In 1994, residents of Biseseroin Karongi district (Western Rwanda)showed a lot of bravery. With sticks,stones, arrows and bows, they courageously fought back their attackersdespite the numerous killings that took place.
Under the leadership of one man, the late AnidabBirara, they defendedthemselves and a significant number of people survived.
Aaron Gakoko is Birara’s younger brother. The 60-year-old was bombedand shot three times but survived. He shared his sibling’s unusualstory with The New Times.
Gakoko narrated that; it was a few days after former PresidentJuvenile Habyarimana died in a plane crash, when the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi began inBisesero.
“After it became increasingly clear that Genocide had started, weplanned a series of meetings to lay strategies of escaping death,”recalls Gakoko.“During the meetings, my late brother encouraged us to call all Tutsis from the neighbouring hills.”
Bisesero comprises of nine hills which make up the zone that formedthe 1994 battle field where over 6,000 Tutsis were massacred.
“One day, the attackers came and threw grenades. Some of usmiraculously survived,” Gakoko remembers; the wrinkles on his facedeepened with sadness.
The meetings went on until the killers turned up in large numbers andkilled his brother, Birara, a man who managed to disarm several attackers prior tohis death.
It is Gakoko who took over the group’s responsibility and managed to disarm attackers despite suffering from injuries with deep cuts.
Whenever the assailants raided, Gakoko and his group divided into smaller units. They whatever objects they found to fighttheir enemies.
Gakoko recollects how he confronted the notorious army officer,Lieutenant Jean Sebahire, whose arms he broke while he snatched awayhis gun.
“Our actions helped many Tutsi families to escape the killings andtortures that were going on in the villages,” says Gakoko.
Many people died during the two weeks of confrontation with theinterahamwe in that area. The violence stopped temporarily when Frenchtroops arrived for a rescue mission.
“They told us to come out of hiding. They told us to get outinto the streets where they would easily pick us during the rescuemission. But they claimed they needed to get reinforcement and they left us. TheFrench promised to come back after three days.
“We later learnt that they only intended to expose us to thekillers who had vowed not to spare any Tutsi,” Gakoko says with a tingeof bitterness in his voice.
Jean Damascene Ndahimana, an employee at the National Commissionagainst Genocide (CNLG) is one of the survivors of the Biseserokillings.
He says the French government should genuinely acknowledge and apologise for their roleduring the Genocide in which over one million innocent Rwandansperished.
“The killers had not yet reached us in the bush, but knew people werehiding there. I am very sure that more people could have survived if the troops did not come pretending to rescue us,” Ndahimana says.
Bisesero, Gakoko and others should be remembered and their stories betold. Their heroic acts are an inspiration for this country.