rukarara river. The killers targeted men mostly and they could even hunt down young men,” he said.
Rwamuhizi recalls the events of 1963 when his father was killed for being a Tutsi and for him to survive he had to lie about his family.
“I never said the truth about my real family and who my father is or was… I had to identify myself with families I knew were not hunted.”