SUMMARY OF TESTIMONY
1. The majority of Rwandan refugees did not go back to Rwanda: 450,000 at most returned back to their homeland, compared to 1,103,000 Rwandan refugees. Most of the returnees come from Mugunga and Kibumba camps and the head count is between 300,000 and 400,000 refugees. Given the strategic nature of their repatriation, the media from all over the world were invited to film this “massive repatriation” and to force the cancellation of the international intervention force, intervention which had been very difficult to obtain.
2. Rwandan refugees are not fleeing combats: they are fleeing massacres. The operation that is taking place in Zaire has all the ingredients of a new genocide. Large mass graves are found all around Goma. Women, children lie together with elderly and men, hands attached on their back, a bullet in their head. According to estimates in Goma, several hundreds of thousands of refugees already found death since the beginning of the conflict, either because of being massacred, or by starvation or exhaustion. Stories of massive massacres are coming from Masisi and Walikale in particular. For the Tutsi rebels, Rwandan refugees are a military target.
3. Rwandan refugees are not the only ones targeted by these massacres. Zairean Hutu populations are also targeted. Everywhere in eastern Zaire, but particularly in Goma, disappearances are multiplying, and every influential person of Hutu background is enlisted on a “red list”. In all the Masisi region, massive massacres of civilians are taking place.
On Monday January 26, 1997, two unknowns came at my house near Goma. One of them was in military uniform and was carrying an automatic gun; the other was wearing a civilian uniform, but was carrying a revolver under his shirt, a fire arm usually reserved to higher rank officers. They requested to see me in person by my name, but my guard was smart enough to say that I was absent. They said they would be back an hour later.
There was no time to waste, I assembled a few items in rush, and managed to run away, through an ICRC vehicle that carried me across the border to Gisenyi. I just escaped an attempt murder. Three spanish World Doctors were less lucky in Ruhengeri on January 19, 97; they lost their lives.
Like myself, they probably knew more than they should, they had seen with their very eyes a lot, or at least somebody thought they had seen a lot…
The events succinctly related in this chronicle are factual information that I have observed personnally. Given the sensitive nature of these facts, the reader will understand that they can only be revealed under the protection of anonymity. I hope everybody will understand that lives are in danger.
1- HOW MANY RWANDAN REFUGEES ARE STILL PRESENT IN ZAIRE?
Since the beginning of the conflict, there have been a war in numbers concerning the number of refugees still present in Zaire. The “rebels” state since the beginning that the quasi-totality of refugees returned back home; the only people who failed to return are the “Interahamwe” and the “ex-FAR” and the genociders in Zaire (it is therefore legitimate to chase them); Kigali states that they are more than 500,000 to have crossed the border.
This war of numbers is strategic: one one hand, it is aimed at preventing any foreign intervention in favor of the remaining refugees (why intervene if there are no more refugees in Zaire?); one the other hand, it is aimed at attracting the maximum of foreign aid on Kigali, in favor of “reconstruction”…
What is really the number of refugees still present in Zaire? Let us simply use the official numbers of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
a. Refugees of Bukavu region: 316,000 persons distributed among different camps: INERA, KASHUSHA, NYANGEZI, PANZI, KALEHE, KATANA, BIRAVA, IDJWI NORD (Bugarula) et SUD (Kashofu);
b- Refugees from Goma region: 715,991 persons scattered in different camps: MUGUNGA\LAC VERT, KIBUMBA, KATALE, other camps (MINOVA, SAKE,…)
c- Refugees from Uvira region: 180,144 persons Rwandans: 71,828 Burundians: 117,316
TOTAL GENERAL (Uvira, Bukavu, Goma): 1,221,483.
Let us say: 1,220,000 refugees (Rwandans and Burundians), present in Zaire in October 1996, at the beginning of the war.
Not knowing the whereabouts of 117,000 Burundian refugees, I will retain 1,103,000 Rwandan refugees.
Of 1,103,000 Rwandan refugees, how many did cross the border back to Rwanda?
Since the beginning of the war, there have been only one massive movement of refugees back to Rwanda: the return home from Mugunga refugee camp, located at 7 KM (4.5 miles) from Goma.
Mugunga had become the “world largest refugee camp”; I visited Mugunga camp one day before Goma takeover, Wednesday October 30. I saw the arrival of refugees who were fleeing from Kibumba camp. These refugee camps had been shelled the previous day from Rwanda, by the “rebels”. I saw many woundeds in a relatively serious condition, some hit by shotguns, others scraped by bomb fragments. It would be impossible to accurately state their number, which was increasing as more refugees were coming, the wounded being sent in different treatment centers of the camp. I saw around 100 wounded refugees, in only one center that I managed to visit. It would be difficult to know how many people were killed in Kibumba camp.
In all, there were 500,000 persons at the Mugunga site, originating from Mugunga camp itself, and Lac Vert (300,000), and from Kibumba camp (197,000). The refugees who crossed the border on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday November 15, 16 and 17, 1996 came from this group.
I saw a relatively important column of refugees on Friday 15, and in Goma, we estimate that 50,000 persons crossed the border that day. The next day, I saw an extraordinary crowd of refugees on the same road, all day long. That Saturday, on November 16, 200,000 persons probably crossed the border. On Sunday 17, the flow of refugees was again less important, similar to Friday’s: we estimate that 50,000 persons crossed the border that day.
In all, according to our estimates, between 300 and 350,000 refugees returned back home in three days, which is a lot of people, compared to 500,000 who were living in Mugunga refugee camp a few days earlier. This estimate is comparable to the ones produced by a well-known medical NGO.
At this point, four observations must be made:
1. I did not see anybody cross the border but modest families, families of peasants. I did not see any of the intellectual families that I knew in Mugunga. Didn’t these educated families walk toward Masisi instead?
2. X, Y, and Z, school teachers in Goma, who fled along with their families toward Matanda, on the Masisi road, during Goma takeover, told me that they saw, “in great numbers”, refugees walking across Matanda, from Mugunga camp toward Masisi.
3. The operation “Mugunga Liberation” took place in front of world cameras, as the last dispositions for the then imminent international intervention were being prepared. Journalists, up until then very limited in their action and movement (they were routinely given visas only for 2 to 4 hours) were given free ride to report on this special event, visibly with the goal to impress the international public opinion.
The “massive return of refugees” did in fact cancel out the military intervention.
4. Within the gigantic crowd that crossed back to Rwanda, there were very few people from Katale and Kahindo camps. They only appeared toward the end of the cortege on Sunday, Nov. 17, 96. They were visibly very much weakened by a very long trip and they were vulnerable. For example, we picked up a young woman who did not weigh more than 30 KG (90 lb.), clearly very exhausted. She died a couple of days later.
The following weeks, very small groups of refugees would be escorted at the border posts of Bukavu (Ruzizi) and Goma (“Grande Barriere”) by the High Commission for Refugees (HCR). They were mainly women, children, and elderly. In all, 80,000 refugees were counted.
BRIEF, 450,000 REFUGEES AT MOST CROSSED THE BORDER BACK TO RWANDA, FROM A TOTAL OF 1,103,000,000 PERSONS. 653,000 REFUGEES DID NOT GO BACK TO RWANDA, AND THEY ARE THEREFORE IN ZAIRE.
IT APPEARS THAT BETWEEN 200 AND 250,000 REFUGEES HAVE FINALLY MADE IT TO THE CAMPS OF TINGI-TINGI, AMISI, and SHABUNDA.
AT LEAST 400,000 RWANDAN REFUGEES ARE MISSING (WITHOUT COUNTING 117,000 BURUNDIANS): WHAT DID HAPPEN TO THEM?
2- ARE THE RWANDAN REFUGEES FLEEING FIGHTINGS OR MASSACRES?
If it was just for fighting, Rwandan refugees wouldn’t have any more reason to flee than Zairian populations: Rwandan refugees are fleeing massacres that are specifically targeting them from “Tutsis rebels”.
FOR TUTSIS “REBELS”, HUTU REFUGEES CONSTITUTE A MILITARY TARGET.
The “rebels” dialectic goes like this: refugees who did not return back to Rwanda are “genociders”. It is obvious that those involved in the 1994 atrocities could not go back to Rwanda at any cost, but many innocents could not either (according to the UNHCR estimates, 7% of the refugee population are believed to have been involved in killings). The intellectuals, for example, the staff of the administration, property owners, successful business men, particularly those coming from cities, were afraid to return.
Finally, many people who wished to return were not able to do so because they were taken in hostage by the ex-Rwandan Armed Forces (ex-FAR), and were being used as human shield. Psychological (fear) as well as physical (threat) pressure were common in refugee camps.
Calling “genocider” every Hutu refugee is aimed to legitimize in the eyes of the international opinion, but also in the eyes of “rebel” troops, the use of force, even total annihilation of these refugees. During the genocide in 1994, the Interahamwe had adopted the word “Inyenzi” (coachroaches) to designate Tutsi to kill them the conscience light.
The great number of mass graves attest the systematic intent to annihilate refugees, and the fact that they have been considered as a military target since the beginning of the war. These mass graves are everywhere, but they are always carefully hidden and located in area of difficult access. It is obviously extremely dangerous to be found by “rebels” in area where mass graves are located: it means immediate execution.
I saw near Mugunga, at one hour walking distance in the North, three mass graves of around 10, 12 and 30 bodies each. Bodies included men, women, sometimes holding babies on their back, children and elderly. Each one of them had a bullet in the head, including the babies.
In Kibumba, I saw at the deep end of the camp, on the Rwandan border, in the small wood which serve as the border line, metric piles of skeletons. There was three such sites, containing fifty (50) to one hundred (100) skeletons each. There too, the bodies had one bullet in the head. A methodical search would surely allow the discovery of other sites, but who would risk his life in such a dangerous place?
On November 26, in the forest North of Sake, on the pathway which goes down the hill, after five days of walk from Kahindo camp, (on the Rutshuru road), I saw a dying man, abandoned on makeshift stretcher. This man had deep wounds of machete all around his head. Through one open wound, one could see his brain. We asked him who did that to him, and he said, “it is the Tall Men”; we asked him where was his family; and he answered that his wife and all his children had been killed with machetes a few days earlier in the forest, by the “rebels”, who wanted to prevent them from reaching Mugunga. His brothers, very weak and exhausted, could not carry his strecther no more, and abandoned him near the road. Farther North, we found the remaining of a camp that appeared to have been abandoned in hurry. A pregnant woman was lying on the ground, a bullet in the head. She must have been unable to run away.
There were bodies scattered all the way along the pathway that leads to Kahindo and Katale camps. On December 24, two “rebels” kidnaped two young Zairian Hutus from village R. They came back two days later, after being severely tortured. They have now became the guides for between 70 and 100 Tutsi “rebels” (one pick-up truck and one big transport troop vehicle) heavily armed.
In one incident, they took them on the site of three little camps hidden in the forest. Result: “Waliwauwa wotw, wale wakimbizi, wote kabis, hakuna hata mmoja aliyepona” (they killed all of them, really all, those refugees, not even one survived), the “guide” told me when he came back.
It was probably three little camps of around 100 persons each. Many refugees from Katale are still hidden in the Virunga park forest, blocked at the entry and the exit by the mass graves and the military operations.
One of those operations took place on January 30, 1996. Two hundreds fifty (250) “rebels” soldiers were brought at Katale camp, at the entry of the forest, to have it cleaned up.
It is difficult to estimate the number of refugees still hidden there, but there are more than 300.000 refugees between Katale and Kahindo. It is estimated that between 30 and 80.000 among them have been able to reach Rwanda.
Many die in the forest, where they have been feeding themselves for months now with plants and drinking rain water, when it is raining. We met, for example, a young lady absolutely exhausted and dehydrated. She could make it no more, and despite our efforts, she died in our hands.
Farther North, under a cabin made of branches, lays the body of a woman, dead of exhaustion, while giving birth. On her feet, the body of a four years old child lays, no doubt hers, dead of loneliness.
Helping those people is considered by the “rebels” as helping the enemy, an active support to the Interahamwe. It has been suggested that the refugees who have stayed in the Zairian forests are after all in their natural milieu. I can testify, for having been there tens of times, that it is false.
The Zairian forests of Goma are established on a volcanic land, where one can not find any source of water, nor animals, nor any kind of food. To condemn those refugees to stay in the forests is to condemn them to death. Mr. Boutros-Ghali has talked of “genocide by hunger”.
On December 17, 1996, in the weekly confidential meeting of the responsible of the NGOs, EUB, the local association that is in charge of collecting the dead on the main roads (Goma/Sake; Goma/Rutshuru) announced that it had already collected 6537 dead bodies, among them 2743 for the sole town of Goma. EUB has not the mandate of searching for bodies in the bush.
On the road Kibumba/Rutshuru, after crossing the little forest after Munigi, one is extremely distressed (it is then necessary to close all the windows) by a terrible smell of dead bodies in decomposition.
Days and weeks pass , but the smell doesn’t disappear, as if the corpses were “renewed” as the time passes. That road is the only one that goes to Katale. The refugees who take the risk to take that road by foot to go back to Rwanda are diverted to that forest and executed. Soldiers are continually patrolling at that place.
A tutsi “rebel “did not try to hide it; on a road barrage at Rumangabo; he told to me on December 19: “those refugees are a pest, when I meet them in the bushes, I have to eliminate them”. The same day, on December 19, on the road from Tongo, heading to Kalengera, I saw a small pick-up truck carrying refugees, around twenty of them, with four armed “rebels”. The refugees were shouting and crying. Our car was following theirs. At the little junction from where the old road goes to right, now cut off by the lava flow, the pick-up went right, to the one-way street.
We took the left, heading toward the asphalted road Rutshuru-Goma: those people were going to the discreet place of their execution; it was about 18 o’clock.
At Katale camp, at the level of the river at the left side, after about 30 minutes of walk past the camp, at the entry of the bush on the West side, I saw many large mass graves.
The first contained about 200 persons, all killed with an automatic riffle. The second, a bit further, bigger than the first one, with 300 bodies in it, some rolled in sheeting (for the transport?), followed by 2 more others of the same importance.
Many women and children, all of them shot in the head. Men, killed with a bullet in the head also, have their arms attached on the back. Our guide, a refugee, assures us that two other mass graves were located not far from there, and that much larger mass graves, with “thousands” of dead bodies, were located even further at many hours of walk, in the forest. He offered to lead us there. Unfortunately, we had to refuse, for obvious security reasons.
On the lava plain behind Katale and Kahindo camps, heading to the West, in the opposite direction to the Rwanda side, one can see thousands of skeletons, mowed down with a machine gun while they were fleeing, and covered of sheeting that have been burnt in the attempt to make those remainings disappear.
I met at the hospital a refugee who was being treated from six impacts of bullets in the back. That man had been left for dead among dead bodies; he had been able to scramble up to a NGO car and had been evacuated to Goma.
He told me that tutsi “rebels” have rounded his “quarter” in Katale camp; they separated men from women, orderedthem to lay down face on the ground, and opened fire with machine guns. How many died, he can not tell, but a quarter in the camps was home to two (2) to three (3) thousand refugees. This happened in the beginning of November.
I met, again at Mugunga, a man was keeping a little diary of his wandering since the attack on Katale camp to that of Mugunga. That testimony has also been collected by a well known medical NGO.
The man tells how they have left Katale under the nourished fire of heavy and light machines guns, how they fled to the forest in the panic. The forest, where again the “rebels” were waiting for them; back to Katale, the “rebels” again, and this up to three times before his refugee group was flown over by a small reconnaissance plane.
We also found North of Mugunga, at about 5 hours walking distance on the road heading in the North to Katale camp, in the forest behind the Nyiragongo volcano, a small camp of about fifty refugees. There were among them 17 persons who survived the massacres at Kahindo camp.
The 3500 persons who made up their quarter were rounded by soldiers. At first, they acted friendly, and offered to escort the refugees back to Rwanda. They indeed escorted them, but lead them in the opposite direction to Rwanda. As soon as they reached the bush, the “rebels” opened fire, killing them all, except those 17 refugees, who were now scared to death, and were not willing to go back in Rwanda.
Among those people was a little boy who had lost his 7 brothers and his parents in that killing.
In Tongo, I met a farmer who told me that one month before all this happened the tutsi soldiers were already there; they were dressed in blue, wearing coats and rubber boots. They paid dollars to the pesants to dig deep graves, well hidden in the forest.
In a Goma dispensary I met a twelve-year-old girl with very severe burns in half of her body. She was coming from Bukavu. In her camp there had been an attack: she and her mother were wrapped in a sheeting which was then burnt. Her mother died.
On December 24 I met a Rwandan boy from the Idjwi camps in Goma. The refugees from the Bugarula camp scaped in a canoe towards the Nyabibwe bank. It was undoubtedly too late: the “rebels” were already there, waiting for them. They drowned, with their own hands, his parents and brothers. He was the only one who could scape, swimming to Goma. He was then coming back to Rwanda.
We helped the refugees who came from Bukavu and Sake and who were going to Goma. We and the official organizations that were there were surprised by the fact that among the refugees there only were women, children and old people. Two days later, in Nyabibwe, I was told that the rebels selected the refugees before letting them come back to the forest. They killed all the boys who were ten or older. Only women and old people could make it to the forest. Channel Africa confirmed it in it January 23 edition: only 30% of the refugees who returned to Rwanda were men (old men).
In the Bukavu region, in Burhale, at the beginning of November, father Jean-Claude, a young priest ordained in August, was killed when he was trying to intervene between the rebels and a group of refugees, mainly families that had fled from the Kashusha camp towards Ngweshe. The Red Cross found there 600 dead, but another priest who was accompanying him and who could hide in a banana plantation states that more than 2000 people were exterminated. Later, the farmers were required to bury in improvised graves the maximum number of bodies possible before the Red Cross arrived. there was the same problem in Kibeho, Rwanda.
We could multiply the examples, but what we wanted is to tell only the facts we have witnessed. We have never been able to reach the Masisi or the Walikale area, because the rebels block the access to these areas to any foreigner. The hearsay evidence we get confirms the aim to exterminate every refugee.
The most numerous massacres have taken place in the Walikale area, where, according to a credible witness, “dozens of thousands of refugees were eliminated”.
We are surprised by the similarity between these experiences and witnesses. The same methods have been used, north and south, in a systematic and planned way. It is an african way of solving it once and for all.
The geopolitic evolution of the situation in the Great Lakes area forces the observer to wonder about the existence of a big political drawing; for example, the fact that Major Buyoya got hold of the Government in Burundi in July.
Genocide isn’t, perhaps, used by extremists from only one group.
Some initiatives of the HCR in the last months, before the Uvira, Bukavu, Goma and Rutshuru attacks (gathering of refugees in very few places, systematic registration in the camps…) make us wonder if this agency of the United Nations was informed of the preparation of an attack coming from Rwanda or if it has been manipulated from Kigali to facilitate the work.
Anyway, the day after the seizure of Goma, all the material, specially the informatic, was emptied from the HCR Goma, in BDGL. The lists of all the refugees were sent to Gisenyi and with them the confidential reports that these refugees had made in order to get some food.
On December, 20, 1996, I spoke to a leading executive from HCR-Goma and I reproached him their not reporting these indiscriminate killings. He answered me: “we know perfectly that dozens of thousands of refugees are murdered in the forest, but, what can we do?. We are not an army. It is the intervening forces who must act”… But why this silence?
Dozens of thousands of refugees have been,murdered:
IT IS ESTIMATED THAT ABOUT 500.000 REFUGEES HAVE DIED IN GOMA. MOST OF THEM WERE MASSACRED BUT OTHERS STARVED TO DEATH, DIED OF EXHAUSTATION, ILLNESSES OR THIRST.
All this can explain why there are so few refugees in Tingi-Tingi. With the inexorable advance of the “rebel” troops towards Lubutu it is almost sure that it will be soon necessary to add to this list the 200000 refugees of Shabunba, alrady conquered now, and Tingi-Tingi.
We can foresee that the official organizations will run away. The camp, probably surrounded for some days, will be “cleaned” according to Mr Kabila’s expression. Perhaps some women will be able to come back to Kigali. Will the international community finally solve the painful problem of the genociders?
It is certainly difficult because the genociders, especially the Interhamwe, ex-Far and ex-presidential guards, to which most of the massacres are attributed, are young and strong; they can run fast and know the guerrilla methods.
In case of an attack they can easily vanish in the forest. A lot of them are still near the Rwandan border, hidden in the forest; this favours the existence of a disorganized, desperate guerrilla. That doesn’t mean that guerrilla is less cruel. In fact,it could survive indefinitely, because it will be very difficult, almost impossible, to completely eradicate it.
I saw the famous Interhamwe on December, 27, 1996. They had laid an ambush in the Rwandan border and I could scape miraculously unhurt; It seemed to me they were very strong and in healthy condition. They lived on the raids made in Rwanda and the looting of Zairian towns nearby. There are no controls there.
The massacred refugees are not the murderers: they are families who scape following the rhythm of their children. They go in groups because they think it is much safer.
3- ZAIRIAN HUTU POPULATIONS ARE THREATENED.
As soon as they entered the town of Goma, Friday November 01, 1996 soldiers started hunting down Zairian soldiers and Hutu refugees. Any refugee who was found was shot down. Every refugee was labeled “Interahamwe”.
This schema has often become caricatural. A Zairian Hutu family I know very well got itself rid of an eight-year old child very rapidly. This family had adopted him at age six during the Rwandan exodus of 1994. January 06, two soldiers came and threatened the family because it had given shelter to an “Interahamwe”.
Very quickly, it is also the hunt of Zairian Hutu that began. These were not “Interahamwe” but “Magrivi”. Magrivi is a Hutu organization similar to other organizations other tribes founded after the National Conference. Those organizations defended tribal ideas, especially recently with rising tensions and the Rwandan war.
Kidnaping increased particularly in the Goma area and in the whole northern Kivu in general where the Hutu community is strong with estimates ranging from 500 to 700,000 people.
In Goma, every educated person or person with some wealth or anybody with some influence is directly targeted. Rafael M. is for instance hunted down because he has contacts in Europe where he went to school. His contacts makes him an influential person. He must disappear. Because he cannot be found, it is his wife who is targeted. The military are hunting her down. Friends are hiding her. For how long? The old R. is also hunted down. He was director of a school in Birambizo in Masisi. He is a Hutu. Armed soldiers went to his house three times during the day. In the night of December 17, they came back again. They were seven well armed. They knocked at the door of his house at midnight and called him by his name. He did not answer and had his children stay silent. Disappointed by this , the military went to his neighbor’s house. His neighbor was a nineteen-year old Hutu, owner of a shop.
They looted his shop and sent a bullet into his head. R. has moved elsewhere but he lives in fear. What I am saying happened in the district of Mabanga.
M. is a Hutu businessman. His tool for his work is his Toyota pick up. In the afternoon of January 12, soldiers went to his house. They wanted to buy his car and offered him $2,000.00. M. refused because on one hand the price was ridiculously low, on the other without a car M. is with out work. The same day, at eight in the evening, they came back and forced into his house. M. had enough time to escape from a back door. However, they found his twenty-year-old son in the kitchen and summarily executed him.
Many people are kidnaped at night, others in broad daylight. In general people disappear for good. However some come back from their detention center after having been beaten up and told to shut up. Some are kidnaped, released, kidnaped again. Then, they disappear. Witnesses who live near the borders report a large number of cars crossing into Rwanda at night when borders are supposed to be closed. Also a number of Hutu are directly killed in Zaire, probably on Rutshuru road, in the bushes of Munigi, on both sides of the road.
In Goma and Rutshuru, the kidnaping have really reached alarming proportions in recent weeks. Even Bukavu is not spared. The last Hutus who are still in hiding are hunted down, be they Zairian or Rwandan, but also Zairians who for instance worked for refugees in an NGO. It is estimated that 4 to 5 persons disappear every night in Bukavu, compared to 40 per week in Goma.
The hunt of Hutu is carried out in cities but it is particularly in Masisi that the man hunt is massive. In fact the Hutu community of Masisi is very important, easily identified because it lives in villages of the same clan. Finally, during the unfortunate war in Masisi, stirred up since the Rwandan exodus of 1994, this population sometimes carried out violent activities against Tutsi and Hunde that led to the departure of all Tutsi who lived in Masisi and sometimes the massacres of Tutsi. (Mokoto for example, April 96).
“Rebels” have therefore carried out systematic and violent massacres at a large scale. In Jomba for example, they entered from Rwanda and killed every person they met. Very often they only met mothers and their children because youths had fled. It is these mothers who were executed, as was the case for the mother and the little sister of R. This wave of executions lasted about three weeks at the beginning of November..
Even the parish Minister, an influential person, known for his moderate opinions was kidnaped with four nuns who run the high school of Jomba, and were taken towards Uganda (customs office of Bunagana). They were never seen again.
In the village of Chanzu, Jomba Parish, people were called to a political meeting where the agenda of the new government was going to to be discussed. The meeting started, they closed the doors and killed using a small hoe (Agafuni in Rwandese). Every person was struck once on the front. Remaining villagers counted 207 people. Bodies were tossed, some into mass grave, others into toilets, the head first.
Similar scenarios were repeated in all the sectors of Masisi, Matanda, Nyakariba, Birambizo, Katwe, Bibwe, Rutshuru, Rugari.
In Birambizo, a Hutu fighter injured a”rebel” in early January. Soldiers sealed off the village, called the population to the village square in front of a church. They separated parents from their children. Then, “Rebels” killed all the children in front of their parents, and tossed the bodies behind the church. To retrieve the body and bury it, one had to pay $3.00. The majority of parents are subsistence farmers. They did not have that money.
In many places, massacres went along with the profanity of the sacred.. Thus in Nyakiriba two young Hutu priests were assassinated on December 24, 1996. Days after “rebels” were seen walking around wearing the priests’ ceremonial (mass service) cloths. A similar account comes from Bukavu, Panzi. In Jomba, the tabernacle was riddled with bullets.
Everywhere church leaders and their families were targeted because they are influential in society. Thus a nun lost 18 family members in Matanda, and 15 in Nyakariba. Their names are on the top of the lists being circulated in Goma. The existence of those lists was confirmed to me by individuals associated with the new regime in Goma during a confidential conversation on January 23.
This ethnic cleansing is not just settling scores as it is the case in all war when the victor wipes out his old adversaries. Hutu are systematically targeted, moderates as well as extremists. The evidence of this systematic hunt of Hutu is the existence of lists of name. My name was in one of them.
4 – HOW TO EXPLAIN THE SILENCE OF THE MEDIA
The reader might wonder how, given the extreme gravity of the elements reported here, the international press has not much reported about this situation.
There are many reasons to that:
1. The press has considered as over the question of refugees when they went back to Rwanda in large numbers from Mugunga, on November 15th, 16th, and 17th.
Thereafter, there were almost no journalist in Goma and Bukavu. The media attention hadshifted to Tanzania, where another massive return of Rwandan refugees was being prepared (engineered).
The competition between different media is at the origin of the inflation in the numbers ofrefugees returnees that were reported… ones fancier than others. For example, in the evening of November 16, G. Perez, Radio France International (RFI), reported that 400,000 refugees werewaiting downtown in the city of Goma to be able to cross to Rwanda the following day onSaturday November 16th; that was twice the population of Goma! I was there; I estimate that there were no more than 25,000.
2. The ” rebels” consider, and they are right, that the war has to be done on the media front the same way it is done on the battle ground, because it is in the West (Europe, North America) where decisive alliances for the victory on the ground are made.
The accesses to the war zones or any other sensitive zone are strictly controlled. For example,on Friday November 1st, all the journalists and organisms present in Goma have been evacuated from UNHCR premises where they had gathered, by Major David of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), while at the same time the fighting was raging in Goma.
There were only a few expatriates remaining in Goma; the town was strewn with corpses (more than 2,500 have been counted). The journalists were all at the border, prevented from entering, until all the corpses were buried, which took four days. Thereafter, they wereallowed to enter the city, CNN at the front line, and were queuing up to take pictures one by oneof a decomposing corpse, with a military uniform, forgotten (?) at the Signers traffic circle.
The road to Mugunga has been closed until the ” liberation “of the camp, where, as it has been seen, all the cameras from all over the world have been invited.
The road to Rutshuru has been closed to all Westerners (Zairian could pass) until December 6, 1996. That road leads to the camps of Kibumba, Katale and Kahindo (where 500,000refugees had been living). No one knows what happened to the refugees in the camps of Katale and Kahindo, all we know is that these camps were heavily bombarded. Whatdid happen of all of those refugees? No body seems to be interested to know.
Not a single journalist has been able to go beyond Sake, and visit Masisi for example, or Walikale, even though everybody knows that the refugees who fled west-ward took those roadson their way to Kisangani.
Untill now, journalists are retransmitting press releases from the military top command,broadcasted without any verification, for they don’t know better. This has already been seenduring the Golf war. A war in the 20th century has at first to be mediatic. The ” rebels “distribute to the editorial staffs very well prepared press releases, with all the statistics alreadyestablished.
3. The eyewitnesses have to keep quiet; or can only speak under the cover of anonymity.
If they speak, they risk death or expulsion, or they put in danger their staff working on the field.
As for the journalists themselves, the ones who search their information outside the military topcommand circle, they are closely monitored, feel unsafe, and they do not hesitate to submit their articles to the new authorities for reaction before publication. The very simple presence of journalists put in great danger eyewitnesses of these situations. When they interview someone inpublic or in a crowd, in general, someone else in this crowd is in charge of keeping an eye onwhat is being said: people know that and they prefer to say nothing. It is then difficult to have crucial and reliable information from the population.
All these reasons make very difficult to have access to objective information, and impose to the eyewitness to be very cautious, despite the high gravity of the situation. As T. Ben Jelloum said “If you speak, you die, if you keep silent, you die, then speak and die”.
During contacts obtained at a very high political level, in Europe, I was surprised to see that, in general, decision makers are very well informed of the situation, also known in their chancelleries and embassies, even if they do not know the exact extent.
Could one believe General Baril when he declared, in mid-December, at Sake, that not one single Rwandan refugee was remaining in Zaire, because after having spent a half-day on the road leading to Masisi, in a vehicle of a “rebel” officer, he had not met one single refugee? This declaration, which sealed off the end of the multinational force, will have been the cause of the deaths of thousands among them. Could he ignore that? Diplomatic calculations prevent people from doing anything, the same way, paradoxically, the silence of the media does.
Finally, everybody knows, but everybody keeps silent. And the refugees continue to die, women and children first.