Since the beginning of May 1994, as the RPF-Inkotanyi advanced in winning the battle and stopping the Genocide in its occupied territories, the genocidal government had put more efforts in speeding up genocide in other regions. Since May 3, 1994, Kambanda government was in a state of emergency, the Prime Minister Kambanda and three Ministers from Kibuye: Edouard Karemera, Eliezer Niyitegeka and Emmanuel Ndindabahizi, accompanied by leaders of other Hutu Power parties visited Kibuye and held a high-level meeting which brought together all civil servants in Kibuye, businessmen, the private sector, representatives of faith based organisations, and set strategies to accelerate the extermination of Tutsi in locations where they had not been killed. All categories of people who met at Kibuye committed to take part. The days after the above mentioned meeting were like an end to Tutsi.
RTLM declared that the killing of the remaining Tutsi should be accelerated
On May 5, 1994, Radio RTLM broadcasted a series of messages and speeches urging all Hutu Power leaders, political, military, gendarmery, Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi to speed up their efforts to kill Tutsi wherever they were. The radio message was followed by Simon Bikindi's songs aimed at stirring the minds of killers. RTLM reporters also broadcasted messages from all over the country about the status of killings and acknowledging the work being done by killers through killing the so-called accomplices of the enemy i.e. Tutsi. The most popular journalists were Noheli Hitimana, Habimana Kantano, Valeriya Bemeriki and Gaspard Gahigi in Kinyarwanda language. As for French language, RTLM journalists who mobilised for speedy extermination of Tutsi were Emmanuel Nkomati, Philippe Mbirizi, Joel Hakizimana and Georges Ruggiu.
RTLM was reinforced by Radio Rwanda during the programme of Jean Baptiste Bamwanga and in various messages delivered by extremist journalists of Radio Rwanda including Froduald Ntawulikura, Augustin Hatari, Phocas Fashaho, Robert Simba and others.
On the same day, Human Rights Watch issued a statement denouncing RTLM’s radio programmes calling for the immediate extermination of Tutsi across the country.
The Superior Sister of Sovu Monastery, Sister Gertrude Mukangango caused the death of last Tutsi who had survived the massacre of April 22 and 25, 1994 at Sovu Monastery.
The Monastery of the Benedictine Sisters is located in Huye District, at Sovu. As of April 17, 1994, more than 10,000 Tutsi had taken refuge in various houses of the Monastery, including the clinic and they were killed in various groupings. From April 22, 1994, Tutsi refugees at Sovu were attacked three times. The Interahamwe first attacked those who had taken refuge at the health center and they fled into its garage. Interahamwe decided to burn them alive in the garage. Sister Gertrude (Consolata Mukangango) and Sister Kizito (Julienne Mukabutera) who were 42 and 36 years in 1994 respectively, brought two jerrycans of fuel. Sister Kizito poured the fuel in front of the garage and set it on fire. About 7,000 people died that day. Sister Kizito had their list and then she checked if all of them were dead.
On April 25, 1994, the leader of Interahamwe from Sovu, Emmanuel Rekeraho, his deputy Gaspard Rusanganwa alias Nyiramatwi and other interahamwe militia, returned at the Monastery to kill the remaining Tutsi who were hiding inside the Monastery. Sister Gertrude and Sister Kizito spoke to Rekeraho and told him to help them get rid of the refugees because they no longer had food for them. The refugees begged but Sister Gertrude instructed to kill them. Interahamwe killed approximately 1,000 people that day. Only about 30 people relatives of Tutsi Sisters remained in the Monastery. Sister Gertrude put a lot of pressure on her fellow Sisters and ordered them to get rid of their relatives if not they would all be killed together, but Sisters refused.
On May 5, 1994, Sister Gertrude wrote a letter to the Bourgmestre of Huye Commune, Jonathan RUREMESHA, urging him to come and expel the refugees. The letter looked like this:
Subject: Appeal to the authorities
Mr. Bourgmestre of Huye Commune, BUTARE
In recent weeks, some people have come to the Sovu Monastery as regular visitors for less than a week, most of them on official missions, while others had come to rest or pray.
After the war that has ravaged the country started, there have been others who have come unexpectedly and they do not want to leave. In addition, we don’t have enough resources to support them. I have been asking for days for the communal authorities to come and order them to go back home, or go elsewhere they want to live, because here in the Monastery we do not have any resources left.
I strongly request you Mr. Bourgmestre, to please help us on the matter not later than 6/5/1994, so that we can resume the usual work of the Monastery without any disturbance. We pray to God to protect you.
Head of Sovu Monastery. Soeur Gertrude Consolata MUKANGAGO (signature)”
On May 6, 1994, Bourgmestre RUREMESHA brought police officers and Interahamwe to kill the Tutsi refugees who were the only left at Sovu Monastery. Hence, they were killed on the day that Sister Gertrude had asked the Bourgmestre RUREMESHA to take them away so that the Monastery could continue its work.
Sister Gertrude's trial took place in Belgium in 2001 and disclosed that she is the one who went to show Interahamwe the rooms where the Tutsi were hiding in the Monastery.
Among the Tutsi killed in Sovu were many from Abaha tribe who lived near the Monastery. All of them were massacred with their families and many were employees of the Sovu Monastery for many years.
Some of the killers who assisted the Sisters in the Sovu massacre include:
Adjudant Emmanuel Rekeraho, Joseph Habyarimana who fled to France, Gaspard Rusanganwa alias Nyiramatwi, Innocent Nyundo, Pierre Rushyana, Jean Maniraho, Etienne Rugombyumugabo, Theoneste Kagina, Joseph Bizimana who was the brigadier of Huye commune and their high-ranking leader was Bourgmestre Jonathan Ruremesha.
Sister Gertrude was sentenced to 15 years in prison in Belgium while Sister Kizito was sentenced to 12 years in prison. After their sentence, they are now released and live in Maredret Monastery, Belgium.
After serving her sentence, Sister Gertrude launched an attack on genocide survivors who testified against her during the trial.
After release, Sister Gertrude returned to the Benedictine Monastery at Maredret, near Namur City in Belgium. With the support of a French journalist Jerome Castaldi, Sister Gertrude wrote a book entitled: (Rwanda 1994. La parole de Soeur Gertrude; slightly translated as: Rwanda 1994. Sister Gertrude's opinion) in 2018. This book demeans the history of the Genocide against the Tutsi, criticizes the justice system and strongly targets genocide survivors who have shown her involvement in the Genocide at Sovu, including her fellow Sisters of Sovu Monastery who testified against her.
Sister Gertrude’s misconduct has been widely judged by many including her fellow colleagues. One of them, Kayitesi Bernadette, who lived with Sister Gertrude at Sovu Monastery, after reading the above mentioned book; she wrote a testimony containing the truth of genocide history in general and the role of Sister Gertrude in the massacre of Tutsi who had taken refuge in Sovu particularly, which should not be hidden.
Some of the statements from the testimony of Kayitesi Bernadette written on 05/12/2019 are the following:
Let me tell you something about a book you wrote. It is unfortunate that after nearly 7 years in prison you have not changed a bit. There is a Rwandan saying which goes like: "Be kind to everyone and the future will pay you back". Stop lying to God and people, stop lying to the world. Let's look back at what happened in Sovu. The refugees started arriving on April 17, 1994, remember that Laurient Ntezimana brought many rice bags to feed refugees and you chose to lock them inside to starve refugees; also, remember the rain of April 20,1994 when you refused to open for them for shelter. Sister Schola searched for the keys and opened for them but after you quarrelled with her; Sister Mechtilde wept extremely and said that God will hold us accountable of our actions, subsequently, that is what you were held accountable for in court in 2001. If you call yourself innocent, where did the fuel that was used to burn people who had taken refuge in the health center come from? During the trial, women from the village claimed that it was you who brought the fuel, and Sister Kizito lit a match to burn innocent people, and Interahamwe clapped for you saying that their Sisters had helped them.
Remember the screams and cries of SOVU, when the noise of bullets, grenades was the song and when people begged to be shot but it was not possible, when they were cut with axes and machetes; have you ever asked members of the Monastery what to do? On the morning of April 23, 1994, you told us to flee and that no one would show ID to interahamwe, and when we reached the roadblock, you were the first to show your ID to Interahamwe but God forbid no one else was asked for ID; we continued to Ngoma and 2 days after we wanted to return, remember how you talked with the soldiers for about two (2) hours and everyone was terrified.
Remember when we returned to Sovu on April 25,1994, REKERAHO who was the chef of Interahamwe held a meeting with us in the Hotel Hall. Here is what he said: These people who took refuge in the Monastery, hide them in the ceiling or in the cave because no one in Sovu is asking me about them and they are not the ones who will restore the Tutsi regime. After saying this, he added: "What will convince you is that I will not return to see them." Why didn’t you write about it in your book?
That night of the 25th April, 1994, you told me: Tell your brothers to get out and go to sleep among the corpses so that the car which will carry the corpses would throw them in the pit and they will get out and go. Are these really the words of a godly person? We continued to live such life until 06/05/1994.
After the morning prayer, you made the following bad statement: The Sisters who have their relatives with them, I urge you to discharge them when it is still possible, otherwise we will seek out authorities’ power to do so. You did so and you caused death to about 25 people. I remember my two older brothers GATETE Deo and Placide Seth. I remember the father of Sister Fortunata, her mother and her sister. I remember Regine's dad and mom. I remember Chantal and her son Chrispin. I remember Aima Marie and her four children. I remember Candari the younger Sister of Sister Therese MUKARUBIBI. I remember the father of Sister Bernadette NYIRANDAMUTSA her brother and young Sister. May God grant them all eternal rest. Why didn’t you repeat the words that you said in the Church in your book?
You wrote that when you got to the prison you cried a lot, so how much do you think we cried when we saw our relatives taken outside to be killed? In Sovu we had some very wicked Sisters including Sister Gertrude and Sister Kizito, but we also had some very nice Sisters who were held accountable for what the two were doing. For example, Sister Liberatha and Sister Merchtilde were not among those to be killed but you could see their suffering caused by what was happening. Sister Liberatha hid people in the ceiling and gave them water and food but when Sister Gertrude found out, she released them and they were killed.
I remember Sister Ermelinda, she was a good nun who prayed a lot and God would reveal her what will happen in the future through prayers. The Bishop had given her permission to keep the Holy Sacrament in her room.
Remember the pathway we took to escape to Central Africa and the article you wrote entitled: “Après les machettes le Ciel sera bon” literally translated as: “After the machetes, Heaven will be good”. I read what you wrote, it is all a lie! you have said: We sat with the nuns and talked about what happened and apologized, then embraced and now we live in harmony. Did that really happen? If so, where did it happen? If that had happened, then we would not be going to the courts in Belgium.
We fled until Maredret Monastery, the founder of SOVU Monastery. You never let us rest, but you chose to scatter the Sisters in various monasteries, so that you would wipe away the evidence, so that what you did with Sister KIZITO would not be known. But God did not approve of it, after eliminating all older nuns and staying with the young ones, you used them to document the good you did during the genocide with the help of Mother Aloys, a German. You wrote down all your wishes and took the document to the Belgian Court. What you ordered young nuns and Mother Aloys to write, was the same that witnessed against you in 2001 Court proceedings.
Remember when the judge asked you what you were up to while you wrote down the good you did and yet no one had asked you about it and you couldn’t answer. I remember when Sister Domitilla was asked if she had written what she signed for, to which she replied: I told them in Kinyarwanda and may be they added their version and make us sign. Mother Aloys and Sister Gertrude were the writers. So, if you say that you are innocent, why have you prepared such documents.
Second: When the nuns returned back to Rwanda and you stayed with Sister Kizito alone, why didn’t you come back if you had nothing to feel guilt for? Sister Domitilla's testimony was true and could have been a reason to dismiss her because she was among young nuns.
Still on court proceedings, I remember the testimony of Sister Solange who testified about the child who hid in your purple coule (nun’s dress) and you threw him to the Interahamwe. We still remember that child but Sister Solange was the one who made it clear in Court.
Do you remember when I begged you to come back home and you told me that it was not possible and added that the current Government would never be endorsed? I wish you could come to Rwanda and see how far our President is taking the country! He is currently receiving various medals for good governance and you are still in the early 1994s, you and those who acquit you including Father LINGUYENEZA Venuste who never came to Sovu during the Genocide; what is the basis for his acquittal towards you?
So let me tell you the truth, the article that you wrote in Bangui, Central Africa (Après les machettes le Ciel sera bon) and the sale of the Monastery while members knew nothing about it are among the reasons why we decided to return to Rwanda to liberate SOVU. Sister Schola and Marie Bernard, who were in the council, were elected by the Council to go back and tell the truth because the truth always come out.
When we wanted to go home you refused to pay for the plane ticket, but you forgot that God could make ways where seems to be no way. When we arrived at Bishop Gahamanyi's house, we found a fax that you had sent him asking him not to receive us, and he replied: Who is this nun who asks the Bishop to commit cruelty in his home? Did you think that we decided to return without talking to him? We also had a letter confirming that he would accommodate us and help us to liberate Sovu. Indeed, he did so in collaboration with Bishop Mubirigi Felicien. We thank them for all they did for us and may God grant them eternal rest.
While we were at Bishop Gahamanyi’s home, God revealed a great sign to us. We saw your letter of January 1996 delivering our people to be killed. That letter became an indelible mark and led to your trial in Belgium in 2001. And after all that you dare to call yourself innocent! Never forget that when Schola and Marie Bernard wanted to liberate Sovu, you wanted to completely destroy it and move it to Marone in Belgium. The Sovu Sisters are heroes who refused to stay with you and chose to return to their Motherland.
Once it was becoming hard for you, you send Father Comblin to convince us not to say the truth; it would not be possible because we would be silent over the blood of our people. Here's how I talked to Father Comblin: You have to do your best so that Sister Gertrude does not get imprisoned, because it would be a disgrace for the church. I replied, "What do you say about the dead? You are only concerned with someone who might be imprisoned, why didn’t you condemn the Genocide against the Tutsi?" Why didn’t you at least condemn it in writings? Then he replied: it is not us who killed them. And I said to him: Yes, it was not you but they were also created in the image of God and there is nothing more scandalous than chopping christians in the church or destroying it over them. We were not able to agree on the issues.
Let me conclude by thanking the Sisters of Sovu for not wanting to rebuild their community over a lie. I am a witness to this because I have followed what they told the Court.
I conclude by thanking everyone who played small or big role in bringing SOVU back to life. I thank Mrs. Nowork for the good work she has done for us and God will bless her seven times. I thank Bishop Gahamanyi so much, he hosted us for the whole year, may God give him eternal rest. I am very grateful to the Head of State, His Excellency Paul KAGAME, and all those who worked together to liberate the country because if they did not sacrifice, no one would have survived. May God continue to guide him in everything he does”.
Done at Kigali on 05/12/2019
KAYITESI Bernadette (Signature).
The massacre of Tutsi on May 5 mostly highlights the government's role in the genocide and how they used the media in their campaign to kill Tutsi. The genocide in Sovu, involving some Sisters, including the head of the Monastery, shows that all institutions were involved in the genocide.
The fact that Sister Gertrude was convicted of her role in the Genocide, served her sentence and released afterwards, but continues her plan to stand up to the crime of genocide and defamation of survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi, including her fellow Sisters whose relatives were massacred in their presence, and the killing of all Tutsi who had taken refuge at the Monastery, shows that the Genocide ideology is still in the hearts of some people. It is clear that efforts to educate the youth about the true history of the Genocide against the Tutsi must continue in order to help them build the Rwanda of tomorrow. It is a lesson that every Rwandan should learn from this 26th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi. Supporting the perpetrators of the Genocide to minimize and deny their role in the Genocide against the Tutsi in whichever way is a shameful act of genocide ideology which is punishable by law.
Dr BIZIMANA Jean Damascène
National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG)