There are many unresolved questions surrounding the decision to withdraw UN peacekeepers from the former ETO Kicukiro, where thousands had taken refuge in 1994, yet the former were aware that the marauding Interahamwe militia that had already surrounded the compound would effectively slaughter the helpless refugees, a cabinet minister has said.
Johnston Busingye, the Minister for Justice and Attorney General, was on Monday addressing the ministry’s staff during a commemorative event at Nyanza-Kicukiro Genocide memorial, where most of those killed at ETO Kicukiro following the withdrawal of the peacekeepers, were laid to rest.
Rwanda is observing a weeklong commemoration period in memory of the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
On April 11, 1994, Belgian peacekeepers serving under the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), pulled out of École Technique Officielle (ETO) Kicukiro – now Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centre (IPRC)-Kigali – leaving the about 3,000 Tutsi who had sought refuge there at the mercy of the killers.
Busingye said it is still incomprehensible how the blue helmets failed to protect the people who were being hunted and yet they had the capacity to do so, instead choosing to pack their bags and leave the desperate refugees and country at their hour of need.
“I wish I could meet one of those soldiers face to face and ask him what was going on in their minds when they abandoned innocent people who were being attacked from all corners,” Busingye said.
He urged legal minds to ponder the issue seriously. The victims were led like sheep (to a slaughter house) from ETO-Kicukiro up to this place (Nyanza) where they were killed in cold blood.”
It has previously been suggested that the Belgian UN peacekeepers who abandoned the refugees at ETO-Kicukiro could be held to account.
As the Genocide raged across Rwanda, the UN, rather than put more boots on the ground to save lives, ordered withdrawal of the few peacekeepers that were left in the country, virtually giving killers a license to implement their genocidal agenda.
“Busingye, however, urged Rwandans to put the past tragedies behind them and instead work towards fostering unity and reconciliation, saying it is the most reliable weapon in the fight against genocide ideology, hate, racialism, among other deadly ideologies.
Naphtal Ahishakiye, the executive secretary of Ibuka, the umbrella for Genocide survivors’ associations, said up to 3,000 of the 11,000 Genocide victims whose remains were interred at the Nyanza memorial had been led from ETO-Kicukiro to the Nyanza by their eventual killers.
He said perpetrators tactically chose not to kill their victims from ETO-Kicukiro to cover up for UN peacekeepers’ tragic indifference.
“The killers cared about the UN’s image, they reasoned that killing them at a UN base would taint their organisation’s image,” Ahishakiye said.
Official figures indicate that the Genocide claimed the lives of at least 1,071,000 people in a space of 100 days – more than 10,000 victims each day, making it the fastest genocide ever recorded in history.