Surviving the Genocide: An Interview with Jean-Christophe Nizeyimana.


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DB: Can you comment of the recent release of former president Pasteur Bizimungu?

 

JCN:  Bizimungu is just like the situation with releasing those kids from prison.  Kagame said publicly it was for national reconciliation.  He made Bizimungu write a letter to apologize and ask for forgiveness.  Bizimungu had, in fact, already written a letter to Kagame earlier asking for clemency, but Kagame lied and said he never wrote such a letter.  It was not Kagame’s good will that released him.  Bizimungu is a finished man.  He is very sick and cannot do anything.  The way he was treated in prison…they will never let him leave Rwanda.  He knows too much.  They are afraid of what he will say.  He can’t apply for exile.  It’s incredible. 

 

What I see is Paul Kagame becoming god, in my own country.  Anything that happens must be ordered by him.  Only he has the power to let you survive.  This is why many prisoners are freed all at once, usually along with RPF infiltrators mixed in with them.  The infiltrators ask the prisoners about their crimes to find out who really killed who and report to military intelligence. 

 

DB: What was the reason he was released?

 

JCN: He went to prison on multiple charges.  After Bizimungu found out the real agenda of the RPF after Kibeho, he said, “I’m gone.  I’m going to found my own political party PDR-Ubuyanja (Party for Democratic Renewal).”  His party brought in many followers like Ntakirutinka.  Some of the party members were killed by the RPF and then Bizimungu was sent to prison to stop any attempt to create a serious opposition party to the RPF.  The RPF wanted to control the forum.  They had no use for all those political parties and Bizimungu’s party could have competed for the presidency.

 

DB: Is this also why former Speaker Sebarenzi was considered a threat?

 

JCN: Yes.  It was the same arrangement.  I think he left the country because he was considering joining that party, then he later founded a political party after he was in exile.

 

Back to the prison system…it’s unbelievable.   Every commune has two hundred RPF and Local Defense Forces.  They arrest any Hutu in the north they want.  After holding them for several days, they tell him he can go free, but first he must sign a document stating he killed Tutsi during the genocide.  He also must also name four Hutu and say they killed with him.  It can be any four Hutu; they don’t really care if they actually committed any crimes.  If you refuse, you stay in jail.  So for every one that is released, four go in jail.  When something happens to make the RPF look bad to the international community, they release most of these prisoners and say it is for national reconciliation to look good.1  Others are tried in gacaca.  All those prisoners have to say, “Oh yes, we killed Tutsis.”  Nobody wants to stay in those prisons.2  For five thousand Rwandan Francs, you can have somebody sign a paper accusing anybody you want of genocide.  Then that person is thrown in jail.  The Red Cross even knows about this system.  They kept lists of the prisoners they met with.  Every time they went back to those prisons, people on their list had disappeared.

 

You know Paul Wolfowitz, the World Bank’s President?3  He fooled everybody when he went to Rwanda.  People think the World Bank is going to help them, but Wolfowitz said he was proud of Rwanda and that the country was going well.  He was saying how prisoners working on the plantations are a good thing.  You can go to Butare, Kigali, more so in the north, you will see what those prisoners are doing.  As I said, they are forced to work on plantations owned by RPF leaders.  I found out also that foreign NGOs are using this labor force!  I know of some Belgian NGOs for sure.  There needs to be an investigation into this.  They use the cheapest kind of labor where you pay nothing and then the same NGOs ask for donations from their own countries to give to Rwandans!  They keep the money and they don’t need to pay their workers.  They even use these kids as labor and they will never go to school! 

 

They say gacaca is for the national reconciliation, but who is there on trial?  Only Hutus.  It doesn’t concern the Tutsis.  Who is a Hutu?  He is a genocidaire!  They are the only ones who committed genocide and yet so many Hutus died during the genocide as well.  Those who killed them now run the gacaca courts and at least seven hundred and fifty Hutu are added to gacaca every year. 

 

Imprisonment in Rwanda is a tool just like the genocide is a tool.  It is a tool to stay in power.  The RPF even said so.  After the genocide of 1994, the RPF told everyone to always be sure and talk about the genocide with everyone, especially foreigners, or else we will lose power in this country.

 

DB: Where did they say this?

 

JCN: Radio Muhabura.  It was January 1997 at 08:30 on a Sunday.  I don’t remember the date exactly but everybody knows about it.  You can ask people and they will tell you the RPF told everybody they must always talk about the genocide or else they are lost.  It was announced by Antoine Mugesera and Rutaramara.  They said, “We must portray ourselves as victims.”  We (Diaspora) know how many people really got killed.  We have the study from the University of Maryland.4   The RPF uses the genocide to ensure Hutu do not approach power.  They try to control everything.  When they took power, they renamed all the streets, reorganized the prefectures created provinces, and changed the spelling of many names.  They did this to confuse investigators and erase that history from the minds of the next generation of Rwandans.

 

DB: That’s ironic you should mention that last point because one individual I met in Rwanda laughed at the map of Kigali I had because all the streets were labeled wrong.  They were labeled with their old names. 

 

Moving on, one of the forgotten topics in the Great Lakes region is Burundi.  As you know, in the space of less than a year, Burundi lost two Hutu presidents to assassinations.  The first president who was assassinated, Melchior Ndadaye, was killed by the Armed Forces of Burundi (FAB) in Bujumbura.5

 

JCN: With the help of Paul Kagame.

 

DB:  That was precisely my line of questioning.  I have heard of such claims.  Can you comment on that?  Is there any truth to them?

 

JCN: Ok.  The reason I know that RPF was involved is because when Ndadaye was killed, I was, at that time, politically active.  My friends and I created the Ndadaye Foundation at the CEPGL headquarters in Gisenyi.  It was part of an administration that was in five countries including Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda.  After he was killed, we received some MPs (Members of Parliament) from Bujumbura who came to thank us for doing a great job because they really appreciated our unforgettable deeds.  We all respected Ndadaye because he was democratic and respected all ethnic groups.  He was working for his country and wanted to reunify Burundians.  Unfortunately, President Buyoya got a job from the European Union (EU).6  I don’t know why people supported him.

 

When President Ndadaye was elected, it could not be accepted by the RPF because a Hutu in power in Burundi, especially when Tutsi are trying to seize power in Rwanda… it could not happen.  It would cause turmoil in Rwanda.   That’s why they decided to kill President Ndadaye.  For the continuation of Tutsi rule in both countries.  The day he was killed, Paul Kagame was in Bujumbura.  I was told by the MPs who came to visit us in Gisenyi that he was there in a hotel where he spent his holiday.  During his stay, he met with the Chief of the Army, Bikomagu.

 

DB: And yet, if I recall correctly, Colonel Bikomagu was later acquitted for his role in the assassination.

 

JCN: Yea.  They set up everything just like with Gatabazi and Bucyana.

 

DB:  Does the Rwandan community believe the RPF was involved in the assassination?

 

JCN: Yes.  In fact, President Ndadaye had many supporters in Rwanda.  Thousands of people came to Gisenyi to support the foundation and I spoke to them.  I remember when I talked to them and they were so keen to support the foundation.  They supported people who wanted to bring democratic values to their countries.  Of course, we must remember also the other Burundian Hutu president, who was killed along with President Habyarimana.  His name was Cyprien Ntaryamira.  Then, you had President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya escape to the U.S. Embassy and come out of hiding after the coup by Buyoya.

 

DB: How are relations between Rwanda and Burundi today?

 

JCN: The relations are still good because the government does the will of Kagame. 

 

DB: Yet, current President Pierre Nkurunziza is a Hutu.

 

JCN: Yes, he’s a Hutu, but he is willing to leave him alone if he takes orders.  We know that the former Chairman of the FDD (National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Front for the Defense of Democracy) party was in Kigali supporting Paul Kagame officially.7  He was asked by Paul Kagame to remove some members of his party that did not agree with RPF policy in Burundi.  After he tried to do so, he got in trouble with some old MPs who removed him instead.  Today, he is in prison because he said four guys, including former President Ndayizeye,  were planning a coup, but it was not true and Ndayizeye was dismissed from the courts.8

 

DB: This is a broad topic, but the single most influential event in your country recently is probably the Brugière arrest warrant.  One thing…

 

JCN: Ok.  I just remembered.  The U.K. officer, the military officer who sent the fax to the U.N. was Colonel R.M. Connaughton of the British Army, based at Camberley,

Surrey in England, the home of the British Military Academy.  His name

and fax number appear at the top of the document.  It was sent to Maurice Baril at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in the U.N.  There was no cover letter explaining who sent it or why it was sent.  There was no document confirming that it was received and accepted by the U.N. ad hoc authorities.

 

DB: Ok.  Thank you.

 

JCN: You’re welcome.

 

DB: Ok.  When the arrest warrant came out, there were large protests in Rwanda.  What was behind all that?

 

JCN: The people were incited to demonstrate.  First of all, the Rwandan people knew nothing.  Most of them do not even know where the French embassy is.  Those people had to be brought there by buses and trucks.  Who paid for that?  Those poor people?  Who was angry with the French in the first place?  Kagame and the RPF-the real criminals-who asked everyone to demonstrate.  The demonstrators destroyed the French Embassy and the French Cultural Center.  Rwandans demonstrated once before when ICTR prosecutor Carla Del Pointe went there.  She was investigating RPF crimes also and wanted to try them at the ICTR.  Why is it that Rwandans are only demonstrating when an international person is doing something the RPF doesn’t like?

 

The way the country is run where people become so frustrated…they are in constant fear and terror.  They are terrorized because they must do whatever the RPF tells them.  During elections, people have to stand in line and vote one after another.  The way it works, you have to go and stand behind the box of the person you are voting for, so everybody knows it.  If you do not do this, your vote is lost and in some places, if you don’t vote RPF, the soldiers will ask you to go and vote again, this time for the RPF. 

 

In the same way, during demonstrations, you cannot stay at home because the abakada go to every house to see who is still at home.  Anyone who is at home is threatened, “We will remember you.”  Nobody can say no, yet most Rwandans who are protesting do not know who Brugière is at all. 

 

If the warrant was something that really had no basis, why does the RPF refuse to go and testify to clear their names?  Why does Paul Kagame refuse to testify?  He knows he has killed people.  Those nine people could go to a French judge and explain what they did, but they don’t.  Why not if they are innocent?

 

For the French, it was about the French crew members who died in the plane with Habyarimana.  When the Libyans shot that plane down years ago, Gaddafi turned over those who committed the crime.  Why doesn’t Paul Kagame do the same?  If the international community ever approaches him with criminal charges, he will threaten to use ordinary Rwandans who had nothing to do with it, like in these demonstrations.9

 

DB: In closing, I want to leave it open to you for any comments you may have about anything.  Is there anything at all you would like to say, any focused message you would like to give or something you want to add?

 

JCN: What I want to say concerns the attitude of the American and British administrations before, during, and after the massacres in my country.  The U.S. administration refused to intervene while Rwandans were getting killed.  The administration refused to investigate when the American tourists were killed in the Congo by the RPF.  The U.S. refused to investigate when Dian Fossey was killed.  Inquires should be taken seriously by the powerful democratic countries. 

 

They should try to help us so all Rwandans can finally be free.  There is no other way these nations can apologize to us for what happened other than by giving us freedom from these criminals.  We need justice.  To apologize to Rwandans, the international community must send the RPF to justice.  We cannot accept anything else.  I listen to how my kids talk about wanting to go to America, but at the same time, they are in exile because somebody in the White House helped the RPF kill their uncle and other people they loved.  It’s an embarrassing situation for me as a father.  It’s shameful and I get angry because I know the United States can still help us go home to a place where we won’t be killed or oppressed.  Paul Kagame is killing his own people, even today.  He’s killing and destroying everybody and now he’s blackmailing those who helped him, saying, “If you don’t do this for me, I’m going to tell everybody how you helped me take power,” or “If you don’t do this, I will do that.”  Please don’t wait for Paul Kagame to kill more people.  Now is the right time to listen to me as a Rwandan who honestly likes Americans.  Please help us so we can have a free country to organize a democratic society.  Rwandans will not cut ties with Americans after the RPF leaves.  We know so many of you were not told the truth about what happened in my country.  It is not the fault of the whole country, just those people in the administration who aided the RPF.

 

That’s it.  That’s what I wanted to say.  For me personally, I want to see my kids raised back home in Rwanda.  I want to see everybody’s kids grow up without being incriminated by what happened in 1994, or by what somebody says their parents did in 1994.  We have to respect each other and we have to respect our ethnicity.  We can’t be afraid of our neighbors.  We cannot live that way.  Please help those of us who can’t go back to help rebuild our country. We need support and it is possible.  Thank you very much.

 

David Barouski is an African Affairs researcher focused on Central Africa and a Political Science student at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.  He is a regular contributor to ZNet/ZMagazine.  His work has also appeared in Waheen Online, the Somaliland Times, Golis News, Congo Vision, and the Congo Panorama.  He authored the book, “Laurent Nkundabatware, his Rwandan Allies, and the ex-ANC Mutiny: Chronic Barriers to Lasting Peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” and he traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda in 2006.  He can be contacted at BarouD@hush.com.

 

Jean-Christophe Nizeyimana is a Rwandan national from the Jenda (Nyabihu District) of the former Ruhengeri Prefecture.  He holds a Master’s degree in Economics from Moscow University and is a former Professor at the High Institute of Management and Computing in Gisenyi.  He is the author of “A Compendium of RPF Crimes,” “Hutus: Victims of Verbal Indoctrination,” and several other articles available at info-Burundi.net.  He currently lives in exile.

 

 

Footnotes

 

1 Note: One fairly recent example of this occurred in January 2007, when the Ministry of Justice released eight thousand prisoners.  (“Rwanda Announces Upcoming Release of 8,000 Prisoners,” Hirondelle News Agency.  25 January 2007.)

 

2 Note:  Hundreds of Rwandans fled the gacaca courts for the Congo during the first two weeks April 2007.   In June 2005, nearly ten thousand Rwandans fled to Burundi for the same reason.  (“Hundreds of People Fleeing the Gacaca Tribunal Towards the RDC,” Hirondelle News Agency.  17 April 2007.)

 

3 Note: At the time this interview was conducted, Mr. Wolfowitz had not yet resigned from the World Bank.

 

4 “Rwanda 1994: More than Genocide.”  Christian Davenport, Allan Stam.  University of Maryland.  http://www.umd.edu/features/rwanda.html; http://www.geodynamics.com.

 

5 Note: President Melchior Ndadaye was assassinated at the Muha Barracks by Tutsi Armed Forces of Burundi (FAB) soldiers from the 11th Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and the 1st and 2nd Parachute Battalions (led by Chief-of-Staff Colonel Jean Bikomagu and former Burundian President, Colonel Jean-Baptiste Bagaza) on 20 October 1993.  Journalist Charles Onana uncovered documents from the International Christian Democrat stating they were warned on 18th October about the coup attempt and informed them General Paul Kagame was in Bujumbura travelling on a Burundian passport during the days leading up to the assassination.  He reportedly met with outgoing President Pierre Buyoya and blessed the coup.  Paul Baril was hired to investigate the coup threats and he reportedly concluded the RPA was actively involved.  However, as a French mercenary involved in Operation Turquoise, Mr. Baril’s potential bias against the RPA should be noted.  (Onana, Charles.  “Les Secrets de la Justice Internationale.”  English Translation.  Paris, France: Editions Duboiris.  2005;  Brugière, Jean-Louis.  “The Report by French Anti-Terrorist Judge Jean-Louis Brugière on the Shooting Down of Rwandan President Habyarimana’s Plane on 6 April 1994.”  Article 45.  English Translation.  17 November 2006.)

 

6 Note: Mr. Buyoya, a Hima, became Burundi‘s President again in 1996.  He received his military training in Europe and he is now a visiting fellow at Brown University in Rhode Island, U.S.A.  The term “Hima” in this context, refers to a sub-group of Tutsi hailing from Southern Burundi.

 

7 Note: Shortly after Rwanda severed ties with France following the release of Judge Brugière’s arrest warrants, Chairman Rajab Hussein visited President Kagame at Village Urugwiro and told him, “I am here to assure the President of our government’s support at this time when relations (between Rwanda and France) are not good.”  (“Burundi backs Rwanda on France,” Robert Mukombozi.  The New Times.  30 November 2006.)

 

8 Note: In late August 2006, former Hutu President Domitien Ndayizeye was arrested by the Burundian Government and charged with plotting a coup that included a plan to assassinate President Nkurunziza, the Secret Service Chief, and several military officials.  Some of the journalists and radio personalities who reported on his detention were accosted and thrown into jail on claims they were threatening public order.  Suspected rebel leader Alain Mugabarabona said he was tortured by the Documentation Nationale (Burundi‘s Presidential Guard and police force) and forced to implicate Mr. Ndayizeye in the plot.  (“Burundi‘s Ex-President in Court,” BBC News.  25 August 2006.)

 

The case took an interesting turn in late December 2006 when prosecutor Gaudence Ndayizeye said D. Ndayizeye and Mr. Mugabarabona met with General Laurent Nkundabatware, General James Kabarebe, and General Salim Saleh to plan the coup.  He called the group the “Club of Kampala” and said their aim was to get a sympathetic rebel group in power (led by Mugabarabona) that would allow Burundi to be used as a rear base for General Nkundabatware to attack the Congo with the help of Rwanda and Uganda.  (“Guerre à l’Est : Voici Comment est Aidé Nkunda pour Attaquer la RDC : Révélation sur un Réquisitoire,” DigitalCongo 3.0.  English Translation.  23 December 2006.  http://www.digitalcongo.net/article/39809.)  Rwandan military officials denounced the allegations as unfounded and baseless.

 

Burundi’s Tutsi Minister of Defense General Germain Niyoyankana denied there was ever any coup plot and  claimed the Army’s intelligence division had neither received nor observed any indications of such a plot.  In the end, Mr. Ndayizeye, former Vice President Alphonse Marie Kadege, FAB officer Damien Ndarisigaranye, lawyer Isidore Ruyikri, and politician Deo Niyonzima were acquitted of all charges on 15 January 2007.  Mr. Mugabarabona was sentenced to 20 years and Tharcisse Ndayishimiye, who admitted attending meetings with the accused, was sentenced to 15 years.

 

9 Note: The ICTR ruled they have no jurisdiction to try President Kagame and other RPF/RPA officials accused of committing crimes in 1994.  The Rwandan Government has asked the International Court of Justice to overturn the warrant.  In particular, General Charles Kayonga and General Jack (Jackson) Nkurunziza (Nziza) claim the warrant has restricted them to the point they can no longer carry on the duties their respective jobs require.  That trial has been delayed until September.

 

 

 

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