1994: When Kayonza Churches Turned Into Tutsi Bloodbaths


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20 years later, the government of President Paul Kagame has turned around the country from bloodshed and ashes to economic prosperity.

The RPF government has well given hope to a nation that had been written off by the entire world after one million people were killed at the hands of extreme Hutu militia known as Interahamwe under the supervision of the genocidal regime of Juvenal Habyarimana.

Didas Ndindabahizi , 42, a survivor of the genocide, gave a testimony at the Sunday event. Didas was 22 years old when the genocide began and was a history student at the National University of Rwanda, Nyakinama campus.

He recalled facing severe discrimination and was physically assaulted while at university. His parents were killed during the genocide and are buried at Mukarange memorial.

Tito Munyentwari, 34, read a poem called “Ikaze Urumuri Rutazima” which tells the history of Rwanda, the events of the 1994 genocide, reconciliation since and hope for the future.

Jean Nzabanterura, 59, a genocide perpetrator, gave a confession of how he executed the massacres. E was 39 years old when he participated in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

He was convicted and has since served his sentence. Today he is back in his community.

Scenes of horror

Kayonza District is made up of the former communes of Kabarondo, Rukara, Muhazi, Kayonza and Rukara in what was known as Kibungo Prefecture.

When the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi began on 7 April 1994, people fled to different places like Mukarange and Kabarondo Catholic Churches as well as the Rwinkwavu Health Center.

In Kayonza, Tutsi were killed in their homes as well as on their way to the parishes where they thought they would be safe.

More than 6,000 Tutsi fled to Mukarange Parish. They were killed on 12 and 13 April 1994 – just days after almost 3,700 people were killed at Kiziguro Parish on 11 April 1994.

Jean-Baptiste Gatete led the massacres in the area where he served as mayor from 1987 to 1993.

He led the slaughter of Tutsi at Kiziguro and then brought the militia to the Mukarange parish to join residents of Kayonza to kill the Tutsi who had taken refuge there.

Afterwards they went to kill those who were at Kabarondo Parish. This was done alongside local residents.

The Rwandan Patriotic Army arrived in Kayonza on 17 April 1994 and rescued many Tutsi.

Kayonza has seven genocide memorials where 28,000 victims of the genocide are now buried.

The flame will return to Kigali on 7 April 2014, the start of the national mourning period and twenty years since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

The flame travels next to Mwurire in Rwamagana District on 20 March 2014.

The function was hosted by Mayor John Mugabo and reflected on the events of the 1994 genocide as well as the journey of unity and renewal in Kayonza and Rwanda since.

The Flame of Remembrance was received from Gatsibo District by two 20-year-old students, Claudine Ucyeye and Emmanuel Kwizera.

A children’s choir from Mukarange School, Bright Light and O.L.P Primary Schools sung ‘Urumuri Rutazima’ (Never Ending Flame) to welcome the flame.

Oda Gasinzigwa, Rwanda’s Minister of Gender and Family Promotion was the guest of honour. The Governor of the Eastern Province, Odette Uwamariya called for hard work, reconciliation, unity and a spirit of resilience.

The Kwibuka Flame symbolises remembrance as well as the resilience and courage of Rwandans over the past twenty years. Carried in a simple lamp, the flame is being used to light other lamps in communities around Rwanda.

To mark twenty years since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, all memorial fires throughout the country are being lit from this single Kwibuka Flame.

President Paul Kagame will use the Kwibuka Flame of Remembrance to light the National Flame of Mourning on April 7, 2014.

This will mark the official beginning of the national mourning period to commemorate the genocide in Rwanda.

The flame will also be the source for lighting candles at a vigil at Amahoro Stadium on the evening of 7 April 2014.


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