PHOTOS & VIDEO: RPA's '600' honoured for bravery during Genocide

Senator Tito Rutaremara has paid homage to the Rwanda Patriotic Army’s 600-strong 3rd battalion that boldly emerged from the Parliamentary Building in the heart of the capital Kigali in April 1994 under attack from genocidal forces and went on to repulse enemy advances while undertaking the audacious task of saving lives.
President Paul Kagame, flanked by senior political and military figures, gestures at Parliament in Kimihurura, where he inaugurated the Campaign Against Genocide Museum, yesterday.....
President Paul Kagame, flanked by senior political and military figures, gestures at Parliament in Kimihurura, where he inaugurated the Campaign Against Genocide Museum, yesterday.....

Senator Tito Rutaremara has paid homage to the Rwanda Patriotic Army’s 600-strong 3rd battalion that boldly emerged from the Parliamentary Building in the heart of the capital Kigali in April 1994 under attack from genocidal forces and went on to repulse enemy advances while undertaking the audacious task of saving lives. 

The battalion had arrived in Kigali early that year as part of a deal between the Rwanda Patriotic Front, whose military wing, RPA, was led by current President Paul Kagame, and then President Juvenal Habyarimana’s government signed in Tanzania’s northern city of Arusha.

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President Kagame inaugurates the Campaign Against Genocide Museum at the Parliamentary Building in Kigali yesterday. The complex was home to 600 troops of the Rwanda Patriotic Army (3rd battalion) when the Genocide against the Tutsi broke out in April 1994. The RPA soldiers were immediately attacked by the genocidal government forces but the former were able to hold them off and, in a bold move, stormed out of the building going on to save many lives around the City of Kigali.

The deal, known as the Arusha Peace Agreement and signed in August 1993, collapsed when extremists in Habyarimana’s government opposed to the accord brought down his plane as it approached the airport in Kigali, killing him and others onboard, and immediately unleashed what subsequently turned out to be the world’s fastest genocide in recorded history.

Rutaremara, who was speaking to journalists shortly before the inauguration of the Campaign Against Genocide Museum at the Parliamentary Building in Kimihurura, yesterday praised the RPF troops for rapidly responding to the sudden and unexpected turn of events with courage, and protecting the politicians who were at the time based at Parliament awaiting the inauguration of a broad-based transitional government agreed under the Arusha peace deal.

Rutaremara was among the RPF politicians who had been proposed for ministerial positions under the ill-fated peace accord.

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 The Campaign Against Genocide Museum is hosted at the Parliamentary Building, formerly known as CND, in Kimihurura. 

The RPF politicians were staying at the Parliament, previously referred to as CND (Centre Nationale de Developpement), along with the 3rd battalion troops, best known as ‘600’, whose primary responsibility was to offer protection to the politicians.

Before departure from Mulindi in Gicumbi District, where the RPA command headquarters were based, the battallion, under then Lt Col Charles Kayonga (presently Rwanda’s envoy to China), had been briefed by Kagame, then RPA Chairman of High Command. 

“The RPA battalion demonstrated extraordinary bravery and courage,” he said. “They protected us (the politicians) and the civilians who they rescued from different places around Kigali until reinforcements arrived from Miyove in Gicumbi and other areas (under RPA control),” Rutaremara said.

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 Kagame, who was the Chairman of the High Command of the RPA during the Liberation Struggle, on arrival at Parliament to launch the Campaign Against Genocide Museum yesterday.

President Kagame inaugurated the Campaign Against Genocide (CAG) Museum, which officials said serves to recognise the heroic actions of the RPA during the campaign to stop the Genocide against the Tutsi, and to inspire young generations to jealously guard the fruits of liberation.

The official inauguration of the museum came in the same week the governing RPF-Inkotanyi is marking its 30th anniversary, with the main event scheduled Saturday.

After touring the museum, President Kagame wrote in the Guest Book: “The reflection of this part of our country’s history is done very well. Thanks to those behind the work.”

Shortly after the beginning of the Genocide, Kagame announced resumption of combat and gave orders to all RPA units to advance in an effort to stop the killings and rout the genocidal regime.

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 President Kagame, along with, left-right, Rwanda Defence Forces Chief of Defence Staff Gen Patrick Nyamvumba, RDF Chief of Staff (Airforce) Brig Gen Charles Karamba, Defence minister James Kabarebe and Senate president Bernard Makuza at the inauguration of the Campaign Against Genocide Museum at Parliament in Kigali yesterday.

The campaign to stop the Genocide lasted three months, with the RPA taking Kigali on July 4, 1994.

Speaking yesterday, Rutaremara said that the newly inaugurated museum was “a fitting depiction” of how the campaign against genocide was executed by RPF/A following the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers in Kigali, who had left the Tutsi at the mercy of the marauding genocidaires.  

It shows how the RPF took a unilateral and brave decision to stop the Genocide, rescue victims and defeat the genocidal forces, he said.

The Campaign Against Genocide Museum includes several monuments, such as that of a 12.7mm machine gun at the Parliament rooftop, symbolising the gun that helped in contain advancing genocidal forces and securing everyone at Parliament.

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 President Kagame and other officials at the rooftop of the Parliamentary Building yesterday, as several senior political and military figures, including Defence minister James Kabarebe,  Chief of Defence Staff Gen Patrick Nyamvumba, and Chief of Staff (Airforce) Brig Gen Charles Karamba look at the map showing the positions of RPA and rival genocidal forces as well as key battlegrounds around Kigali during the1994  Genocide against the Tutsi.
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 President Kagame, Senate president Bernard Makuza, Defence minister James Kabarebe (right), Chief of Defence Staff Gen Patrick Nyamvumba, (back row, left) and Sports and Culture minister Julienne Uwacu at the newly inaugurated museum yesterday.
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 President Kagame at the rooftop of Parliament where a monument depicting an RPA machine gun (right) that was used to repulse FAR attacks on the compound at the start of the Genocide against the Tutsi. 
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President Kagame and Defence minister James Kabarebe reminisce the heroic move by the ‘600 battalion’ of the former RPA guerrilla force that did not only see them ward off enemy attacks but also embark on rescue missions around Kigali to save the Tutsi during the Genocide in 1994. 
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 Kagame and Kabarebe – who was Kagame’s aide-de-camp during the liberation struggle – at the Parliament rooftop overlooking the Gaculiro area yesterday. 
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 President Kagame stands next to the monument depicting the bravery of the RPA soldier who used a machine gun mounted atop the Parliament Building to ward off the genocidal army’s advances at the start of the Genocide against the Tutsi in April, 1994.
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 Chief of Defence Staff Gen Patrick Nyamvumba gestures as President Kagame, Defence minister James Kabarebe (left) and other political and military leaders toured a historic site at Parliament from where the RPA launched rescue missions around Kigali as Genocide broke out in April 1994.
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 The monument depicting RPA soldiers and a heavy machine gun at the rooftop of Parliament that generated the firepower that played a key role in repulsing attacks from the FAR genocidal forces in 1994. Six hundred RPA soldiers were at Parliament in Kigali as part of efforts to implement the Arusha Peace Accords that had been signed between the Rwanda Patriotic Front and Habyarimana’s government. The deal collapsed when the Genocide broke out on April 7, 1994. 
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 Kagame leads other senior government officials during the inauguration of the Campaign Against Genocide Museum at Parliament in Kimihurura yesterday. 
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 President Kagame writes in the Guest Book following the inauguration of the Campaign Against Genocide Museum in the capital Kigali yesterday. He noted: “The reflection of this part of our country’s history is done very well. Thanks to those behind the work.”
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 Kagame tours a section of the museum about the August 1993 Arusha Peace Agreement that effectively collapsed when the government of the time unleashed a genocide on a section of the population in what later came to be known as the Genocide against the Tutsi. Over a million people were killed during the 100-day slaughter. 
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 Kagame looks at the picture of a female RPA soldier who had rescued a baby during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, at the Campaign Against Genocide Museum in Kigali yesterday. Kagame was the overall commander of the RPA troops that brought the Genocide to an end in July 1994. 
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 Kagame and other officials tour the Campaign Against Genocide Museum in Kigali yesterday. The museum chronicles the extraordinary sacrifices that the RPA heroes undertook to rescue those who were being hunted in and around Kigali during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. 
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 President Kagame reads a moving story of brave elderly men from Bitare cell in the former Gishamvu Commune (now in Nyaruguru District), who resisted genocidaires and were able to protect about 10,000 people, whom they successfully led to safety in Burundi. 
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 President Kagame looks at the list containing the names of the RPF politicians that had arrived in Kigali to be part of a transitional government provided under the Arusha peace deal. Delay tactics on the part of the government meant that the politicians, who included Senator Tito Rutaremara and scholar Antoine Mugesera, had not been sworn in by the time the Genocide unfolded. 
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 The Campaign Against Genocide Museum documents the bravery and sacrifices of the RPF soldiers in their bid to stop the Genocide, and rescue and treat those who were being hunted or had been hurt by the forces behind the killing spree.
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 President Kagame and Defence minister James Kabarebe inside the room that used to serve as an underground sickbay operated by RPA’s 3rd battalion that arrived Kigali early 1994. The 600 troops, led by Charles Kayonga, were to later spring into action to rescue the Tutsi in and around the capital as the genocide machine started rolling. 
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 A sculpture depicting young RPA soldiers attending to a wounded comrade, at the newly inaugurated Campaign Against Genocide Museum at Parliament in Kigali. The RPA battalion stationed at Parliament did not lose a soldier despite enemy attacks on the compound that was also sheltering politicians who were due to take up leadership positions under the ill-fated Arusha Peace Accords.
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 President Kagame looks at the picture of the 600 RPA soldiers, who constituted the 3rd Battalion, on parade at the then RPA command headquarters in Mulindi, Gicumbi District on December 3, 1993. Kagame, then the RPA Chairman of High Command, personally briefed the troops ahead of their departure to Kigali where they were due to protect RPF politicians that were set to join a transitional government. Charles Kayonga, then a Lieutenant Colonel, led the RPA soldiers that came to Kigali during ceasefire. Kayonga is currently Rwanda’s ambassador to China.
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 President Kagame, who successfully led the armed liberation struggle, tours a section of the Campaign Against Genocide Museum about the fall of Kigali on July 4, 1994. 
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 Kagame tours the Campaign Against Genocide Museum at Parliament in Kigali yesterday
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 President Kagame reads some of the literature about Rwanda’s checkered history at the newly inaugurated Campaign Against Genocide Museum in Kigali yesterday.
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President Kagame and Senate president Bernard Makuza tour the section that documents the role of some of the architects of hate media, including the editors of the infamous Kangura newspaper. Some of them were later arrested and subsequently convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
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The Parliamentary Building was the scene of fierce fighting between a 600-strong battalion of RPA soldiers and the genocidal forces and the complex still bears the scars of war to date. The Parliament now houses the newly inaugurated Campaign Against Genocide Museum that documents the courageous deeds of the RPA soldiers in the effort to rescue people and stop the Genocide against the Tutsi 23 years ago. 

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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