June 19 and December 15, 2018 evoke painful memories for many Rwandan families. At least nine unarmed civilians lost their lives in militia attacks claimed by FLN, the military wing of Paul Rusesabagina’s MRCD political coalition. The first major attack was carried out in Nyabimata, Nyaruguru District, with two people dying on the spot. A third victim succumbed to gunshot wounds later, while at least two others sustained injuries. The second attack targeted public transport with the assailants ambushing at least three buses on Kigali-Rusizi road, killing at least six passengers in Nyungwe forest, at Kitabi, Nyamagabe District, just a few days before Christmas. At least five districts (Nyamasheke, Rusizi, Gasabo, Kicukiro and Nyagatare) lost people in the shocking attack. Dozens of other passengers sustained injuries with the assailants abducting civilians and forcing them to carry looted property to their hideout deep in the rainforest. The youngest victim was aged 13, while a bride-to-be was among the dead. The New Times set out to establish the identity of those killed, what happened in the hours leading to their final moments, and how their loved ones remember them two years later. 1. Joseph Habarurema, 25 – Nyabimata A meat vendor, Habarurema had attended Nyabimata Primary School. He was shot in the head and his body set on fire, his family said. “He had modest education but took care of us,” said his father. “His mother is yet to recover from the loss, as feelings triggered by the loss of Joseph were so intense she’s still battling post-traumatic stress disorder.” -- 2. Fidèle Munyaneza, 45 – Nyabimata Fidèle Munyaneza, who served as head teacher of EP Ruhinga, Nyabimata for 10 years. He’s survived by a wife, Josephine Mukashyaka, 38, and two children aged 12 and 8 He was the headteacher at Ruhinga Primary School “He was not only an educator but a person of high moral standing,” his widow said. He died from gunshot wounds about two months later. “He was a peaceful and brave man, a caring father and husband,” said Mukashyaka, his wife of 11 years. “He was the pillar of the family, and loved his teaching profession and serving his community.” Faustin Bamporiki, his father recalled, “He was a good footballer, he once scored a goal at Amahoro stadium in Kigali during an interschool competition”. Munyaneza went to EP/ES Nyabimata (Primary), GS Bigugu (O-Level) and ES Musange in Nyamagabe (A-Level). He taught Science, French and Civic Education. “He was also bright and had good conduct,” his father, Bamporiki, added. “Life will never be the same for us.” -- 3. Anathole ‘Prefet’ Maniraho, 33 – Nyabimata Anathole Maniraho poses with his wife Marie-Chantal Ingabire. Born in Huye, he was sixth in a family of eight. He served as director of studies at Groupe Scolaire Nyabimata. He was killed on June 19, 2018 in Nyabimata, after he was ordered to lie face down and shot. He is survived by a wife, Marie-Chantal Ingabire, 35, a daughter aged six months at the time, and an unborn child, now one year and nine months old. Maniriho had previously taught History and Geography at the School for Blind Children in Kibeho, Nyaruguru. He went to Ecole Primaire Simbi in Huye, Groupe Scolaire Marie Merci in Kibeho and Collège Christ-Roi de Nyanza in Nyanza before attending private college in Huye. “He was an exemplary, responsible human being, husband and father,” said his widow Ingabire. “It is still hard to grasp what happened.” Maniraho was also a member of Kibeho Chapel Choir. -- 4. Hilarie Mukabahizi, 45 – Rusizi She was killed on December 15, 2018 in Nyungwe on her way from Kigali to Rusizi. “Our mother raised us as a single mother, we were struggling but she worked so hard to make sure we did not go hungry and could go to school,” said Diane Mukeshimana, 27, her firstborn. “I wanted to make her proud with a memorable wedding. I had planned to break the news of my upcoming wedding as soon as she got home,” she said. Mukeshimana had a wedding seven months after her mother’s death. -- 5. Diane Jackeline Mutesi, 28 – Nyagatare She hailed from Nyagatare in Eastern Province but lived in Bugarama, Rusizi where she worked for Ngali Holdings Ltd. “She died on the spot,” said her brother, Dominique Rudasingwa. She was shot in the head, cheekbone, neck and hip. Her maternal aunt, Mary Kayitesi, said Mutesi was on her way to Kigali to officially present her fiancé to her family when the incident happened. “The wedding was to follow soon after,” she said. She studied at Groupe Scolaire Nyagatare and Kayonza Modern High School. “My sister was a wonderful human being with big dreams…We were all excited and looking forward to her big day.” -- 6. Isaac Niwenshuti, 17 – Kicukiro Niwenshuti was killed in Kitabi/Nyungwe on his way to Rusizi to visit his father who works there. His body was burnt beyond recognition. To identify his remains, a DNA test had to be conducted at Kigeme hospital in Nyamagabe. “My son’s death has left behind a shattered family,” his father Fenias Karegesa said. Third-born in a family of five, Niwenshuti was a third-year student at Groupe Scolaire Kicukiro. “Isaac was a well-disciplined, polite boy who loved school and going to church,” recalled his father. His favourite foods were bananas and chips, and he loved music. He was an instrumentalist at his church. “Isaac was full of life and ambition,” his father said. -- 7. Samuel Nteziryayo, 34 – Nyamasheke He is survived by his wife, Eliana Nyirayumve, and six children (one of whom was unborn after Nteziryayo was killed). A businessman, Nteziryayo was the fourth child in a family of six. “He was a pillar of our family and a visionary who valued work,” said his elder brother, Ildephonse Yambabariye. Nteziryayo was shot and died on the spot. -- 8. Jeanine Niyobuhungiro, 23 – Rusizi She was coming from school at the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences (PIASS) in Huye when their bus came under attack. She was heading to Rusizi for a friend’s wedding. “She loved children, her family, community and country,” said her elder sister Esther Nyirantezimana. She was shot in the shoulder and died at the scene, she said. Niyobuhungiro went to Groupe Scolaire Giheke for her primary education, before attending Groupe Scolaire Mulira in Muganza Sector and Ntenyi-Rusizi. -- 9. Ornella Sine Atete, 13 – Gasabo A first-year secondary school student, Atete was the youngest victim. She was heading to Rusizi to attend an uncle’s wedding. Atete’s identity could only be confirmed with a DNA test because the FLN militias had set the cars ablaze, trapping people inside to be burned alive. Her parents are still struggling to come to terms with the loss. The New Times was unable to secure their comment or consent to publish her photo. -- Following the fatal attacks, Kigali made high-profile arrests of individuals allegedly behind FLN/MRCD terror activities, among them MRCD president Paul Rusesabagina, as well as the coalition vice president and FLN spokesperson Callixte Nsabimana (who has since pleaded guilty) and his successor Herman Nsengimana. On Thursday, the special chambers court in Nyanza approved the merging of the Nsabimana and Nsengimana cases into one case. Numerous FLN combatants were also captured during incursions into Rwanda and in operations of the DR Congo army against militia groups in eastern Congo in recent years.