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When a Rwandan school became a killing field – The Citizen



Juliet Mukakabanda was hiding with her husband and three children in a small church in theas Rwanda when local leaders lured the family to a nearby school, which promised to “protect” them from gangs of genocidal killers.

With Hutu married to Tutsi, Mukakabanda and her husband were key targets for the Hutu foreigners who unleashed a nationwide wave of terror in April 1994.

One of the worst episodes of this nightmare occurred in the preliminary round of Gikongoro, where the family was sheltered.

There, they found themselves plunged into a bloodbath allegedly orchestrated by local leaders including rector Laurent Bucyibaruta – who goes on trial in France since Monday accused of genocide, complicity in genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity.

The frightened family fled to a local church in Gikongoro for the first time (since it was renamed Nyamagabe) after Hutu crowds tortured the homes of Tutsi residents in their village.

They then decided to join a large number of asylum seekers at the Murambi Technical School in Gikongoro, and persuaded them that the hilltop location was their best chance of escaping the militias roaming Rwanda with guns and guns. the machetes.

But it was a trap.

A few days later, around 3 a.m. on April 21, their supposed safe haven was attacked.

“We heard bullets being fired outside the school balloon. The killers had guns, grenades, clubs, machetes and all sorts of weapons. My main concern was my children, I did not know how to protect them, ”Mukakabanda told AFP.

Mukakabanda, now 58, recounted their plight on the site of what is now one of the main moments of genocide in Rwanda, where the names of the dead appear on rows of black granite monuments and the names of the dead. former classrooms containing their skeletal remains.

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– ’34 Survivor ‘-

With the killers besieged on the school building, her husband and other men decided to go out and fight, leaving the women locked inside the classrooms with their children.

“They were fighting with everything they could, including stones and sticks, but they were not like bullets and grenades.”

When the mobs broke down the door, Mukakabanda says she got on her knees, her one – month – old daughter cradled on her back, and began to pray and plead for mercy.

When they saw her Hutu ID card, the killers told her to stay outside while storming the building, going from room to room and killing everyone inside, including her husband and two of her children.

According to an account of the horrific events at Murambi, the local leaders had ensured that the Tutsi community would be able to give them better protection in one place than they would be dispersed, and promised them food and water.

Instead, the authorities cut off the water supply to the school and provided food for those inside, making it difficult for them to resist the attack.

Mukakabanda pointed his finger at Bucyibaruta, who disputes the charges and their involvement in the killings, according to his lawyers.

“He was the one who ordered the Tutsis police and security forces to find hiding in churches and other places and gather them together in one area, for the purpose of providing them with protection,” she said.

Mukakabanda and her baby were among 34 people believed to have survived the murder of Murambi says the Rwandan Genocide Archive which claimed about 50,000 people are mostly Tutsis.

Her daughter, Pauline, is a 28-year-old mother who is studying business administration in Kigali.

The widow herself still lives as a farmer in Nyamagabe, and is preparing to make the trip to Paris to testify at the trial of Bucyibaruta.

– ‘My parents never saw me again’ –

In the Murambi Genocide Memorial Garden, Bucyibaruta’s name is inscribed on a granite slab as Number 1 on a list of 75 suspected genocides.

Inside, a black – and – white photograph of Bucyibaruta is visually displayed alongside the heads of other political, police, and military locals accused of directing the bloodshed in 1994.

Bucyibaruta is one of a handful of Rwandans who went on trial in France for the genocide in which about 800,000 Tutsis and a moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days of slaughter.

Remy Kamugire, Nyamagabe’s vice president of IBUKA, the shadow association for genocide survivors, said he remembers Bucyibaruta as the leader who promised to defend Tutsis by turning him on them.

Now 44, he said he was hiding out with his parents in a nearby Cyanika parish to escape the marauding militia.

“When the killers arrived, everyone tried to flee. I ran successfully and hid but never saw my parents again. They were killed that day. ”

Kamugire unveiled the building – now a police station – in which the plan to deport those in the school was allegedly drawn up at a meeting on April 19 attended by Bucyibaruta and Rwandan interim president Theodore Sindikubwabo, among others.

National Union of Unity and Reconciliation Jean Damascene Bizimana, guest of honor at the Murambi genocide memorial ceremony on April 21, said he was pleased Bucyibaruta was finally going on trial.

“This is a case that has been going on for over 20 years, and it is a good development to look at it by the end of a criminal court hearing,” he told AFP.

“We hope justice is done.”

When a Rwandan school became a killing field – The Citizen Source link When a Rwandan school became a killing field – The Citizen

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