People from across the City of Kigali gathered at Nyanza Hill in Kicukiro District on Tuesday to remember over 3,000 Tutsis abandoned by Belgian UN troops to be killed by Interahamwe militia and government soldiers.
The abandonment of refugees at Kicukiro is a symbol of failure by the United Nations to protect Tutsis during the Genocide.
When the Genocide began on 7 April 1994, thousands of Tutsis from Kicukiro sought refuge at former Kicukiro Technical School (ETO). The school was a base of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (Unamir) peacekeeping forces and the refugees thought that the forces would protect them.
However, following the killing of 10 Belgian peacekeepers who were part of the Unamir, Belgium decided to withdraw its troops from Rwanda. Regardless of the tension that had built up as Interahamwe surrounded ETO Kicukiro, the UN troops there got orders to leave.
Despite the pleas from the refugees at the school with the commander to stay and protect them from the Interahamwe militia and government soldiers, on 11 April 1994, the Belgian Unamir troops left ETO Kicukiro.
“We were shocked to see UN peacekeeping troops leaving people targeted by killers in danger. They abandoned us in time of need. That was an act of cowardice,” survivor Irene Rwizihirangabo said.
Almost instantly, Interahamwe militia and government soldiers entered the compound and took the refugees to Sonatubes where the Mayor of Kigali, Lt Col Tharcisse Renzaho, ordered that they should be taken to Nyanza Hill to be killed because Sonatubes was too visible.
“Under a heavy downpour, starved Tutsi were forced to march to Nyanza. Those too weak to march were killed on the way. When we arrived at Nyanza, our identification cards were checked before the killing began. The militia shot and threw grenades in the crowd before using machetes to finish off those who were still alive,” Rwizihirangabo said.
The next morning, when Interahamwe and genocidal government soldiers attempted to complete the slaughter, RPA soldiers stopped them and thus rescued close to 200 Tutsis who had survived.
Speaking at the commemoration, the Speaker of the lower chamber of Parliament, Donatille Mukabalisa, called on Rwandans to come together to support Genocide survivors and ensure that they are not alone.
“Those who left us to die taught us to value ourselves and depend primarily on our own means for solutions,” Mukabalisa said.
Nyanza-Kicukiro Genocide Memorial serves as the final resting place for over 11,000 victims of the Genocide. About 3,000 of them were killed on site while 8,000 were murdered in other parts of Kicukiro.