Rwanda remembers thousands abandoned by UN troops to be killed at Nyanza-Kicukiro
Kigali, 11 April 2017 – As events to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi get underway, today, Rwandans from across the City of Kigali gathered at Nyanza Hill in Kicukiro District, to remember over 3,000 Tutsi abandoned by UN Belgian troops to be killed by Interahamwe militia and genocidal government soldiers.
When the Genocide began on 7 April 1994, thousands of Tutsis from various corners of Kicukiro neighbourhoods sought refuge at former Kicukiro Technical School known as ETO. The school was a base of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) peacekeeping forces; the refugees thought that the forces would protect them.
In her testimony, Irene Rwizihirangabo, who survived the Nyanza massacre, recounted the ordeal that those who had fled at ETO Kicukiro went through.
Following the killing of 10 Belgian peacekeepers that were part of the UNAMIR, the peacekeeping troops received orders to leave Rwanda. Regardless of the tension that had built up as Interahamwe surrounded ETO Kicukiro, the UN troops there also decided to leave.
A select group amongst the refugees pleaded vainly with the troops commander to stay, to protect them from Interahamwe militia and genocidal government soldiers.
On 11 April 1994, UNAMIR Belgian troops left ETO Kicukiro. Their departure was simultaneous with the entry of Interahamwe militia and genocidal government soldiers. The latter took the refugees to Sonatube where then Mayor of Kigali City, Lt Col Tharcisse Renzaho ordered that they instead be taken to Nyanza Hill and killed there because Sonatube was too visible as it is along the road to the airport. Nyanza was a secluded area.
“We were shocked to see UN peacekeeping troops leaving people targeted by killers in danger. They abandoned us in time of need. That was an act of cowardice,” Rwizihirangabo said.
The abandonment of refugees at Kicukiro is a symbol of failure by the United Nations to protect Tutsis during the Genocide.
“Under a heavy downpour, starved Tutsi were forced to march to Nyanza. Those too weak to march were killed on the way. When we arrived at Nyanza, our identification cards were checked before mass killing began. The militia shot and threw grenades in the crowd before using machetes to finish off those of us who were still alive,” recalled Rwizihirangabo.
The next morning, Interahamwe and genocidal government soldiers attempted to finish the slaughter; RPA soldiers stopped them. The latter rescued close to 200 Tutsis who had survived the massacre.
Each year, on 11 April, a memorial ceremony takes place at Nyanza, in memory of the Genocide victims murdered in cold blood after UN troops abandoned them. A march is held from former ETO Kicukiro to Nyanza Memorial site, followed by a night vigil to remember the victims.
Speaking at the event, the Speaker of the lower chamber of parliament Donatille Mukabalisa called on Rwandans to come together to support Genocide survivors and ensure that they are not alone.
“Those who left us to die taught us to value ourselves and depend primarily on our own means for solutions,” Speaker Mukabalisa said.
Nyanza Hill in Kicukiro District is known as one of the places where mass killings took place during the Genocide against the Tutsi.
Nyanza-Kicukiro Genocide Memorial serves as the final resting place for over 11,000 victims of the Genocide. About 3,000 of them were killed on site while 8,000 were murdered in other parts of Kicukiro.