During an open discussion facilitated by the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) to ponder on how best to move on with life 15 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, a 73 year old man shocked the public by admitting to having executed his neighbour’s family.
Out of the whole family, only one girl who had gone to buy salt from a nearby shop that fateful evening survived. The rest died in cold blood at the hands of Yohana Mushongore, a confessed killer.
He boldly tells of how together with four other accomplices, Mushongore used a ‘panga’ to chop into pieces the bodies of five family members of Dorothy Mukashyaka with whom they still share a boundary.
The two lived in Gitumba sector (former Kibirira commune), Ngororero district in the Western province. This is one of the places in Rwanda where Genocide is said to have started as early as 1990.
Upon conviction, Mushongore was subsequently handed a twelve year jail sentence but his willingness to take responsibility for the genocide has guaranteed him half the term to community service.
A composed Mushongore assured an attentive assembly of residents including journalists that in 1994 he was a very heartless man who made all decisions based on ethnic discrimination.
“This is the reason I was quick to comply with the planned execution without thinking about the long term effects. Now I regret and if I could turn back the hands of time, I would never have done it,” Mushongore, now a reformed man said.
He explained that before 1959 when the first group of Tutsi targets fled the country because of its political instability, society had long been infected with the hate ideology that eventually culminated into the Genocide.
Despite this being the source of his attitude to kill, Mushongore blames no one else for it and regrets saying, “Even champion runners do not go past their homes. These are our own blood brothers and sisters who we should never have hurt even if under intense pressure.”
Shocking as Mushongore’s story is, it is equally devastating but not strange. The Government of Rwanda is facing the huge challenge of both punishing the perpetrators of Genocide and promoting reconciliation simultaneously.
Michael Nsabimana looks healthy and the happy face he wears hardly ever reveals that he has been only free for two years after serving a 12 year jail term as a result of a Genocide accusation that befell him.
The 32 year old spent 12 years in Kigali Central Prison popularly known as ‘1930’ while on trial for allegedly having a hand in the death of two people during the Genocide.
When he begins to narrate his story, Nsabimana is evidently joyful not because he is finally free or victorious but rather that he was declared innocent despite the fact that it took a very long time.
He says that when Angelique Uwamariya, his accuser finally appreciated the reported fate of her two daughters and confessed to the concerned authorities who eventually set him free, his heart over flowed with peace.
“I am so happy that she finally accepted that her two daughters; Judith and Francine died of diarrhoea in Tanzania while in exile but she had never come to accept the fact despite the wide range of evidence from fellow refugees,” said Nsabimana in an interview.
According to, Nsabimana, Uwamariya told a Gacaca court in Muhima 15years ago that he reportedly murdered the girls who also happened to be his childhood friends.
“As children, we used to hang out with each other during our play time,” he confirmed.
He describes his stay in prison over the false allegations which were eventually thrown out as very unfortunate yet humbling, a blessing for him in disguise.
“For a very long time, I shared a room with all sorts of criminals including murderers, rapists, child and drug traffickers but this was an experience from which I learnt so many things. The best lesson was patience.”
Despite the ups and downs that have been of his life, Nsabimana admits the problems of the past were much more than the challenges ahead.
‘The country has moved on much faster than expected and with joint efforts, even more can be achieved.’