The excerpts below demonstrate how people view genocide ideology as a mind prison and how those in prison for it are serving a double sentence – mind and physical. The ideology, according to testimonies, was much more ingrained in those who were initiated into it at a young age, which highlights the critical role of parents in either inculcating in their children or shielding them from the genocide ideology. Like cancer, this killer ideology caused damage to their mindset to the point that even when good was being done for them, they would read negative intentions into it. Overcoming it feels like a toll has been lifted off one’s shoulders, like being “born again,” as one respondent put it.
“I committed this heinous crime, and that is a betrayal. We betrayed the country. I must state that I was born in an environment of genocide ideology that didn’t give me a chance to be a good citizen. I was born in the context of genocide. I was born on 2 September 1957. The genocide started in 1959 even though most think that it started in 1994. The history of this period is known. Tutsis were killed; their properties destroyed, and cows slaughtered. Our parents were involved in this. Even the songs they were singing and dancing to promoted this negative ideology. It is not a good environment to raise a child. I was raised in this sort of climate. They said it was a revolution. But Parmehutu betrayed us. There was no courage in what they exposed us to.
They cannot claim to have led a meaningful revolution, when you end up oppressing the defeated per- son, burning their houses and killing them. You must prove the leadership you are overthrowing was bad by introducing an inclusive and healthy leadership. My father was a teacher and a Parmehutu, and had Parmehutu friends. While at home or at gatherings, they would sing: “Nimubatwike bashye amazuru, batazasubira bokabura ikibondo.”
Imagine singing such a song while children are listening. We would even sing the songs as we went to steal bananas, lemons, fruits, etc in fields that belonged to Tutsis who had fled the country or had been killed. I have a big brother who, to date, still lives in the land of a Tutsi named Paulini who we don’t know where he was killed. When we were young adults, we were part of dancing groups “amatorero”, namely urukerereza and irindiro. What is sad is that every song we danced to had lyrics that encourage Hutus to hate and despise Tutsis. As we celebrated fake independence at the amahoro stadium, we sang songs that praised ethnic divisions.
Those who seek to minimize and deny the genocide with the aim of nurturing hatred and divisions in Rwanda and those who still want to shed the blood of their fellow Rwandans will lie and say that the genocide started as a people seeking revenge after President Habyarimana’s death. THAT IS A LIE. When Habyarimana took out Kayibanda, he was removing a fellow Hutu from power. What would those who blame the genocide on the death of Habyarimana say was the reason why Tutsis were killed in 1973? Why were their cows killed and houses burnt since the coup was led by a Hutu against an- other Hutu? In 1987, the same thing happened when Rizinde, Kanyarengwe and their fellow Hutus wanted to take out Habyarimana.
Was the song I reminded you about above not sung in the presence of Habyarimana as army chief of staff in the presence of Queen Elisabeth, President Mobutu and many other presidents? Why were Tutsis being killed in 1959 if the genocide was just a consequence of Habyarimana’s murder? In 1990 when the RPF attacked, I was in Kigali. Tutsis were bitten and jailed. I witnessed what Renzaho, Munyakazi, Simbikangwa and soldiers were doing to Tutsis. Had the plane been shot down yet? You have heard Karorero [fellow convict] say that he did not kill anyone personally, but he trained the militias. Would anyone say that those who taught us the ideology are innocent? We attended many meetings as you all know. Habyarimana himself boasted about us, Interahamwe, and how we looked smart and ready. What were we ready to do, if not to kill the Tutsis?
Every official who welcomed Habyarimana here in Musanze when he visited would emphasize the fact that Tutsis who were sending money to those outside the country would die before those in exile came back. I had shirt and trousers made in the MRND fabric but the boots and pistol I had were given to me by the army.
I know I played a significant role in the genocide, which is why I believe that offering sincere apologies entails telling the truth about what happened and reminding all those with whom I committed the crimes that they need to do the same.
I pleaded guilty to being the government’s spy and killing Tutsis during the genocide and encouraging others to do so. I would like to also remind people that on 03 April 1993, the head of intelligence who worked from the President’s office produced a report of how many Tutsis had been killed and the number of houses burnt in the Gisenyi and Ruhengeri prefectures.
If Habyarimana and his government cared for all and were not implementing a Genocide, nobody would have minded. Thinking of their actions now, it would only have made sense that those criminals were jailed, just like how we are now convicts. We have people who worked with security organs and the justice sector then; do they have proof of a single case filed against someone who killed a Tutsi? Were Tutsis not being murdered?
I would like to remind you of another song: Ingabo z’u rwanda murakomeza umurego, ntimunanirwe, mukomere ku rugamba, Habyarimana atubereye ku isonga. Abaturage natwe twese twarahagurutse, muri cellule(cell) na segiteri (sector) gushashaka hose inyanga rwanda n’ibyitso byazo, ziragahera. Inyanga Rwanda zari zande? Who were the enemies of Rwanda? Does anyone believe Inkotanyi had left wherever they were to come to live in our cells in Cyangugu, Gisenyi, Gitarama, Butare, Gikongoro etc?
The roadblocks that started to be mounted on our streets in 1990 were people looking for Inkotanyi or our Tutsis neighbours? I would like to thank my fellow inmate who was then a leader in the national police for his honesty; he admitted to making a list of Tutsis to be killed. I agree entirely because the leaders at different levels and in institutions were the ones who gave us lists of Tutsis we had to kill. In January 1993, we had strikes of MRND members in almost all sectors of Musanze and at the end of the day, Tutsis would be killed.
On 1st October 1990, Inkotanyi attacked and Tutsis in Kibirira and Kayove cell were all killed “in re- venge.” It is unbelievable to hear people argue that the genocide had not been planned since 1959. We grew up with that hatred. And I will repeat this one more time, I wish I had known better.
Through different ministries and youth forums in different sectors, we were recruited and taken to Gako for military training. The training wasn’t about getting ready to protect the country but about killing the Tutsis.
Please stop denying that the genocide was planned. I do regret not having been born and raised in present-day Rwanda. One would confidently argue that the planning of the genocide started in 1959; we grew up in it. In 1994, the government simply gave us the means to do it more aggressively. It is so unfortunate. Harabaye ntihakabe.
Fast forward, when I came back from the DRC and saw how the government received us knowing all that we had done, I decided to contribute to the healing of the country by telling survivors what we had done and asking for forgiveness while encouraging other convicts to do the same.
We needed to tell families where they could find the bodies of their loved ones and tell the justice system who our accomplices were. I would also like to thank survivors for their forgiveness and strength, for I know the cross that they carry every day.”
Gacaca Convict Ndererimana Kayitani
“As soon as I understood the magnitude of the crimes I had committed, I felt hopeless and got seriously depressed because I thought that after that my entire family were going to suffer the consequences, and get destroyed. I thought that my children were not going to be able to stay in school. To my surprise [because of my ideology] every time they visited, they would tell me that all was well at home, that they lived in harmony with the neighbours and other fellow Rwandans. Those who had good grades were given presidential scholarships; they came back into the country and were given jobs in the government or were allowed to start-up businesses like all Rwandan children. I am proud to say that they are the ones covering all my expenses today.”
Gacaca convict Joseph Karorero
“To be honest, I am not standing here without shame. Like Karorero [fellow convict] just mentioned, he is the one who trained us through the group “Amahindure” at Byangabo. Before I say anything else, I would like to clarify one thing for the Rwandans gathered here and those in the streets close to this place: I did not kill Tutsis because President Habyarimana’s plane had been shot down. I say that with a sober mind. Habyarimana’s death isn’t the reason why I killed Tutsis.
“I grew up believing that Tutsis are bad people. My grandfather taught me this as I rolled his tobacco or put his tobacco in the pipe and sat next to him. I grew up with that ideology, so when I heard that people were teaching amahindure, I went to join the training. They also taught us that Tutsis were bad people, that they had attacked Rwanda. All I did was confirm indeed that they were bad people. Ignorance, lack of reflection and the belief that the Parmehutu Government would remain in power forever led me to think that my crimes would have no consequences and I started killing compatriots I lived with in Rwangeri.”
Gacaca convict Nteziyaremye Rugumire
“My village was in Nyabihu, a former Karago commune – a place which was also known as “mu kazu” where Habyarimana originated from. People from this commune had enjoyed privileges and oppressed others for many years. Moreover, the majority of the genocide masterminds originated from there. So, when people got to know that the RPF was about to liberate the country, everyone including those who had not participated in the killings fled and left the place. My mother, however, was paraplegic at the time and had to stay in the house alone. Knowing the love of a child for her mother, you will understand that my first stop was to go check on her. I was in tears when I found her alive and well.
I was curious to know how that was even possible. She told me that when Inkotanyi got to Karago, they established a camp not far from our house and checked every house for people who stayed behind, to know if they needed help; that was how they got to my mother’s house. When they mentioned to her that they were Inkotanyi, she told them that she was relieved that, at last, she was going to be killed by them rather than die of hunger. They told her that they were not there to kill her; but to rehabilitate her. Since that day, they would come to help her with the toilet, feed her, give her medications and take her out for sunlight. She was always surprised that every time she was out and rain threatened, a soldier would come in time to take her back inside. They never got tired of doing that.
This humanitarian spirit healed me from the toxic ideology of the Hutus-Tutsis-Twas divide, which I had been taught in school. It healed me from the inferiority and superiority complex of my Hutuness and made me embrace my Rwandan identity”
Hon. Marie Rose Mureshyankwano
“In one of the sectors of Musanze district, like everywhere across the country, some families had been designated to be beneficiaries of the Girinka programme, one of the homegrown solutions to im- prove nutrition and reduce poverty.
An observation was made that the families that should otherwise be happy to have milk for their children, manure to grow their crops, etc had rather refused to feed the cows and left them to die. When a survey was done to understand why they had refused to take care of the cows, the finding was that the families did not want to own cows because it is known to be a Tutsi thing and they were Hutus. They preferred to own and eat rats that were introduced by Belgians in the 80s known as Sous Mbirigi. These rats had been given to families with malnourished children as a source of proteins while eggs, fish and meat were consumed by the rich colonialists and their Rwandan counterparts at the time.
They say it was a Hutu government. But they were feeding their malnourished kids with sous mbirigi as a source of protein; so how was it a Hutu government when Hutus didn’t have a good life, except for a few of them who were in positions of power.”
Dr Abdallah Utumatwishima
“This [sous mbirigi] was the equivalent of programmes like Shisha Kibondo and Girinka that solve the same issue of malnutrition in a dignified way. But the people that refused to own cows wanted to keep Sous-Mbirigi as a source of protein (because they did not want to be Tutsis.)
Such things show you how the ideology that led to the genocide hold people captive for years and prevents them from embracing a programme that is designed to transform their livelihoods and afford them a dignified life.”
General James Kabarebe
“I have a son studying in China. It’s a wild dream I wouldn’t have had in my time as a student. Also, all my other children are in school. I get really tough on them when they fail a subject in school because I feel they have everything in place that sets them up for success, a chance most of us didn’t have. My son has opportunities that I was denied in the so-called Hutu government.
I really would like to urge parents, teachers and religious leaders to vigorously channel the energy that was used in the past to teach the genocide ideology (in homes, schools and churches) into positive energy; to teach our children the value of human life. We must teach the youth values that encourage them to stand by one another. We must also teach them our country’s history without twisting facts to ensure that what happened never happens again. Our children should inherit a peaceful and united country.”