Defence Minister James Kabarebe has hailed the courage, bravery and heroism of the people of Bisesero who put up the toughest resistance against Interahamwe during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Minister Kabarebe was speaking in Karongi District on Monday as genocide survivors, residents and Rwandans from across the country came together to honour the memories of over 50,000 Tutsi killed in Bisesero.
During the Genocide, Bisesero became a battlefield as Tutsis tried to defend themselves against the Interahamwe militia. Armed with mainly stones, spears and other traditional weapons, Tutsis managed to hold back the killers for several months until the militia received reinforcements from soldiers, gendarmes, policemen and more militias from other parts of the country such as Cyangugu, Ruhengeri and Gisenyi finally quelled their fighting spirit, Eric Nzabihimana, a survivor testified.
On 13 and 14 May a massive attack was launched that left thousands dead, but survivors kept fighting for their lives. Between 27 and 30 May, more attacks were carried out claiming thousands more.
Kabarebe pointed out that the tale of the Bisesero resistance has become a symbol of fearlessness, determination and heroism of the people who used stones and sticks against guns and machetes.
A memorial that stands at the hill depicts the perilous walk that Tutsi underwent in their battle for survival.
“Bisesero memorial site is an indelible symbol of the massacres of Tutsi here and will remain as an everlasting reminder of the heroism and resistance of the people who had fled on these hills,” the Defence Minister said.
He said that commemorating the Genocide is an occasion to pay respect to its victims and an opportunity to look back at where Rwanda came from, where it stands today, where it is heading.
“The Bisesero resistance reminds us that those who planned and executed the Genocide were defeated by courageous Rwandans who fearlessly stood up to build a new Rwanda,” Minister Kabarebe said.
The Defence Minister further pledged his support to survivors in order to help them improve their wellbeing and called for concerted efforts in fighting Genocide denial.
Also known as the Memorial of Resistance, Bisesero Genocide Memorial serves as the final resting place for over 60,000 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
In May 1994, residents from neighbouring areas took refuge at Bisesero. As Interahamwe kept on hunting down and killing Tutsis, thousands trekked from miles away to take refuge at Bisesero.
As the killings drew by, Bisesero residents had organised a resistance to fight back. They had refused to succumb to Interahamwe militia. Bisesero residents were put to a tactical preparation to fight back anyone who had come to attack the village. They took strategic cover on top of a hill called Muyira where they could spot the militia.
On 13 May, upon knowledge that Bisesero residents had organised a resistance, Interahamwe mobilised Heavy Artillery. Many survived the first attack. They stayed in hiding until 13 June when French soldiers came to Bisesero, claiming that their intention was keeping people safe and stopping the Genocide.
After the French arrival, hundreds of residents came out of hiding seeking help from them. Not long after the French had left the area, Interahamwe came back to finish what they had started. On 30 June, the French came back only to find almost everyone slaughtered.