Among the wounds of genocide that Rwanda has borne for the past 20 years is the untried cases of Burundian Hutu militia who were involved in killing Rwandan Tutsis during the 1994 genocide.
The killers are alleged to have fuelled the Genocide against the Tutsi and carried out several attacks on Congolese of Rwandan descent, commonly known as Banyamulenge.
Survivors are now demanding that the United Nations and other international actors address the issue by bringing to book the culprits, some of whom they say are known.
Even though it is clear that Rwandans started killing each other after the plane carrying then Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart were shot down at Kigali airport, what could have been the reason for Burundians to get involved in the Genocide against the Tutsi is a mystery.
The role of Burundians and some of their officials getting involved in the killings is one of the issues that has not been addressed, even amidst testimonies of some survivors carrying the painful memories of the genocide.
Cases of places where Burundians were involved in the genocide in the Mayaga area, which includes parts of current Bugesera District, and Ntongwe and Kinazi in Ruhango, Mugina in Kamonyi and all over Southern Province, especially in districts near the Burundi border.
During the 20th commemoration of genocide in Kinazi Sector, Southern Province, touching testimonies of survivors moved the mourners as they recounted most shocking tales of how the Burundian Hutu militias crossed the border to aid the Rwandan Hutu extremists in the killings.
A survivor said when the genocide started it was massacres like anywhere else but when the Burundians joined in, they did not only fuel the killings but also taught Rwandan militias to kill and eat the hearts of their victims.
“The worst thing that happened was that the Rwandan officials who planned the genocide brought in the Burundian refugees to Nyagahamba, which is nearby, and what they did was horrible – not only teaching Rwandans how to kill but even worse,” said Sam Dusabiyumva at the Kwibuka Flame Tour in Kinazi.
Pursue the suspects
The survivors have over the past 20 years demanded that the government pursues the suspects, who are now in Burundi and around the region.
The Speaker of the Rwanda Senate, Dr Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo, says that the pleas of survivors have, indeed, been presented many times and the government will look into the possibilities of seeking justice.
According to Mr Dusabiyumva, the killings started from places near the border – such as Gitovu, Rutabo and Nyarurama – and that there were deadly attacks on Tutsis as early as 1992 in Bugesera.
‘Kill and teach others to do it’
“The Burundians had everything they needed to do the killing in Rwanda,” Mr Dusabiyumva said. “They had done it in their country and they were free to live here without question and do it again. They were equipped with weapons and were idle, so all they did was to kill and teach others to do it.”
Mr Dusabiyumva said one of the leaders was behind the killings and that he is still in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), adding: “We know that, and he has not faced justice.”
He said the massacre was systematic because the killers herded people into designated killing grounds in Nyamukoma, Ruhango District, with full knowledge and connivance of local leaders, who duped the fleeing Tutsis into seeking refuge there.
Ntaganira Wellars, also a survivor of Mayaga, recalled a Burundian master killer who was trained to use his bare hands to pluck a heart of a human being.
“It is the Burundians who taught Rwandans how to do the most evil things during the genocide,” he said. “This man would literally uproot a heart and they would roast it on a pike and eat it.”
The National Prosecutor-General says the fact that some Burundians committed genocide in Rwanda is a concern for the National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) and that allegations of Burundian perpetrators of genocide persist.
“NPPA is steadfast in its commitment to pursue suspects anywhere in the world to ensure justice is done,” said Mr Muhumuza. “However, we cannot pursue suspects without knowing their identities.
“Anyone with information on the identities of the Burundian suspects should give the information to us, upon which we will undertake rigorous investigations and pursue extradition or foreign prosecution.”
Many of the genocide survivors believe that the suspects are living in Burundi and DRC, although some of them, especially the rich ones, have managed to flee to Western countries.
On the night of August 13, 2004, a refugee camp in Gatumba was the scene of one of the bloodiest civilian massacres in recent years when Hutu militia from Burundi, with the help of Congolese, killed Banyamulenge.
Recognise the massacre
Survivors say the camp had two sections separated by the colour of the tents; the first was occupied by Banyamulenge and some Bambembe families while the other housed Bafulero and Burundian refugees. The attackers targeted the part that had Banyamulenge, they added.
One of the survivors, Saraphine Gasose, said the attacks started at 10pm and lasted for about two hours, leaving mutilated bodies, many of them burnt, scattered throughout the camp.
“We were asleep in the tent when we heard gunshots. My young sister and brother were shot and died on the spot,” said Ms Gasose, adding that the killers were beating war drums as their colleagues shot, burnt and slaughtered the refugees.
The leader of the Banyamulenge community in Rwanda, Dieudonné Mikuba, insists that the Burundian and DRC governments and the UN should recognise the massacre as genocide, prosecute those who participated in the massacre and repatriate Banyamulenge refugees who are scattered all over the world.
Will not give up
At the ninth commemoration of the massacre, held in Muhanga District, Mr Mikuba said: “We have petitioned the Congolese government and the UN to apprehend the suspects and the most painful part is that nothing has been done to the self-confessed suspects who massacred our people.”
He nonetheless added that, even though there has been no action or response to their plight, the Banyamulenge were not about to give up on their pursuit for justice and he was hopeful that one day the world will listen to their cry and bring the suspects to book.