Rwanda marks fifth commemoration of Gatumba massacres

•Survivor relives ordea Rwandans and Congolese Banyamulenge, yesterday gathered in Kicukiro District to mark the fifth commemoration of the massacre at a refugee camp in Gatumba, Burundi of 166 Congolese Banyamulenge by Burundian Hutu militias.

•Survivor relives ordea

Rwandans and Congolese Banyamulenge, yesterday gathered in Kicukiro District to mark the fifth commemoration of the massacre at a refugee camp in Gatumba, Burundi of 166 Congolese Banyamulenge by Burundian Hutu militias.

The village of Gatumba lies on the western side of Burundi, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

On the night of August 13, 2004, a refugee camp in Gatumba was the scene of one of the bloodiest civilian massacres carried out in Burundi in recent years.

A force of armed combatants of the Forces for National Liberation- Palipehutu (FNL-Palipehutu) massacred the refugees and wounded another 116.

The FNL is a former Hutu rebel movement and is believed to have been behind a series of other attacks.

Speaking to The New Times during the commemoration, the head of Banyamulenge association in Rwanda, Obed Ntayoberwa, said that the Banyamulenge want this massacre to be recognized as Genocide since it was systematically planned and executed against a particular ethnic group. 

 “This massacre was planned long before during the time of setting up the Gatumba refugee camp.

The camp had two parts; the first part was occupied by Banyamulenge and some families of Bambembe while the other part was occupied by Bafulero and Burundian refugees,” said Ntayoberwa.

He added that though the camp had two parts that were separated by the colour of the tents; the attack targeted the part that had Banyamulenge.

“It should be noted that this camp was not protected at all yet the Burundian Government together with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees were supposed to provide security to the refugees,” he added.

Ntayoberwa highlighted that the killers used traditional weapons in the atrocities such as machetes and petrol for burning.

“That is why we want this massacre to be called a Genocide,” said Ntayoberwa.

He tabled a number of requests from the Banyamulenge to the Burundian and DRC governments and the United Nations (UN); calling for the prosecution of those who participated in the massacre, recognizing the massacre as a Genocide, and repatriating the Banyamulenge refugees who are scattered all over the world. 

In an interview with one of the survivors of the massacre, Saraphine Gasose, explained to The New Times, that the attacks started at 10.00 PM and lasted for about two hours leaving mutilated bodies, many of them burnt, scattered throughout the camp.

“We were sleeping in the tent when we had bullets flying on top of the camp, my young sister and brother were immediately shot and died on spot.

My other brother held my arm and we ran out of the camp,” said Gasose.

She added that the some killers were beating war drums while others were shooting, burning and slaughtering people.

The commemoration was also attended by the Mayor of Kicukiro District, Jules Ndamage.

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