Nyamagabe: genocide survivors hope to get peace of mind from Bucyibaruta’s trial in France

Nyamagabe: genocide survivors hope to get peace of mind from Bucyibaruta’s trial in France
Nyamagabe: genocide survivors hope to get peace of mind from Bucyibaruta’s trial in France

Survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in the former Gikongoro prefecture vividly remember the horrible deeds of Laurent Bucyibaruta the then “prefet” who, according to them, despite being a leader, was much involved in the atrocities that left thousands dead.

For Phoebe Mukamudenge, a genocide survivor from the area, memories are still fresh despite 28 years that have elapsed.

Bucyibaruta has been living in France where he had found a safe haven for years until recently when it was decided that he was a genocide suspect and should be tried for the crimes he allegedly committed.

As a leader in the province and given the role he allegedly played in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, Bucyibaruta was code-named “the butcher of Gikongoro” to imply that he killed thousands of innocent people he was supposed to protect.

Phoebe Mukamudenge

Mukamudenge felt relieved after hearing that ’cour d’assises de Paris’, will start the trial of Bucyibaruta.

She feels that justice will be rendered and that she together with the victims will have peace of mind.

For the survivor and widow of genocide against Tutsi in Nyamagabe, there is this most hurting statement she remembers from Bucyibaruta: “When you want to eradicate the quack grass, you collect and burn them so that they will never grow again in the farm.’  

She narrated that Bucyibaruta and his comrades did the scandalous to the whole Rwandan society, they should be brought to book to face justice.

“Mudasomwa (where Phoebe lived) was the first to not spare even kids and women during the genocide against the Tutsi,” she narrated.

According to Hildebrand Niyomwungeri, the mayor of Nyamagabe district, the trial would be a sign that justice is served and survivors will find peace of mind from it.

“Justice gives peace of mind,” said the mayor. ‘The image of the administration in this area was tarnished by Bucyibaruta’s being in office,’ he added.

Gikongoro prefecture, present day Nyamagabe district that Niyomwungeri leads was among the most hit area during the genocide.

Its three genocide memorial sites namely Murambi, Cyanika , and Kaduha are home to about 130,000 victims who are buried there. They were all killed under the reign of Bucyibaruta.

Chronologically and timely from Murambi

Remy Kamugire, the vice president of Ibuka in Nyamagabe district

Remy Kamugire, now the vice President of Ibuka in Nyamagabe district tells the story of how quick and systematic killers massacred the Tutsi who had sought sanctuary at Murambi.

Murambi genocide memorial is home to around 50,000 victims

The place is now a memorial site where over 50,000 bodies of innocent people, mainly those killed from the Murambi technical school there, are laid to rest.  Others were exhumed from the areas surrounding it.

“It was on Tuesday, April 19, 1994 and the calendar resemble exactly like the one of today (2022), the interim President of Rwanda Theodore Sindikubwabo held a meeting with all administrative leaders in Gikongoro from the cell level, the meeting happened in the multipurpose room commonly known as ‘Ingoro ya Muvoma’,” Kamugire remembers.

“Two days later, on Thursday April, 21, early morning, assaults started; soldiers armed with guns and grenades, interahamwe militia, policemen from the surrounding communes joined the attack killing every Tutsi, around 50,000 Tutsi were killed,” he added.

After they continued at Cyanika parish and Kaduha and they killed around 30,000 people and 47,000 people respectively, all the incidents just happened so fast that it happened in a single day,” he added.

Kaduha genocide memorial is home to more than 47,000 victims

According to Ibuka over 100,000 Tutsi were killed in a single day and Bucyibaruta is accused of having ordered the implementation of the atrocity.

Despite 28 years after the genocide against Tutsi, Kamugire believes that if the judiciary could do their job, the trial of Bucyibaruta will give genocide survivors peace of mind as justice will be rendered and the culprit will be held responsible.

Serious accusations

Bucyibaruta, born in 1944, was the ‘prefet’ of Gikongoro from July 1992 through 1994. As an active member of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), the ruling party at the time, and the head of Interahamwe militia, he is accused of having ordered police and militia to kill Tutsi in the area he controlled.

He is also accused of planning and ordering massacres at different places, including places of worship and schools in the area according to testimonies.

Residents, especially genocide survivors will not forget his most hate speech in December 1993 at a local market in which he appealed for financial support to procure weapons to eliminate the ‘Tutsi enemy’.

Bucyibaruta, was indicted for his alleged role in massacre of tutsis across Gikongoro prefecture; the prosecution charged him with direct and public incitement to commit genocide, complicity in genocide, genocide and crimes against humanity such as extermination, murder and rape; his trial is scheduled from 9 May to 1 July, before Paris criminal court (cour d’assises).