On October 4, 1990, the skies of Kigali were lit by whizzing tracer bullets and the peace rocked by sounds of heavy machine gun fire and explosions that lasted all through the night.
It turned out to be an exaggerated comedy played by the Rwandan armed forces who alleged that the city was under attack by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) that had just launched their liberation struggle three days earlier.
The next morning, whole neighbourhoods went under siege as security personnel went door-to-door, armed with pre-prepared lists, arresting people.
Those targeted were prominent Tutsis and a few people the regime regarded as potential threats. They were the famous “Ibyitso”, accomplices of the RPF. Over 10,000 were rounded up in Kigali, but all over the country the numbers were far higher.
Kigali Stadium was the first leg of the six-month ordeal that saw them distributed to various prisons all over the country. Those were the lucky ones. Others had disappeared in thin air, especially in the provinces that were not so much in the media glare.
But this chapter of human rights abuse hardly gets any mention, and yet it is the first window into how the regime had ugly plans under its sleeves; otherwise why had they drawn up lists of targeted people?
Those who managed to slip away had their property confiscated and distributed among top military and political leadership.
Day light plunder.
The “Ibyitso” saga hid more under the surface; plans to eliminate the Tutsi had been in place for many years, and had it not been for international pressure exerted against Habyarimana’s regime, those arrested would have gone to the gallows as mass graves had already been prepared on the shore of River Nyabarongo. Why has no one been brought to account, 28 years later?