April 20, every year, marks the remembrance of the last Queen of Rwanda, Rosalie Gicanda – the wife of King Mutara III Rudahigwa – who was murdered during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. People who knew the late Queen described her as a humble, friendly and generous lady who always enthusiastically welcomed visitors to her home. ALSO READ: Gicanda: Remembering the last Queen of Rwanda It is also reported that she remained accessible to the population even after the abolition of the monarchy when Rwanda got its independence. She inspired works of art including Cecile Kayirebwa’s song “Inyange muhorakeye” about the Queen’s beauty and generosity, among others. Muri aka kanya i @NyanzaDistrict hari kubera igikorwa cyo Kwibuka ku nshuro ya 29 Umwamikazi Rosalie Gicanda wazize Jenoside yakorewe Abatutsi mu 1994. Iki gikorwa kibimburiwe na Misa iri kubera mu Rwunge rw’Amashuri rwa Mater Dei i #Nyanza. #Kwibuka29 pic.twitter.com/iBV71bM7Pg — Inteko y'Umuco | Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy (@IntekoyUmuco) April 20, 2023 ALSO READ: Gicanda: The last queen of Rwanda was first Genocide victim in Butare After the untimely death of King Rudahigwa, in 1959, life was hard but the much loved Queen continued to live in Butare. In 1961, the extremist president, Gregoire Kayibanda, expelled Gicanda from the palace and barred people from visiting her. But that did not stop her from welcoming and serving milk to all her guests no matter what social class they belonged to. ALSO READ: First Lady pays tribute to Queen Gicanda Following the rise of anti-Tutsi extremism in the early 1990s, Gicanda’s life was even more threatened. Things worsened when each member of the genocidal government’s cabinet would be evaluated on the number of Tutsi killed in one’s particular area of birth. The resolution had been made during an April 8 meeting convened by Theoneste Bagosora, then a powerful permanent secretary of the ministry of defence and that has been accused of masterminding the shooting of Habyarimana’s plane. ALSO READ: Creation of a genocidal government The meeting where the interim government was formed was also where cabinet members were encouraged to scale up the killings in their areas of birth. In a demonstration that he was leading by example, Théodore Sindikubwabo, then interim president immediately travelled to his birthplace of Butare to “launch” the Genocide against Tutsi, on April 19. On April 19, he made his infamous speech, openly calling upon the Hutu population in the region to exterminate the Tutsi, and not act like it wasn’t their business. Sindikubwabo condemned those who were not “working” (killing the Tutsi) and instructed them to “get out of their comfort zones and work.” On April 20, 1994, available records indicate, the former president of the genocidal government visited Ndora and Shyanda communes in Gisagara district to urge the Hutu to exterminate the Tutsi. On the same day, in Butare town, the Prefect, Sylvain Nsabimana, who was instated by Sindikubwabo the previous night, held a meeting to plan the massacre of the Tutsi in Butare prefecture. Nsabimana directed the genocide against the Tutsi in the area between April 19 to June 17, 1994. He worked with the likes of Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and Shalom Arsène Ntahobali, as well as soldiers including Maj Tharcisse Muvunyi who was based at an elite military training school, Ecole Superière des Sous-Officiers (ESO), in Butare. At around 11:00 am, a detachment of soldiers commanded by 2nd Lt. Pierre Bizimana invaded the home of Queen Gicanda, near Ngoma Commune offices. They abducted her and six people – but left behind the Queen’s bed-ridden mother – and took them behind the Ethnographic Museum, and killed them. The killers returned to the house, two days later, to kill her mother. Available reports indicate that the Queen, her mother and others, were murdered under the orders of Capt. Idelphonse Nizeyimana, the head of intelligence and military operations at ESO. The murder of Gicanda was breaking a taboo; if she could be murdered, then no Tutsi could survive in Butare. Her murder, according to testimonies, signalled the beginning of the mass killing in the region. ALSO READ: Rwandans, family pay tribute to late Queen Gicanda Every April 20, the Queen’s relatives and friends, officials and residents of Southern Province lay wreaths and honour her at the Mausoleum of Mwima in Nyanza district, where she lies next to her husband, the King. One of the Queen’s murderers, Capt. Nizeyimana was sentenced to 35 years of prison by the now defunct ICTR after being found guilty of genocide crimes.