May 1, 1994:Tutsi massacre at Nyundo church and its surroundings


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May 1, 1994:Tutsi massacre at Nyundo church and its surroundings

Yanditswe May, 01 2020 21:42 PM | 54,826 Views

On May 1, 1994, the criminal government continued to implement their plan to exterminate Tutsi. This document points out some of the locations where Tutsi massacre took place on this date in 1994.

1. Tutsi massacre at Karama hill, Nyanza

Karama hill was located in the former Butare prefecture, Ntyazo commune, Karama sector and bordered by two cells i.e Kankima and Karuyumbu currently in Nyanza district, Ntyazo Sector, Cyotamakara cell. 

On April 18, 1994 while the Tutsi had gone for night patrol, they found out that the residents of Kankima cell in Karama sector went to Gatonde sector and those in Karuyumbu cell went to Gisasa and Ruyenzi sectors. It was like betraying them and planning to attack Karama because it was inhabited by a large number of Tutsi and others who had taken refuge in Karama from different parts of the country including those who had joined their families. Tutsi who had gone for night patrols returned home and found that their families had fled to Mount Karama, they also joined them because of fear. 

Before fleeing, a series of meetings which prepared the killings were held in Ntyazo and Migina communes in Nyamure. In addition, they fled because before 18/04/1994, Tutsi houses were being burnt and the killing had started in the sectors bordering Karama like Gatonde and Gisasa.

On April 18, 1994, many Tutsi wanted to flee to Burundi via Kibilizi to Mpanda port on the Akanyaru River but when they arrived in Kibilizi they were forcibly sent back by Hitimana Ephron who was the Councilor of Kibilizi Sector together with Interahamwe after taking away their belongings. On April 19, 20 and 21, 1994, many Tutsi continued to flee from Ntyazo commune from all its 13 sectors, especially Karama, Cyimvuzi and Gatonde sectors. They also came from Muyira, Rusatira, Ruhashya, Maraba and Nyabisindu communes of Butare prefecture, Kigoma and Ntongwe communes of Gitarama prefecture and elsewhere.

Women, children and elderly (women and men) were housed in Tutsi homes living at the lower slopes of Karama hill but the houses were few compared to the number of those people in such categories. 

On April 20, 1994, a major attack composed of gendarms from Nyanza armed with guns, grenades and other military equipment arrived. They were led by Hategekimana Philippe alias BIGUMA who was the deputy commander of the gendarmery. They came in a DAIHATSU car of RUTAYISIRE who had been killed in Nyanza and they took over his car. The attack was also composed by interahamwe from Karama and Gatonde armed with traditional weapons but Tutsi retaliated them and they did not reach Karama hill.  They tried to defend themselves using stones and bows and that day Tutsi killed Interahamwe called Karemera Fiston from Karama, wounded others and set their car on fire using a match box. The killers went back to reorganize but shortly in the afternoon, the attack came back armed with fire arms and traditional weapons and they killed three Tutsi, namely Bikinga Maurice, Gahamanyi Augustin and Ntakirutimana, and injuring Rurangirwa Aimable who died the next day. 

From 21 to 23 April 1994, attacks continued to come but consisted of interahamwe and civilians who used only traditional weapons. Tutsi also continued to defend themselves and prevented the killers from reaching Karama hill. On April 24, 1994, there were no attacks at Karama but Tutsi who had taken refuge at Karama hill performed a special act of bravery by rescuing other Tutsi who were being attacked at Rwezamenyo hill which was about twenty minutes away from Karama. When they arrived, many Tutsi had been killed but joined those who were still fighting and tried to defend themselves and repelled the attacks and rescuing many whom they took to Karama including some with injuries.

From April 25 to 29, 1994, attacks continued but consisted of interahamwe and civilians who used only traditional weapons without guns, which encouraged Tutsi to keep on repelling the attacks. On April 30, 1994, a fierce attack took place and killed 12 Tutsi, but they were also strong as they killed the Judicial Police Officer (OPJ) of Ntyazo commune, Muganza Joseph, son of Nzaramba Athanase, a former Bourgmestre of Ntyazo commune, who was also the MRND president in the commune at the time. The attacks were led by Ndahimana Matayo with a gun and later became the Bourgmestre of Ntyazo commune to replace Nyagasaza Narcisse who was killed during the genocide on April 23, 1994 because he was a Tutsi. 

Matayo Ndahimana called upon police and gendarmes from Ntyazo commune and took part in the attacks on the Tutsi. They were joined by the former police chief Munyaneza Viateur, Ngirabatware Godefrey, Gatera Adalbert, a former police officer and former Bugari Sector Councilor. There was also Muganza Joseph, the Judicial Police Officer of the commune and was killed by those who were fighting for themselves. There were also Interahamwe and Burundian refugees from Ngoma camp in Bugari sector.

On May 1, 1994, they were surrounded by a violent attack with the aim of exterminating them as they had blocked all ways leading to Karama hill in an effort to prevent them from fleeing. The Tutsi fought for a short time because of many bullets and the power of killers. The killers climbed the hill and started firing, throwing grenades and using traditional weapons and those who tried to flee were killed at the bottom of the hill. 

They killed for more than four hours and were only stopped by the rain. After killing them they took their cows and other livestock, looting various items and taking away their clothes.

They were killed by many gendarms from Nyabisindu sous prefecture, led by Hategekimana Philippe alias BIGUMA, who was the Chief Warrant Officer and deputy director of the gendarmery. In particular, on April 23, 1994, he captured the Bourgmestre of Ntyazo commune Nyagasaza Narcisse when he was trying to flee to Burundi, and he killed him in Nyanza. He fled to France but has now been arrested and is under investigation in France. 

Among the attackers, there were also soldiers from the Ecole des Sous-Officiers (ESO) in Butare, Ndahimana Matayo, who became the bourgoumestre of Ntyazo commune, replacing the late Narcisse killed in the genocide. Ordinarily, Ndahimana Matayo was the director of Nyamure Health center.  

They collaborated with the former leader of police in Ntyazo commune called Munyaneza Viateur, a police officer called Ngirabatware Godefrey, currently serving his sentence in Mpanga prison, Gatera Adalbert who was the councillor of Bugari sector, Bizimana Nicodeme, the councillor of Ntyazo sector, Ngendahimana, the councillor of Gisasa, Nzaramba Athanase, the former bourgoumestre of Ntyazo commune and was the president of MRND during the genocide.  

There were also many interahamwe and Burundian refugees who lived in Ngoma camp in Bugari sector. Some of the interahamwe included Twagiramungu Zakayo a teacher at Nyamure Primary School, Erikani who was a teacher at Gisasa Primary School and Sinzinkayo Sosthene who stayed in Ruyenzi. Later, on 4/5/1994, the attackers came back to kill those who had survived.  It was composed of gendarms, Police officers and interahamwe. They found that a few survived Tutsi had regrouped and they killed them again with guns and traditional weapons. A few survivors fled to the nearby forests and bushes. 

In all, more than 30,000 Tutsi were killed at Karama hill leaving their bodies lying around because they were so many to be buried and some were thrown in the trenches. 

2. Tutsi massacre at Nyundo church and its surroundings

From 1990 to April 1994, Tutsi in Nyundo area were not living harmoniously, some were arrested and imprisoned as accomplices of Inkotanyi. In 1991, Tutsi who lived in the former Kanama commune started to be persecuted and later took refuge at Petit Seminaire de Nyundo and at the Brothers’ Center called Freres de l'Instruction Chretienne. In 1992 the number of refugees continued to increase, the Bishop of Nyundo Diocese Karibushi Wenceslas received many Bagogwe and housed them for 3 years because until 1994 he was still living with them. In the meantime, some of their houses were burnt down, others were demolished, their cows eaten and when they returned home the Bishop helped them to rebuild.

In 1994, when the genocide against the Tutsi started on April 7, those who had fled to Petit Seminaire de Nyundo were killed that day. Survivors immediately joined others at the Diocese on April 8 and they spent the whole day fighting with interahamwe using stones and pieces of tiles. 

On the morning of April 9, 1994, the Prefect of Gisenyi Prefecture, Dr. Zirimwabagabo Charles, came and took foreign priests from Nyundo diocese. Afterwards, Col. Nsengiyumva Anatole came and asked the Tutsi: " Are you angry that you want to fight?"  and Father Fabian said to him, "What can we use to fight sir? Do you see any weapon with us?" Immediately attackers who include soldiers and gendarmes with guns, grenades and traditional weapons entered the Church and killed Tutsi in the Church and Tutsi Priests including Father Aloys NZARAMBA, Father Ferdinand KAREKEZI, Father Callixte KALISA, Father Adrien NZANANA, Father Edouard GAKWANDI and Father Clement KANYABUSOZO.

There were also Sisters including Mama Yuliana, Mama Giovani, Mama Vianney, Mama Laetitia, Mama Candida and others. The survivors of the attack stayed there because they could not find a place to flee because since 1991 they have been refugees and have been protected by gendarmes.

On May 1, 1994 they were killed even though they had started to hope they would survive as the ICRC had started discussing with them how to get them to Goma. Prior to the May 1, 1994 massacre, Interahamwe campaigned for those hiding in the bushes, houses and other places and told them to join others at Nyundo where they would be protected.  Many heard the news and moved to Nyundo Diocese in big numbers.   There were also those who came from Kivumu in Nyamyumba and elsewhere. 

It was on 27/04/1994 that the ICRC had brought food and all those who had remained in hiding came out to get food as they thought the massacre had finished.   Some of the refugees were educated and whenever they wanted to explain to the ICRC staff in foreign languages about their grief, Prefect ZIRIMWABAGABO Charles immediately would take the floor and shout them up because he always came with them. 

On 1st May, 1994, at around 4pm, the attack of interahamwe from Nyabihu, Kibirira, including the so-called “Abanyakiganda” came in two full Daihatsu belonging to Nyabihu Tea Factory. There were also local interahamwe from Muhira, Mahoko, Rubumbati and elsewhere. The killings were initiated so that the ICRC would not take them to Congo before they would be killed.

The first person who got shot that evening was a Mugogwe man called SERUSHYANA, popularly known as the Councilor and was the leader of the refugees. About 1,000 people were killed that night. Those who managed to survive were young people who jumped to the bushes around the church though they were later hunted with dogs. 

Others survivors were the ones in the church who were piled up under the corpses and managed to come out at night because all the murderers and gendarms had already gone. 

The massacre of Tutsi at Nyundo diocese was carried out by soldiers from Gisenyi and gendarmes who lived in Nyundo since 1991, Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi of CDR. They were killed by grenades thrown in the Church and traditional weapons. 

The most prominent in the killing of Tutsi at Nyundo were the following: 

Prefect ZIRIMWABAGABO Charles of Gisenyi Prefecture; 

Col. NSENGIYUMVA Anatoli; 

Major BIGANIRO who commanded the Gendarms in Gisenyi; 


S/Lt DUSABEYEZU Eustache; 

NZABONIMPA Marius who was the Bourgmestre of Kanama Commune; 

NKUNDABANYANGA Fidel who was a doctor; 

KABILIGI Stanislas who was Councilor of Muhira Sector;

MPOZEMBIZI Marc who was the Bourgmestre of Rubavu Commune; 

Father NTURIYE Edouard alias Simba and many others.

Massacre of Tutsi continued. This was done in a way that every so-called Tutsi would be killed, most of whom were killed while fleeing. On this day many were killed within administrative buildings, communes, churches because people falsely believed that they could survive in such places.

Dr BIZIMANA Jean Damascène

Executive Secretary

National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG)

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