GATSIBO - There is evidence to the effect that systemic killings of Tutsi in Kiziguro Sector in Gatsibo District was undertaken years before the 1994 Genocide.
The body of evidence has been partly provided by survivors who witnessed the carnage before the onset of the 100 day Genocide.
The victims are buried at Kiziguro Genocide Memorial Site which is constructed a long the Kigali-Kagitumba high way, close to 109 kilometers from Kigali City.
Hillaria Mukagasana is one of the survivors in the area who says that the genocide left nearly her 60 family members dead.
“It was a tragedy. A tragedy that started many years back even before the genocide of 1994. It left all my 60 relatives and family members dead,” she told this writer.
Having watched most of the cold blooded killings in the former Murambi commune for years, Mukagasana, 60, recalls vividly the history of genocide in Kiziguro.
“For many years, this commune was led by brutal leaders like the infamous Jean Baptiste Gatete. He led the commune from 1987 to 1993. This man was a strong enemy of Tutsi in this area,” she says.
Mukagasana recalls that in early 1980’s when Kigali-Kagitumba tarmac road was being constructed, a quarry was prepared by contractors for extracting stones for the construction of the road.
Jean Bosco Gatete used this quarry as a dumping site for murdered Tutsi, according to Mukagasana.
‘This quarry is in Bidudu cell and another one is located where the memorial site is constructed. This is the site where the Tutsi were dumped after being killed ,” she says.
At the Rwabayanga quarry , she said, Tutsi could be bundled in trucks and thrown there. “They could bundle the corpses in a truck and be driven to the quarry under the supervision of Gatete,” she said.
“All this was done and no one could raise an alarm for help since the whole commune was led by Interahamwe militias.”
Another survivor, Eridephonse Kabengera, said that Tutsi in the commune Murambi were indirectly excluded from certain activities even before the genocide.
He says that between 1990 and 1993, Tutsi were targeted as victims of state oppression.
“This was Gatete’s mode of operations against us,” he said adding that Tutsi children were even denied access to education.
Kabengera added that once the momentum of the killing got underway Jean-Baptiste Gatete, a former leading member of the National Congress of the MRND (National Republican Movement for Development and Democracy), started ordering official massacres of Tutsi who were holed up in Kiziguro Cathedral Church.
“Many including my relatives were taken to Rwabayanga quarry while others were killed and dumped here where the memorial site stands,” he said.
Survivors’ life 15 years after Genocide
Despite the challenges, survivors of former Murambi Commune (Now in Gatsibo District) have undergone some form of transformation.
More than 70% of survivors in Kiziguro Sector have shelter. Further still, a notable number have been offered Friesian cows as a result of the ‘One Cow per family’ initiative, which many have seen as a blessing.
“We have regained a normal life after a tragedy that left us with nothing. The government has shown much concern about our welfare,” Gasana Kanyamahanga, another survivor said.
Gasana added that he was blessed to have been given a Friesian cow which has now delivered three more and he has since shared his new found wealth with his neighbours.
“We have no problems any more. Our children get milk to drink and we can afford school fees for them. I am amazed at having gone through the terrible hands of Gatete,” he said.