7th April, is the day on which Rwandans remember the horrific moments when extremists made an attempt to eliminate Tutsis and their sympathisers; men, women, and children and to erase any memory of their existence.
The day that will be officially remembered in Bugesera, eastern region of Rwanda this year, will never be forgotten by all Rwandans. But of course the survivours who met it alive, feel it far more than any other person. They are the people who were tortured and left to die; they are the people who saw their children beheaded, their partners and daughters raped, etc. That is why, this is the period we see some of them suffering from trauma. Whenever they make a flash back on the horrific scenes, they get affected psychologically. The period too, affects those who were the killers by then, especially when they remember the innocent babies they used to crash on walls. However, all these effects are positive and can act as deterrence for future murder.
Immediately after the ‘plane crash’, the soldiers under the command of Colonel Bagosora started confrontations with the UNAMIR Forces, Commanded Lieutenant General Dallaire. Their main disagreement was on whether the then Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, should take over the control of the country after the death of Habyalimana, as it was stipulated in the Arusha Accords. After Dallaire discovered that he was not going to convince Bagosora, he gave protection to Mrs. Uwilingiyimana so that she may send a calming message on the radio the next morning. But by then, the presidential guard had occupied the radio station and Mrs. Uwilingiyimana could not deliver the speech. She was not instead allowed to see the next sun set. She was assassinated by the presidential guard. Her ten Belgian escorts where not spared either.
The army and a number of militia gangs began rounding up and killing all Tutsis, they could capture as well as the political moderates irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds. And large numbers of opposition politicians were also murdered.
Foreigners were later evacuated and their embassies closed as violence heightened. The Rwandan national radio urged people to stay in their homes, and the government-funded station RTLM broadcast vitriolic attacks against Tutsis and Hutu moderates. Roadblocks were set up by the militia in all parts of the country. The killing was quickly implemented throughout the country.
There was a quick re-stocking and distribution of arms and militias were told to start killing the Tutsis. Most of the victims were killed in their villages or in towns, often by their neighbours and fellow villagers. The militia members typically murdered their victims by hacking them with machetes, although some army men used rifles. Due to their beliefs and the high degree of indoctrination they had undergone, most victims were hiding in churches, where militias massacred them. A typical example is the merciless slaughter of thousand Tutsis who had sought refugee in Nyange Catholic Church. It was on 12th – April, 1994, when ‘Interahamwe’ together with a prominent priest Athanase Seromba, used bulldozers to knock down the church building in which the people were hiding.
Another betrayal occurred, when people who had hid in Ecole Technique Officielle School in Kigali where abandoned by Belgian UNAMIR soldiers and later slaughtered by the then Rwandan armed forces and militias.
The beginning of genocide prompted RPA soldiers to sacrifice a lot and quickly advance to stop the genocide. The whole country was on fire with virtually every body armed to kill, minus of course the victims. It was a tough task for the RPA that suffered many casualties, as it fought its way faster than planned to save the lives of innocent people who were being hacked to death every minute. Machetes had been imported from countries like China and used to kill. Killers did not necessarily need to have guns as some militias where properly trained to murder.