Inside a killer’s mind

Have you ever imagined what drives the defence mechanism of a non-repentant killer? The Writer explores that of one of this century’s heartless criminals.
Theoneste Bagosora
Theoneste Bagosora

Have you ever imagined what drives the defence mechanism of a non-repentant killer? The Writer explores that of one of this century’s heartless criminals.

People have called me different things; Col. Death, Mr. Apocalypse and other names but like I said to the court at Arusha, “I do not believe in the genocide theory. Most reasonable people concur there were excessive massacres…They have labeled me and continue to label me the mastermind of the massacres…The accusations that I led the massacres are malicious.”

Many people who accuse do not know anything about me but I will now tell you so you can know more about me.

I was born on 16th August 1941 in Giciye Commune northwestern Rwanda. My father who was a Teacher told us that Hutus and Twas had co-existed harmoniously since the 9th Century so “they are the legitimate possessors of the region.”

I hated Tutsis because they were what I could not be; they had cows, they beat us at whatever we did and they had beautiful girls.

As a young man I actively participated in the Hutu revolution of 1958-1963 which was mainly hunting down Tutsis and looting their cows.

We were afraid Tutsis would organize and take revenge against us for what we had done, so I joined the army and I graduated in 1964 as 2nd Lt from Ecole des Officiers and later studied in France and Belgium.

As a cadet I participated in the defeat of Tutsi militia who had reached 19 km from Kigali with the assistance of Belgium and there after punished Tutsis in Bugesera and other places in the name of their kin who had attacked the country.

I read that 20,000 died but who counted them anyway? In 1973 we officers and men from Northwest Rwanda (people from the south call us Bakiga) took over Government in response to the increasing power of people from the south.

I was second in command of Ecole Superieure Militaire then commanded Camp Kanombe which had the distinction of securing the home of the President. In 1990 when the country was attacked again I was a Colonel and I knew we had to find a lasting solution to the Tutsi.

But I did not kill Tutsis in Kigali and Rwamagana in 1990, Kibilira 1990, Bagogwe 1991 nor those in Bugesera in March 1992 though any reduction of Tutsis was part of the final solution.

I am surprised when people blame me for a national program; when Tutsis were banned from schools and public service in 1973 and even before I was a mere military officer. 

On 4th December 1991 when the president tasked a commission to “defeat the enemy militarily, in the media and politically” Lt. Col. Anatole Nsengiyumva, Maj. Aloys Ntabakuze and I agreed that the solution was to kill all Tutsi in Rwanda and the FPR would have neither political support nor motivation to continue fighting and that would be a final solution.

This was supported by the chief of staff, though in more political language in his letter dated 21st September 1992. When I left the army in the same year I had the brief of training “l’Auto-Defense Civile” from our idle and unemployed party youth wingers who were eager to have the empowerment of carrying an instrument of death.

Politicians gave it their blessing including the father of the nation and mother of the nation. They handled while I was tasked with the practical part of it. 

All senior officers knew of my assignment and we worked together in accordance with the instruction of the father of the nation in 1993 in Ruhengeri  who said that that Interahamwe had to be equipped so that “come the right time, ils descendent” ; Augustin Bizimana, Deogratias Nsabimana, Augustin Ndindiliyimana who kept tools of death at his home in Kimihurura (the Belgian peace keepers could suspect anywhere but not his home) , Agustin Bizimungu, Marcel Gatsinzi, Gratien Kabiligi, Aloys Ntabakuze, Protais Mpiranya, Ildephonse Hategikimana, Aloys Ntiwiragabo, Tharcisse Muvunyi, Alphonse Nteziryayo, Simbikangwa, Francois Xavier Nzuwonemeye, Innocent Sagahutu, Tharcisse Renzaho and Ephrem Setako.

We all knew that the militia could not stand a chance in face of the hardened FPR, who had given our trained soldiers a bloody nose all the time they faced each other so we did not teach them combat training but how to kill Tutsis. Col. Leonard Nkundiye trained the militias in Mutara, Protais Mpiranya and Aloys Ntabakuze trained those in Kigali and Anatoly Nsengiyumva trained those in west and northwest.

We gave them ammunition through Anatoly Nsengiyumva but we could not get enough to give to three out of every four Hutu men so we told our political leaders to purchase the cheaper machetes. So why do people blame me?

We had been beaten at the battlefield by the FPR June 1991, and 8th February 1993 and the rise of activism by Tutsis in Rwanda and their accomplices, the in-house Hutus from particularly the South, the peace talks gained momentum and we knew we had to act.

How could those miserable boys beat our army? How could we stand together with them in our national army? What would we tell people whom we had all along told that Tutsis are our only enemy? How could we accept that we were defeated by Tutsis? How could our region survive with Tutsis on one hand and Southern Hutus on the other?

We had always kept the nation safe by referring to the Tutsis as our natural enemy and now they had diverted the national opinion from the ethnic problem to the social-economic problem between the rich and the poor, how could we turn around and work together?

We were even ready to start cleaning the nation of Tutsis earlier like on 5th January 1994 at the swearing in of the BBTG to the point that the boys were ready to kill everyone there including the father of the nation and we wanted to drive out the Belgians peacekeepers by killing some on 8th January 1994. 

The solution was to plunge the nation into apocalypse, wipe out the Tutsi and then kill those house Hutus and opportunists who sold the country to the FPR like Boniface Ngulinzira. 

Well when the Father of the nation died in the plane the boys went to work; but Tutsis are hard to finish. We had plans to fight again and defeat the FPR but we were betrayed by the French when they did not give us in Zaire all the support we needed and in my case fellow French speaking Cameroons in 1996 by arresting me and handing me over to ICTR who sentenced me to life imprisonment.

I was simply unlucky because some people who took part in the planning and killings are enjoying in Kigali.

The man who took part in all the meetings to plan the killings, commanded our army and even distributed arms to the militias I understand is a powerful minister and the man who commanded camp Gako that oversaw the murders of Tutsis in Bugesera and sent troops to kill resisting Tutsis in Churches and hillocks is a senior army Officer there.

My only hope is that my daughter who is in the Netherlands and heads Inkingi will be elected to Presidency and bargain for my release or that my appeal will be upheld. 

As I said in my last submission in court in Arusha, I request people of goodwill to free their minds of intoxication and poison. I solemnly declare that I did not kill anyone. I am too senior to have done myself.”

On December 18, 2008, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda found Bagosora and two other senior Rwandan army officers, Major Aloys Ntabakuze and Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, guilty of Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and sentenced him to life imprisonment.