Surviving the Genocide: An Interview with Jean-Christophe Nizeyimana.
Surviving the Genocide: An Interview with Jean-Christophe Nizeyimana.
"I have been through Hell, have known horror, and now that I have escaped, I want to testify in the name of all the men and women who did not have my luck and who died in Hell." - Marie BÃ©atrice Umutesi. ("Surviving the Slaughter."
On the night of 27 June 2006, it was warm and dry in
I strolled casually past the front desk and the internet cafÃ© connected to the hotel. Behind the front desk on the bleach white wall hung a framed official presidential picture of Paul Kagame. Sometimes, I got a strange and irrational sensation the picture itself was watching me as I would walk by. I later learned every business in
As I stepped outside the hotel, I immediately turned around to face the hotel, which was opposite the street. Hotel Okapi is a relatively small hotel near the city center next to a plot of land that was boarded off by wooden planks because it was designated to be the site of a new housing complex, one of many already under construction all over the city. Behind the wooden planks was a labyrinth maze of mud homes with aluminum foil roofs where the poorest people that I encountered in the city lived. They all resided on the bottom of the hills that slope away from the city.
I made my call and began talking, oblivious to the environment around me. The streets of
As I spoke on the phone, I casually noticed a small red dot appear on the wooden posts. It wasn't long before it began moving around erratically. It reminded me of those low-power laser pens and key-chains I have seen in the United States (U.S.). Sometimes, young kids use them to drive their teachers crazy in school (but not me of course). Some university professors in the
I continued conversing for a few minutes before I finally turned around to face the street. After I finished turning around, I lifted my gaze and stiffened instantly. Directly across the street in front of me was a black Toyota Landcruiser without any license plates. All its windows were tinted black. I knew instantly it was a government vehicle from the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI). I quickly shifted my eyes to glance from left to right without turning my head to see if there was anybody else around. A quick survey revealed the street was completely vacant. No one came running out of the shadows to ambush me. I was alone in a standoff with the vehicle's occupants.
Then, from the passenger-side window facing me (the left-hand side of the vehicle facing the front of the jeep), the same red laser beam shined out brightly and quickly swept across my eyes, blinding me very briefly. It was in that moment I realized it wasn't my imagination after all. The laser rotated back around and settled squarely on my sternum right where my heart is. It held there steadily in position for several long seconds, and then it blinked out of existence.
Suspecting the situation might escalate dramatically if I tried to run away; I kept talking in a normal tone of voice on the phone and did not alert the caller for the time being. I paced back and forth outside the front of the hotel for a few more minutes while keeping a watchful eye on the vehicle. The laser did not appear again and the vehicle had both its engine and headlights turned off. The vehicle's occupants did not make any moves.
I hung up the phone and walked back into the hotel at a normal pace past the front desk and sat down in the dining room at the back of the hotel for several minutes to try and absorb what had just happened. Meanwhile, nobody working at the front desk, in the restaurant, or the internet cafÃ© said a single word to me the entire time. It was like nothing ever happened. I did not see anyone particularly suspicious in the hotel at the time nor did I hear the vehicle drive off quickly with screeching tires. I slowly went back by the front door and peered outside. The vehicle was gone. It slipped off quietly into the night and I did not see it again that night.
Afterwards, I refused to flee the country. Roughly a week after this incident, I attended the Liberation Day ceremony at Amahoro Stadium on 4 July 2006, where President Kagame came and made his annual speech to the crowd. As was to be expected, the Presidential Guard was stationed at the stadium's entrances to screen everybody before allowing them passage inside. Their weapons reminded me of the CAR-15s some U.S. Special Forces units used to use. Unmistakably mounted on each Presidential Guard's rifle was a laser-sighted scope.
Though I was only in
Chris is a survivor in every sense of the word. Not only did he survive several RPF massacres carried out in the north of his country in 1993-1994, he also survived the Zairian2 refugee camps near Goma and in Mugunga and is an eyewitness to the horrendous crimes committed in the RPF-controlled zone. Though he is originally from the Jenda (Nyabihu District) of the
Chris has two general themes in this interview. One is a harrowing personal account of the things he experienced and witnessed in
He implores the international community to uphold the standards of law and prosecute all those who have committed grave criminal acts against humanity in
Lastly, Chris wants this interview to serve as a memorial to all the forgotten victims of the RPF's crimes and dedicates this testimony in their beloved memory, particularly the many members of his family that were lost. Contrary to popular media depictions, it was not just the Tutsi who lost everything in the genocide. Untold thousands of innocent Hutu and Tutsi were victims of the horrendous violence that engulfed
I would like to dedicate my efforts in this endeavor not only to all the innocent Rwandan, Congolese, Burundian, Ugandan, and Tanzanian victims, but also to Chris for his bravery in coming forward with his story and his humbleness in sharing such trauma openly with me. A special thank you also goes out to A.F. and T.H. Hopefully I will be able to thank you properly someday.
The following interview is a transcript of a four-hour interview recorded in early May 2007. It was supplemented with clarification questions delivered through several subsequent correspondences with Mr. Nizeyimana. Since English is not Mr. Nizeyimana's first language, I changed some verb tenses and the plurality of certain words to make the manuscript more readable. Therefore, the transcript is not verbatim. Mr. Nizeyimana reviewed and approved the final draft to ensure the intended meaning of all his words was intact and the native Kinyarwandan words and names were spelled correctly. It is also important for the reader to understand the RPF changed the names of the prefectures, communes, cells, districts, and streets across most of the country. Chris has deliberately chosen to use the old names so as not to confuse anyone who decides to investigate his claims.
2. The Testimony of Jean-Christophe Nizeyimana.
David Barouski (DB): I'm going start from the beginning and try to progress chronologically. I'd like to start at the beginning of the Rwandan War (1990-1993). In 1990, when the RPF invaded
Jean-Christophe Nizeyimana (JCN): Tutsi first fled the country in 1959 to
So, in 1979, a political party was formed by the Tutsi in exile.6 Most of the members were in (Yoweri) Museveni's administration in
After Museveni took power, he promised he would help the Tutsis take back
The aggression officially started on October 1st, 1990, in the north of my country near the region I was born, where
DB: So it was covering up the illegality of the war, the fact members of the Ugandan army had defected and were invading a sovereign nation.
JCN: Exactly. Exactly. What was important, the RPF had to plan something like this carefully. It had to be labeled a civil war. If it was about foreign countries, a war between foreign aggressors and Rwandans, it was going to be really difficult to say Hutu extremists planned the genocide in advance. That's why, for the RPF, the genocide was planned at the beginning the war. They started by admonishing and prejudicing Hutus through their propaganda. They used all kinds of harsh words to create a rift between Hutu and Tutsi while also dividing the north and south of the country as part of their main strategy.
DB: Are you saying you believe the RPF planned to incite genocide and began to do so back when they invaded in 1990?
JCN: Yes, because the final aggression that started on April 6th was the final attack, but since the beginning, they had planned to seize power and in order to seize power it was not in their interest to join a transitional government because they would eventually lose the elections anyway. Imagine any country, anywhere you go, the
When the aggression started, the RPF told the world they wanted to bring back democracy to
DB: Do you know who specifically was financing the RPF in the beginning, regardless of if they are foreign nationals or Rwandans?
DB: When did he say this?
JCN: Before the 6th of April. It was incredible to hear that. As a
To get an idea of the scope of the war, it is very easy to get information and details in
DB: So they fought along with the RPF? What year did this happen?
JCN: Just after the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana, on April 6th, 1994, when the final aggression was launched. There were Somalis, Ethiopians, Eritreans, South Sudanese, you know, and also there were soldiers from the Burundian Army under the command of Colonel Bikomagu attacking from the south of Rwanda and Tanzanian soldiers were occupying part of the eastern region of Rwanda.13 You remember that the Tanzanians fought with Museveni to get rid of Idi Amin.14 Yet, the campaign was still to talk about civil war in Rwanda, which was not true.
DB: So Somali fighters were helping the RPF?
JCN: Yes, and as I said before, many of them are still there. Also, some are back in
DB: Let me ask you this. Now, as you probably know, the
JCN: That's not true.
DB: You don't believe that at all?
JCN: No, I don't believe that because the people who said that are the same people who supported the RPF through financial aid and military support, the same ones who said they had no interest in the region. When President Clinton decided not to send help to
DB: Do you believe they (Clinton Administration) purposefully decided not to intervene in
JCN: Yes, but not because it was like you explained to me. A peacekeeping force meant an end to hostilities against Tutsi civilians and thus the RPF rebels could not seize power by force because they told the world they were fighting to stop Hutus from killing Tutsis. There is no denying that after they (Americans) refused to intervene, they aided the RPF by using mass media committed to copying and pasting the same chosen images and the same information to support Paul Kagame as he was fighting "to stop the genocide" perpetrated by Hutu militias or "extremists" as the press called them.
DB: When the genocide broke out, there were people in the Security Council who said, you know, we need... General Dallaire was asking for five thousand five hundred troops, I believe. After a number of delays by the
JCN: That's what Kagame said.
JCN: I remember. But also remember that, at that time, we had the so-called "La Baule" meeting where French President FranÃ§ois Mitterrand asked African nations to accept democratic values. This demand also went to President Habyarimana and
DB: Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh.
JCN: Yes, Jacques Roger Booh-Booh tried to be neutral in the conflict. He tried to get a ceasefire, but at the same time, General Romeo Dallaire did whatever he could to hide RPF operations during the calm period right after the Arusha Accords were signed. Ongoing killings and awful massacres committed by the RPF in the north were not reported to the international community and no investigation ever started by UNAMIR was finished. The RPF continued its preparations for war in the demilitarized zone whereas strict controls were enforced in the government zone.
DB: If I can back up a bit, you mentioned the propaganda war the RPF started in the late 1980s. Can you provide details on how this worked?
JCN: Well, the radio broadcast into Rwandan territory while the newspapers and magazines were printed in
DB: Were they were in civilian clothes?
JCN: Yes and other infiltrators were, of course, hiding inside the Parliament building where nobody else was allowed to go in. There was no control at all; no mechanisms in place to allow both parties equal rights to check each other's positions. What is very dramatic is that only the Rwandan Government was checked for violations of the Accords. We can't forget that the U.N. was supposed to come to
DB: That's quite a claim. How could you say that?
JCN: The Bangladeshi and Ghanaian representatives who were there can always testify to what I say.
DB: The UNAMIR soldiers?
JCN: Yes. They described how RPF military officers always held meetings with Mr. Dallaire.
DB: Were they private meetings?
JCN: They were at UNAMIR headquarters and the RPF used the HQs for their own military means.
DB: What was said at these meetings?
JCN: They shared maps so the RPF would know exactly where Rwandan Government soldiers were positioned in the country. It was to keep track of their movements. Always after such meetings, there were attacks on the Rwandan Government's side of the demilitarized zone by the RPF attachment, the one inside the FAR (Armed Forces of Rwanda) zone. It was very easy for the RPF because there were different units-including UNAMIR-that had to go and check both sides for violations of the Arusha Accords. However, instead of doing their job, they gathered information to give to the RPF.
DB: Let me be clear, you're saying that General Dallaire frequently shared military intelligence with RPF officers?
DB: Which RPF officers did he meet with?
JCN: There were many different people, but I can mention Charles Kayonga. That one I know for sure because he commanded the RPF Advance Military Division stationed at the
DB: Why would General Dallaire do such a thing?
JCN: Because it was his commitment. His reasons are known by those who financially and militarily supported the RPF. He was committed to this because he was sent by the French-Canadian Government, the
DB: Did General Dallaire know the genocide was going to happen?
JCN: As part of a pre-arranged agenda, he knew he had to talk about plans for mass killings of Tutsis before the genocide started so that the RPF could seize power in
Many people remember General Dallaire said he had information a genocide was being planned according to a controversial fax he said he sent to U.N. headquarters. Later, that fax could not be found anywhere. It was a lie when he said he sent a fax to the U.N, he knew there was no fax. The Canadian Government adopted a strategy of protecting him from prosecution when he became a Canadian senator. If you need more information about that, please read the findings of Cameroonian journalist Charles Onana. Let me say again, Romeo Dallaire never sent that fax to the U.N.
DB: That fax, they called it "The Genocide Fax," and a copy of it was later sent over to a reporter at the New Yorker named Phillip Gourevitch. He wrote a number of articles on it and it really launched his career. He got a book deal out of it.
JCN: Yeah, I remember the name. He was the only public person at the time to have the information on the fax!23
DB: The person who gave the information contained the fax, which talked about Hutu militias' plans to kill Tutsis and Belgian peacekeepers, was an acquaintance of Faustin Twagiramungu,24 correct?
JCN: He was an RPF infiltrator by the name of Jean-Pierre Turatsinze.25
DB: Yea, that's the name I have too. What can you tell me about him?
JCN: The guy was Twagiramungu's informant. Faustin Twagiramungu had no idea the guy was working for the RPF. The informant told him Interahamwe26 are going to kill Tutsi. He said that he was one of the core members of the Interahamwe youth organization of the MRND (National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development),27 so he knew about everything they were planning. He said he knew the ruling government was going to kill Tutsis and I believe, according to Twagiramungu´s statement, the reality was that this wasn't true. He was being manipulated by the RPF.
After that, people found out Dallaire did not send that fax. It was actually sent by a military officer from the
DB: Do you know his name?
JCN: I cannot tell you right now, but I will find it.
DB: So was Mr. Turatsinze an Interahamwe or was he an RPF infiltrator?
JCN: Obviously, he was an infiltrator. He was not working for the MRND. He tried to convince Twagiramungu that he was not just an ordinary militia member, but a well-informed and high-ranking member. Twagiramungu himself said he was manipulated by this man. Why did the informant come forward at a time the country was talking about adopting democratic values and ending the war? Once the fax was sent, nobody was talking about the peace process. It was about the preparations for genocide now. The information in the fax changed the focus of the international community, it disrupted the peace process. Since Mr. Turatsinze was an infiltrator, he was killed by the RPF after he talked to Twagiramungu because he knew too much information and his job was finished. As you yourself know, the RPF kills people who know too much information when they are done using them. This is Paul Kagame's policy.
DB: Sorry, but I have to back up a bit. We were talking about those people from the Horn of Africa.
JCN: The Ethiopians, Somalis, Eritreans...
DB: Yea. How did that relationship come about with the RPF? Is there a cultural or ethnic link to the Tutsi refugees in
JCN: People say all of them, Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Tutsi came from the same Hamitic race. However, pro-RPF philosophers argue that there are no Bantu, Hamitic, or Nilotic races. The point of this philosophy is to say there are no ethnic groups in
DB: Now, I have to back up even farther now, to 1990. In 1990, Paul Kagame was not leading the RPF when they first came into your country. It was General Fred Rwigema. Did Rwandans know Paul Kagame was in the
JCN: Ok. At the beginning of the war in 1990, Rwandans heard on the radio that the RPF was headed by Rwigema. After about the 4th of October, he was killed and they said that he was replaced by Paul Kagame, who was in the
DB: Why was that?
JCN: Because they knew him as a criminal. Referring to his background as the chief of
Also as I said before, when Kagame returned to
DB: Do you personally believe there was a genocide?
JCN: I believe, I still believe that the RPF planned for mass killings of civilians and they also planned to kill many Hutu in
DB: With respect, let me ask you this. Do you believe or do you deny the Rwandan Armed Forces, militia like the Interahamwe, and members of the gendarmes killed thousands of Tutsi?
JCN: I believe Interahamwe were involved in the killing of many innocent Tutsi and also some Hutu for political reasons. At the same time, like I told you, and everybody knows, the numbers of Tutsi killed does not correspond with the numbers given by the RPF Government. This is Kagame's scenario. After the U.N. gave their figures on the number of people killed, the RPF said they would have their own investigation and then they gave their own numbers.
First of all, I should tell you that very few estimates were given. The U.N. said from 100,000 to 500,000 total were killed and independent organizations like some NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) said 250,000 were killed. Then the RPF gave its own number and said about 800,000 Tutsis were killed, a number that was widely broadcasted in the
What I have just said, I am very confident in. The RPF will never investigate. The RPF will never accept an independent investigation and they want us to take this as an axiom. I know this one hundred percent. If anyone believes what I am saying is not true, let's go and open an investigation! Let's use DNA to find out what really happened to my people, to other people, to my fellow citizens! DNA was used in
Against conventional wisdom, I believe that the victims of this violence were fairly evenly distributed between Hutu and Tutsi, taking into account the total percentage of each ethnic group. According to some estimates, the majority of the victims may even have been Hutu. There is widely accepted demographic data showing that there simply wasn't a large enough number of Tutsi living in Rwanda at the time to account for all the reported deaths.29 Definitive numbers aren't possible because the death tolls vary so much. The world has not yet confronted the true scale of Hutu deaths from 1990 to1994, and from 1995 up to now beginning with the Kibeho massacre in 1995, and including the 1996, 1997 and 1998 massacres of returning refugees, which totaled about three and a half million deaths.
1 Note: Ibuka is a Kinyarwandan word meaning "remember." It is the name of a government-run organization for Tutsi survivors of the genocide. They were the organization that concluded 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the 1994 genocide.
2 Note: In 1996, President Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko was still in power. Zaire was renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by Laurent Kabila in 1997 after his rebel army, the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL-CZ) and the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) overthrew him.
3 Note: A prefecture is equivalent to a province in organization level. The
4 Note: The RPA is the armed wing of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The RPF refers to the political party. However, for simplicity, the RPF is used to refer to both the political party and the armed wing (RPA) in the majority of this interview.
5 Note: When
6 Note: The party was called the Rwandese Alliance for National Unity (RANU). RANU transformed into the RPF in 1987.
7 Note: The NRM is a political party founded by current Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni as opposition to (then) President Milton Obote's Ugandan People's Congress (UPC). Mr. Museveni served as President Obote's Minister of Defense before founding the NRM and launching the Luwero Bush War against him in 1980. President Museveni is a Hima from
8 Note: Tutsi refugees in
9 Note: In 1989, Mr. Cohen also told President Habyarimana the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) did not possess any intelligence that the RPA was planning to attack
10 Note: Chris' website can be found at http://members.lycos.co.uk/hutusurvivors/.
11 Note: From August of 1988 to June of 1991, Robert Houdek was the U.S. Ambassador to
12 "Kagame, Officials Alleged to Have Al-Qaeda Ties," Periscope Daily Defense News Capsules. 11 September 2002.
13 Note: The Tanzanian People's Defense Force (TPDF) still has ties with the Rwandan military. In September 2006, Forty-five members of the Staff and Command College in Monduli, Tanzania (led by General F.N. Ulomi) visited Rwanda for seven days and met with General James Kabarebe (Chief of Staff), General Richard Rutatina (Chief of Training, Operations, and Planning) and General Kagame. They signed an agreement to allow Rwandan soldiers to attend the Monduli school. ("Tz Military Team Visits," Staff Reporter. The New Times. 5 September 2006; "RDF for Training in Tz," Edwin Musoni. The New Times. 11 September 2006.)
14 Note: Please refer to footnote #8.
15 Note: General Saleh acted as a military advisor to the RPA from the very beginning of the Rwandan War. In 1990, he was stationed in Mbarara, Southwestern Uganda, but he relocated to the
General Saleh remained in Uganda while the RPA made its final push into Kigali, but (then) Lieutenant Colonel Walter Ochora, a former Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) fighter (and later the Local Council [LC]-5 of the Gulu District), commanded a unit of former UNLA soldiers that fought in the final battle for Kigali alongside the RPA. (Private Correspondence. 2006.)
16 Ferroggiaro, William. "The
17 Note: See http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/pdd25.htm for the full text.
18 Power, Samantha. "Bystanders to Genocide." The Atlantic Monthly. September 2001.
19 "Rwandan Rebels 'Will Treat UN Troops as Foes'," The Herald. 18 May 1994; Dallaire, General RomÃ©o, Beardsley, Major Brent. "Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanitity in
20 Note: Pro-RPF newspapers and magazines included L'Ere de Liberte¸ Le Messager, Umuturaga, Ijambo, Kanguka, Rwanda Rushya, Congo Nil, Impuruza, Isibo, Inkotanyi, Intego, Avante Garde, Le Patriote, Huguka, Umulinzi, and Le Flambeau.
21 Note: Mulindi was an old colonial tea plantation located 60 kilometers north of
22 Philpot, Robin. "
Note: U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda Robert Flaten (December 1990-November 1993) testified at the ICTR that he also did not believe the genocide was planned. ("Former U.S. Ambassador Testifies in Genocide Trial," Hirondelle News Agency. 30 June 2005.)
23 Note: Mr. Gourevitch received the fax from Mr. Jamie Rubin, who was U.N. Ambassador Madeline Albright's press attachÃ© at the time. At the same time, Mr. Gourevitch was also dating Mr. Rubin's sister. ("An Open Letter to Phillip Gourevitch," Robin Philpot. Counterpunch. 7 June 2003. http://www.counterpunch.org/philpot06072003.html.) Interestingly, Lieutenant Colonel Tony Marley, the U.S. State Department's Political Advisor from 1992-1995, said he questioned the accuracy of the information contained in the fax because the State Department had reportedly received unfulfilled warnings of an impending genocide since 1992. ("The Triumph of Evil - Interview: Tony Marley." Frontline. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). WGBH Educational Foundation,
24 Note: Mr. Twagiramungu was the Hutu Prime Minister of
25 Note: Mr. Nizeyimana's statement is supported by ICTR testimony. Mr. Turatsinze's wife submitted an affidavit testifying he joined the RPF after he lived with a family in
26 Note: This is an ikinyarwanda word meaning, "those who work together." Expert witnesses at the ICTR have offered differing definitions of what actually constituted the Interahamwe militia. ("'Interahamwe': Experts Give Different Interpretations," Hirondelle News Agency. 11 July 2005.) The Interahamwe militia began as a youth group of (then) Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana's National Revolutionary Movement for Development (MRND) political party. It was founded in early 1992 by its president, Jerry Robert Kajuga, a Tutsi from Kibungo.
27 Note: The MRND(D) was the political party of President Habyarimana. Founded in 1975, it was the sole political party in the country and every Rwandan is given membership at birth. The old Rwandan Constitution also had a clause only MRND party members could run for president.
28 Note: (then) Major Paul Kagame spent three months training at the U.S. General Staff and
29 Note: Mr. Niziyimana is referring to the following study: "