Wiped out families:The case of the Mbwaga’s

One of the saddest facts about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is that some families were completely wiped out.

A family is considered wiped out when both parents and all the children are killed.

At least 9,706 families from 42,647 households in 19 districts were annihilated during the Genocide, according to the umbrella of former student Genocide survivors (GAERG). 

The family of Faustin Mbwaga is one of these families.

Mbwaga, also known as Civilisé, and his wife Laurence lived in Tunda, Rubirizi Cell, Kanombe Sector in Kicukiro District in Kigali at the time of the slaughter.

Today, their home has been ‘swallowed’ by bushes south of Kigali International Airport, overlooking Tunda valley.

The New Timesestablished that at the time of the Genocide Mbwaga had three children, the first born only identified as Dudu was just over four years, and two daughters, one identified as Baby.

Not only were the Mbwagas all killed but his wife’s family which lived miles away in Masaka was also wiped out.

Mbwaga was a teacher at Rusheshe Primary School in Masaka, Kicukiro District.

During the Genocide, he and the wife were shot dead before their children also died.

Among Mbwaga’s six siblings, only one, Wellars Musafiri, survived, who was not in the country at the time.

Family tree

Faustin Mbwaga was the son of Andre Mbwaga who was the chief of Bumbogo in 1950s during the reign of King Mutara Rudahigwa.

Although colonialists claimed that Tutsi arrived in Rwanda from Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia), Mbwaga could known for reciting his genealogy to Gihanga (the founder of Rwanda) in defence of his Rwandan heritage, according to Sophia Uwera, who was their neighbour.

The people Saturday Times spoke to, including his relatives, were not able to recite Mbwaga’s family tree but luckily it is available in the book of genealogies by Fr Alex Kagame.

According to the records, Faustin Mbwaga was the son of Andre Mbwaga, the son of Semudogo, the son of Simpunga, the son of Kanyamuhungu, the son of Mugarura, who was widely known as a generous man from whom the Kinyarwanda saying ‘Akebo kajya iwa Mugarura’, comes from.

Mbwaga’s mother Therese Mukanyangezi was the daughter of Gajuga, the son of Nyamushanjagwa, the son of Bihamba, the son of Vuningoma, the son of Ruyumbu, who originated from Nyanza, southern Rwanda.

Andre Mbwaga had two brothers, including Gervais Furumba and Abbé Canisio Kabagamba, who was a priest in the Catholic Church in the late 1940s.

Faustin Mbwaga was the second last born among the eight children of Mbwaga (Andrew) and was the only child named after their father.

The eight in their order of age were Wellars Musafiri, Ruceceri Musominari (died before the Gnocide), Doda Cyamazima (died before Genocide), Avit Nsanzabaganwa, Speciosa Mujawamariya, Beatrice Umubyeyi, Faustin Mbwaga and Mediatrice Muterambabazi.

In the 1960s massacres of Tutsi the family of the Mbwaga’s was uprooted from their ancestral home, some feeling to exile.

Andre Mbwaga and Gervais Furumba fled to Kigali, while Abbé Canisio Kabagambe found safety in DR Congo where he occupied some important positions in the Catholic Church.

“I remember in 1970s, Mbwaga Jr visited us. He knew many folktales and looking after cattle better than I,” said Bosco Furumba, the son of Furumba.

Due to the then difficulties Tutsi faced in accessing education, Faustin Mbwaga and his sister Mujawamariya were sent to their uncle Abbé Canisio Kabagamba in the DR Congo (then Zaire) for an education.

In 1982, Andre Mbwaga died and his son Faustin Mbwaga and daughter Mujawamariya returned to Rwanda to stay with their mother Mukanyangezi.

Faustin Mbwaga had become a qualified teacher by then while the sister Mujawamariya worked as a secretary.

Uwera, their former neighbour, told Saturday Times that Mbwaga displayed good judgement, elegance and love for sports for which residents fondly nicknamed him Civilisé (civilised).

“Mbwaga could also speak to the French [United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR)] at the foxholes between his home and the airport for long because he was a fluent French speaker,” Uwera recalled.

By 1984, Mbwaga had become a teacher at Ecole Primaire Busanza while his sister Mujawamariya became a secretary at Minisante (Ministry of Health).

In 1987, Mbwaga was transfered to Ecole Primaire Rusheshe, located some dozen miles away from his home.

He went to complain to the schools inspector of Commune Kanombe Gabriel Gasigwa but the latter - whom he hoped to get help from –had been demoted and made a teacher at Busanza Primary School “because he was Tutsi”. (Gasigwa’s family was also wiped out during the Genocide).

Mbwaga would later spend a couple of months walking or riding Nsanzabaganwa’s bicycle to and from his new workplace.

Mbwaga’s niece Batamuriza says his brother got married when he was a teacher at Rusheshe “especially because he had started getting worried that he could die without leaving a child behind”.

Tried to flee in vain

Jean Baptiste Bizimana who was a fellow teacher at Rusheshe said Mbwaga’s monthly salary was about Rwf11,000.

At one time he needed to save to buy a bicycle of his own to ease his travel to and from school.

A new bicycle then, according to Bizimana, went for Rwf18000.

It would take two months (leaving other factors constant) for a teacher such as Mbwaga to afford a bicycle, so he settled for a used one that could have cost about Rwf7000, according to Bizimana.

“He was never late even when he went on foot. We all knew him as a man with good physical condition, a footballer and athlete” Bizimana said.

“He was part of a prayer group for teachers in Masaka Parish that had been formed by Camille Karihungu whose family was also wiped out during Genocide,” recalled Bizimana.

By late 1980, citizens could sense danger around the country as government-backed abuses escalated.

The Mbwagas wanted to flee the country but it needed a high level of secrecy and resources to move his family.

Musafiri, the elder brother who had fled to Uganda, kept sending messages to Mbwaga and the other siblings in Rwanda to leave Kigali.

According to Batamuriza, Mbwaga’s niece, Musafiri was proposing to them to find a way of discreetly relocating to the Umutara region near the border with Uganda. But this was not easy either.

“All the communication was being done in secret because mere communication to a relative outside Rwanda was treated as treason”.

On the fateful day…

Mbwaga’s family and that of Nsanzabaganwa, his brother who worked as a firefighter at Kigali airport, were neighbours with their mother’s in the middle.

In all, there were six people at Mbwaga’s, including a brother-in-law only identified as Dusabe.

On April 6, 1994, after the shooting down of the president Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane, Nsanzabaganwa never returned home and the family feared he could have been killed.

On April 7, Mbwaga kept clandestinely going to his brother and his mother’s houses to see if his brother had returned.

“They later, as a family, agreed that Nsanzabaganwa’s young son Rudahunga sneak out and head to the airport fence nearby and ask someone about Nsanzabaganwa’swhereabouts” Batamuriza recalled.

Rudahunga went but no one was there to help him but also noticed that the military had surrounded the area and were killing families, including that of a neighbour only identified as Kagina.

On hearing that, Mbwaga realised he was the one left to defend his extended family – on his own. He advised the rest to keep a low profiled as he studied the situation further.

But soon the soldiers arrived on a mission to kill.

They arrived at about 3pm and immediately killed the family. Dusabe, a brother-in-law who was at Mbwaga’s at the time survived with three of Mbwaga’s children – who died later.

Mbwaga’s two daughters who had survived the shooting died a few days next to the body of their mother, but Dudu, their brother and only other sibling.

His son, Dudu, was still alive and hiding in his father’s home.

Interahamwe militia turned up at their home to dump bodies of their victims in pit latrines. They discovered both Dudu and his cousin Batamuliza, who was in another house.

They were both dumped in a pit latrine alive – along with the bodies of their relatives and other victims.

But the two were later rescued by Batamuriza’s brothers and Dusabe who had escaped. Dusabe and one of Batamuriza’s brothers would later be killed.

Dudu and Batamuriza kept hiding together until mid-May 1994 when the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA)-Inkotanyi seized the area. The RPA liberators took Batamuriza away for treatment while Dudu joined a group of survivors.

When Batamuriza returned, she was told that Dudu was living with a woman near Amahoro National Stadium.

“The woman had taken Dudu with her as a strategy to get more food rations (since they were two) and could not let me take the boy back,” said Batamuriza.

A few days later, the woman informed Batamuriza that Dudu had passed on.

Batamuriza and relatives went to fetch the body.

“He did not receive proper care from the trauma and loneliness as a result of the Genocide, and tom make things worse they exploited him,” she said. Dudu’s death marked the end of Mwanga’s family.