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Rwanda Genocide survivor: My mother and I were ordered to dig our own graves

December 4, 2011

Interview with Claude Gatebuke on eve of Paul Kagame’s genocide conference keynote address at Sacramento State, broadcast on KPFA’s Morning Mix Block Report

by Minister of Information JR

This interview was broadcast on KPFA’s Morning Mix Block Report on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 8-9 a.m., the morning before Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s scheduled appearance at the Third International Genocide Conference: Negationism, Revisionism, Survivors’ Testimonies, Eyewitness Accounts, Justice and Memory at Sacramento State University in Sacramento, Calif.

“At Sacramento State University, Kagame will be speaking, and the truth will be turned on its head by having a genocide perpetrator speak about genocide denial and genocide prevention.” – Claude Gatebuke, Rwanda Genocide survivor

Claude Gatebuke organized a protest against Kagame’s visit to Oklahoma Christian University in 2010. In retaliation, Claude has recently come under attack; see Frank LeFever’s “’Good’ survivors of genocide and ‘bad’ survivors in the hands of Rwanda’s dictator and his agents” here in sfbayview.com. LeFever reports that Kagame is known to have sent agents to pursue his critics in Europe and the U.S. – Photo: Kendell Brown
Congo is one of the most mineral rich places in the world. This fact leads to horrible atrocities being committed by political, military and financial organizations in the name of doing whatever has to be done to keep control of vital resources that come from the area to keep the money flowing. Most of the top predators – aka business and political executives – in this food chain reside in Western countries; a large portion of the mercenary military required for this type of operation is hired in or around the country that is being robbed.

This is the best way I could describe the relationship between the American and European nations and their African, Latin American and Asian prey, whose resources they are sucking dry. This is the type of world that has created diabolic, African born, Western supported mercenary mis-leaders like Paul Kagame, the current president of the African nation of Rwanda.

It is one thing for me to give my opinion on Paul Kagame; it is better to hear from Claude Getabuke, a person who lived and damn near died because of the actions of this monster. Claude proposes non-military solutions to the current crisis in the Central East African region. He encourages ordinary citizens in the United States to take action and push the U.S. government to change its policies in the region and discontinue its support for Paul Kagame and other war criminals in that region as well as hold accountable U.S. based companies that are contributing to the growing death toll.

M.O.I. JR: Our next guest is Claude Gatebuke, a 1994 Rwandan survivor and human rights activist. How are you, Claude?

Claude: Doing good. How are you doing, Minister of Information?

M.O.I. JR: I’m good, I’m good. Claude, Paul Kagame is scheduled to be in Northern California this Thursday. Can you give the people a little bit of history about who Paul Kagame is?

Claude: Paul Kagame is the current Rwandan president. He was part of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a rebel group mostly made of Tutsis, members of the Tutsi ethnic group, who invaded Rwanda from Uganda in 1990, carried out a brutal civil war for four years and took control of the country at the end of the genocide in 1994.

M.O.I. JR: Who is Kagame to, say, Rwandans such as yourself who were in 1994 a Rwanda Genocide survivor as well as a human rights activist? Get more in depth. Many call Kagame a war criminal. Why?

Claude: Many call Kagame a war criminal because they know the facts. So asking Kagame to speak at a genocide convention is turning the truth on its head because Kagame carried out, as I said, a four year war where his troops and his military leaders took over large areas of the country and they would call people who lived in those villages to meetings and kill them, using hand weapons or throwing grenades into crowds of people. They buried people alive. There are mass graves all over the country in Rwanda from that civil war.

Recently, Rwandan President Kagame has been met with protests wherever he travels. On Sept. 18 in Paris, when 1,300 Rwandans and Congolese marched together against Kagame’s visit there, President Sarkozy reacted by distancing himself from his “guest.”
In 1994 Paul Kagame ordered the shooting of the Rwandan president at the time who was negotiating a peace deal with him. The Rwandan president at that time was Juvénal Habyarimana, and on that same plane was the president of Burundi. So this was an international act of terrorism that was carried out by Kagame in a period of war against somebody who was negotiating peace with him and that set off the genocide.

This information has come from people in his camp. His former bodyguards talked about the planning of the shooting of the plane, and now his former chief of staff just two weeks ago testified and said that Kagame bragged to him that he had ordered the shooting of the plane. And this is not the only thing that Kagame has bragged about as far as killing people. In April of last year, he bragged in a broadcast speech to his parliament that he went into the refugee camps and shot refugees. This is in Congo.

So not only has he killed Rwandans, his own people inside Rwanda, he’s also killed Rwandans in Congo. But he has killed even a larger number of Congolese people inside Congo since the invasion of the Congo by Rwanda and Uganda in 1996, when Kagame invaded Congo. They went and burned villages. They killed old men and women. They killed children, babies and mothers and they pursued people who were running away from them, including Hutu refugees, but also Congolese people and separated members of the Hutu ethnic group who were both Rwandan and Congolese and killed them, which is an act of genocide – to kill a group of people in whole or in part where he was trying to exterminate all Hutus at the time in the Congo.

M.O.I. JR: Well, let’s back up a little bit, because when you started this you said that Paul Kagame was a Tutsi. Can you talk a little bit about the Tutsis and the Hutus and what happened during the massacre and what part he played, because as I understand he’s a member of the group that was murdered, right?

Claude: Yes. Paul Kagame is a descendent of former Rwandan refugees who fled Rwanda during a social revolution that took place in 1959 where the Hutus, who are the majority and make up between 80 percent and 85 percent of the population, and the Tutsis make up between 10 percent and 14 percent of the population and then there is a very small minority, the Twa, who make up about 1 percent of the population, and the Tutsis dominated Rwanda for hundreds of years and Hutus were their servants and in some cases people worked months and years for the Tutsi king without getting paid.

Claude Gatebuke, who organized a protest against Kagame on Sept. 16, when he spoke at Carnegie Mellon University, was interviewed by WTAE-TV Pittsburgh.
In 1959 the Hutu staged a revolution and the king was overthrown as part of the rush for independence in Africa. And when the king fled, Kagame’s parents also fled Rwanda and he was 3 years old. He grew up in Uganda a Tutsi Rwandan refugee. He joined Museveni, the president of Uganda in his rebellion from 1981 to 1986 and they won that war and took over Uganda. He then rose in the ranks of the Ugandan army and was chief of intelligence. He was the head of intelligence in Uganda, got trained here in the U.S. and then went back and led the rebellion in Rwanda.

Now there were a group of Tutsis who were exiled out of Rwanda and there’s also a group of Tutsis who were not exiled who lived in Rwanda. The Tutsis who were not exiled who lived in Rwanda are the ones who were targeted in 1994 during the genocide, because Kagame and his military leaders and other Tutsi refugees outside of the country did not have their families inside the country.

And for Kagame, the lives of Tutsis living inside the country were not as valuable as the lives of the Tutsis he lived with or his military. They weren’t as important – or important enough to stop his quest for power. So he sacrificed the Tutsis inside of Rwanda by shooting down the president’s plane and setting up the genocide.

For him, as long as he achieved taking over and winning power, that’s all that mattered to him. He’s a member of the Tutsi ethnic group, but he was not targeted in 1994 because for one he had a lot of weapons and he was waging a war against the government. But also the population that was targeted were the Tutsis who were inside of Rwanda at the time and he wasn’t.

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us a little bit about his role in this war that is currently going on in the Congo that has already claimed more than 6 million African lives?

Claude: Paul Kagame is the main instigator in this whole war. This war in the Congo started in 1996 when Kagame led the Rwandan military at the time to invade Congo. As well, the Ugandan military invaded Congo in that year at that time.

Claude Gatebuke, Rwanda Genocide survivor, speaker for Friends of the Congo and University of Memphis law student, speaks recently at Vanderbilt University.
If you have had a chance, and you may not have, there’s a U.N. mapping exercise report that came out last year, October of 2010, and it only documented the major crimes committed in Congo and it documented villages that were massacred and killed, people burnt, people killed with hand weapons – and for the most part Kagame’s troops are blamed for that. The reports of eye witnesses place Kagame right at the center of those massacres.

His troops pursued refugees across the country. There are instances where the Rwandan troops surrounded Rwandans and Congolese who were fleeing them around a bridge at the river and there were so many people at that bridge that the whole bridge collapsed and there were so many people at that bridge that the bodies formed a new bridge for everybody to cross.

Kagame has been waging a war and not only killing civilians, but especially children. As we know, more than 3 million of the victims in the Congo have been children under the age of 5.

Minister of Information JR Valrey, Bay View associate editor, hosts The Block Report on KPFA’s Morning Mix 8-9 a.m. every Wednesday. – Photo: Ali Thanawalla
He has also looted. There is plenty of documentation – U.N. documents and reports from 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008 – documenting how they went in, looted banks, took money, looted stocks of coffee, minerals and coltan, gold, diamonds. There was even an incident where Ugandan troops and Rwandan troops fought inside Congo in Kisangani over a mine, over a diamond mine, and that alone took like 3,000 lives after officially claiming that Rwandan troops had withdrawn from the Congo.

Kagame continued to sponsor proxy militias and rebel groups that included the RCD that was devastating to the Eastern Congo regions of North and South Kivu that then turned into the CNDP that was led by Gen. Laurent Nkunda, who is currently living in Rwanda, supposedly arrested, but has not been extradited to the Congo or anywhere to face justice. They were devastating to where, in 2008 – at the end of 2008 – European countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands withheld their aid to the government of Rwanda because of the support of Gen. Nkunda and the CNDP, who were devastating the region, creating millions of refugees and killing thousands of people towards the end of 2008. And so his role has been very destructive. It’s been central.

Another thing is that when Mobutu, the Congolese dictator who ran Congo for 32 years, was removed in 1997 by the invasion of Rwanda and Uganda, many officials of the new Congolese government were also Rwandans, including Gen. James Kabarebe, who became the Congolese army chief of staff. Today, James Kabarebe is Rwanda’s minister of defense, and he was Rwanda’s army chief of staff for a while before he became the minister of defense.

So members of the Rwandan military and members of Kagame’s inner circle have been at the center of not only the killings and the destruction of the Congo but the looting and stealing of resources of the Congolese and of course the massive rapes that you’ve heard of as a weapon of war. All of that Kagame’s got his hands full with all of the dirty work.

M.O.I. JR: So basically I think there was a statistic given that over 250,000 women have been raped up to this point. There have been over 6 million deaths in the Congolese War and counting as well as there were a million people who were murdered in genocide by Kagame – or I should say because of Kagame’s actions – in Rwanda. How many deaths and how many displacements would you estimate are because of Paul Kagame?

Claude: It depends on when you want to start counting. If you start counting 30 years ago in Uganda, when Kagame was part of Museveni’s military, it’s countless. But let’s just start in Rwanda. In 1993, by the end of 1993, there were 1 million refugees inside of Rwanda, 1 million internally displaced people who had been removed from their homes by Kagame’s troops. Hundreds of thousands of people had been massacred and killed by Kagame’s troops by 1993.

African Faith and Justice Network’s Jacques Bahati, Rwanda Genocide survivor and law student Claude Gatebuke, and Friends of the Congo spokesperson and student coordinator Kambale Musavuli speak at the Capitol Hill briefing on the “U.N. Mapping Report on Human Rights Abuse in the Congo, 1993-2003,”on March 2, 2011. – Photo: Arrian Lewis
Then Kagame ordered the shooting of the plane. The plane was shot, two presidents were assassinated and he set off the genocide. One million Tutsis were killed along with countless – I mean hundreds of thousands of – Hutus who were killed directly by Kagame’s military. I know survivors whose whole families were exterminated by Kagame’s troops. At this point, we’re somewhere near 2 million people already dead in Rwanda, plus more than 1 million internally displaced by the end of 1993.

Then in 1994 when Kagame won, more than 2 million people fled the country and left and went into Congo. At that time, two years later, he invaded Congo and killed 200,000 of those refugees. And the numbers continued to where they were killing Congolese whole villages.

Now we’re talking over 6 million people, more than 1.5 million in Rwanda and counting. So I estimate anywhere between 8 million and 10 million people have been killed as a result of Kagame’s actions and more than 2 million people have been displaced out of their homes as a result of Kagame’s actions.

M.O.I. JR: Who would you say is benefitting the most from the actions of Paul Kagame besides himself?

Claude: Besides himself, his inner circle is benefitting from impunity and enriching themselves.

We also have Western mining companies that are in the Congo today exploiting the Congolese people as a result of this war that started with the invasion of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda. But also, this is all a result of U.S. foreign policy, where the United States is supporting Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda at the expense of Africans and, in return, Kagame and Museveni provide troops for the U.S. to fight their wars. Especially Uganda is providing troops in Somalia, and I believe Uganda might be the only African country that’s sent troops to Iraq.

Kagame’s military is involved in U.N. missions both in Darfur and Sudan at large, but also as a police force in Haiti.

So the benefactors range from Kagame himself and his inner circle to mining corporations to the U.S. and the United Kingdom governments especially who are his backers and financiers who provide the funds and the protection.

M.O.I. JR: How does Obama sending 100 troops – or I should say reportedly 100, most likely more than that – into Uganda play into this situation?

Claude: It plays into this situation because lately what’s happening since Rwanda and Uganda have “left the Congo,” there has to be some justification for their incursion into the Congo. And the recent invasion of Congo by Rwanda and Uganda has been in pursuit of rebel groups that are opposed to these governments. Rwanda pursues the FDLR, and Uganda pursues the LRA. Neither one of these groups, neither one of these fighting armies, are a match for either Rwanda or Uganda. This is a rag-tag group of fighters that side with Rwanda. The FDLR commanders are always welcome to go back to Rwanda. They always go back after years in the bush, and the Rwanda military and Kagame promotes them into his military, so today I’m sure that this is a weak military threat.

Speaking at the Great Lakes Advocates’ Coalition’s briefing March 2, 2011, on the “U.N. Mapping Report” are, from left, Nii Akuetta, Claude Gatebuke, Emira Wood, Jacques Bahati, Nita Evele and Kambale Musavuli. – Photo: Arrian Lewis
Now, the LRA have been around for 25 years fighting against Museveni, mostly in Northern Uganda. Today the group has been almost decimated. They almost don’t exist. It’s hundreds of fighters and they’re no longer even in Uganda. They are no longer a true military threat to Uganda, but for one there has been a recent discovery of resources, especially oil, at the border of Congo and Uganda and Sudan, Southern Sudan. And part of it I suspect is to secure the oil fields but also to boost Museveni, who is facing a strong challenge from Ugandans who are demanding freedom and democracy to be able to choose their own leaders because they’re tired of his dictatorship.

They provide training because, again, Museveni troops are used as proxy militias to fight against the Al Shabaab group in Somalia who are on the U.S. list of terrorists. But also Ugandans have been used as militias to fight in Uganda and Iraq, so there are a lot of reasons for the U.S. to go there – none that are really legitimate and none that are in favor of Africans – mostly to advance just the military industrial complex of the U.S. and to boost Museveni and Kagame, and it’s a show of support. It’s a vote of confidence, saying, Museveni, you are still our man in spite of the atrocities you and your mentee, Paul Kagame, have committed both in Congo and in Rwanda and also in Uganda.

And then there is also the advance of the Chinese in Africa that are becoming a bigger and bigger investment threat to the U.S. and Western interests. All of that, I believe – the continuing conflicts – will work in favor of Western interests, but less in African interests, because every time there is a conflict, every time there is a fight, every time there is a pursuit of the LRA or the FDLR, the collateral damage is a whole lot higher than the result that is achieved by using military means to pursue these groups. I and the people of the region would like to see no military means used to resolve the current crisis.

M.O.I. JR: For those that are tuning in, we are talking to Claude Gatebuke, a 1994 Rwanda Genocide survivor and human rights activist. Claude, before we let you go, tell us a little bit about what it was like to survive the genocide. What were the first days like? What was going through your mind and what were you seeing when you were one of the few survivors of this genocide in 1994?

Claude: The genocide was a terrible, terrible event and it was horrifying to me and my family. We spent most of that time hiding and fortunately we only survived because we have neighbors that put their lives in danger to keep us safe. And the very first day of the genocide after the shooting of the plane, we heard gunshots. It was like gunfire everywhere – a big storm of bullets and bombs. The whole city was being shelled, it seemed. It seemed like we were getting shot at every second or every hour. At night, we would actually see the gunfire and the blasts. At night the militias that were carrying out the genocide would come to our house and we just couldn’t find a hiding place. Neighbors rounded us up and went and hid us in another neighbors’ house, who arranged for us to leave the city.

African Advocates, including Peter Erlinder and Claude Gatebuke, drew a full house when they held a press conference at the National Press Club Aug. 3, 2010, just prior to the Aug. 9 Rwandan presidential election, urging the U.S. not to recognize the election as legitimate – the main opposition candidates having been excluded from the ballot – and to stop militarizing Africa and supporting repressive regimes like that of Paul Kagame. – Photo: Kambale Musavuli
Before we left the city, the very second day of the genocide, I saw a friend of mine, a guy that I grew up with, running down the street, running from these militia men who had set up in front of his house and was beating Tutsi women and men and throwing them into his house and killing them at night.

He chased this kid, ran after this kid and chopped him up with a machete right in front of everybody. I saw this through my eyes. I heard people screaming for help, I saw pools of blood and I saw where every time a Tutsi person was discovered, the militia, the extremist Hutus, would go after him like an animal that’s being hunted.

As we were leaving the city, we got stopped and the militia pulled me and my mother out of this little truck that we were all riding in and they got ready to kill us. They had machetes and guns and all kinds of weapons and they ordered us to dig our own graves and they ordered us to borrow shovels from the neighbors and said, you need to go to those neighbors, get their shovels, dig right here and this is where we’re going to bury you after we chop you up and throw you in here.

Neighbors resisted and they came and they screamed at these guys and told them to stop killing people, leave these people alone. The driver of the truck went and got two young men that came and negotiated for us and we were threatened to be killed, but they wouldn’t give up until the militia just got tired of negotiating and left us alone and let us go. Then we crossed the border from Rwanda, Congo and went onto Uganda and Kenya and ended up here in the U.S.

They had machetes and guns and all kinds of weapons and they ordered us to dig our own graves. Two young men came and negotiated for us; they wouldn’t give up until the militia just got tired of negotiating and left us alone and let us go.

But the days of the genocide we were thinking every single day, every single minute that somebody was going to discover us, somebody is going to come and they are going to chop – I felt like I was going to get chopped up into pieces and killed like everybody else that I had seen. I mean I felt like I was going to be one of those people screaming for help with no hope of getting help and I felt like my life was in somebody else’s hands and definitely not in my hands. But good people came to our rescue and I was fortunate enough to survive with my mother and my two sisters. My father wasn’t in the country at the time.

M.O.I. JR: How old were you?

Claude: I was 14.

M.O.I. JR: How old was the guy that you seen chopped with the machete?

Claude: He was a little older than me. He was maybe 16 or 17.

I was 14. I felt like I was going to get chopped up into pieces. I felt like I was going to be one of those people screaming for help with no hope of getting help. But good people came to our rescue.

Another thing I should probably mention is that while our neighbors were targeting us and coming at us to kill us, another set of neighbors, young boys my age, had left the country to join Kagame and the RPF to become soldiers and they were also coming in the neighborhood and raiding and killed people at night. So the rebels were doing the same things and they were using child soldiers to do these things and I know at least six – some my classmates, some my teammates from soccer and others were just neighbors that I knew, some were brothers and sisters. And it was just a terrible time when you wondered who is it that I can look at and say, you know, I can trust this person not to kill me. I felt like every person around me was a threat to kill me.

M.O.I. JR: What made some of your classmates sign up with Kagame rather than feeling in solidarity and in comradery with the people who was also in the class that were being murdered? What was the incentive?

Claude: Those who joined Kagame and the RPF, most of them joined early before the killings, before the genocide started. They joined during the war. Between 1990 and April 1994, a lot of young men went to join the RPF. The country was divided and even if you felt like you wanted to be in solidarity with those that were being killed, number one is you were powerless.

Claude Gatebuke is interviewed by the Associated Press at the protest against Kagame’s visit to Oklahoma Christian University on April 30, 2010. – Photo: Kendall Brown
You were one against 50 extremist Hutu militiamen. It was like a 1-to-50 ratio so it was easy to be targeted and be killed. When these militias came, they came in gangs; dozens of people attacked one house. But also you weren’t guaranteed to even survive. If you weren’t killed by the Hutu militias, you also weren’t guaranteed not to be killed by the RPF – by the Tutsi soldiers who were taking over the country. They bombed the whole country. They bombed the whole city. Hutus and Tutsis were killed.

I know friends here in the U.S. who are survivors whose Tutsi parents and siblings were killed by the RPF – rounded up, not a random bomb or random bullet that came and hit them, but who were targeted. And they came, took them out of the house, put them on trucks with countless other victims and went and killed them. So there was never really a guarantee of being in safety, and there was not much anyone could do to be in solidarity with those who were being killed. People who were in solidarity with those who were being killed were usually Hutu neighbors who saved their Tutsi neighbors, which was our case, where friends and neighbors put their lives on the line to save us.

Also during the genocide, both Hutus and Tutsis were targeted. It wasn’t just Tutsis being targeted; Hutus were targeted too.

M.O.I. JR: What I’m not understanding, at least from how it’s come to me, is that it was a tribal rivalry that was further exploited by Western interests through Paul Kagame. Now what you’re telling me is that Hutus and Tutsis were targeted. So was this a tribal war, or was this something different?

Claude: One thing for sure, there were many people who were killed because they were Tutsis and there were many people who were killed because they were Hutus. So yes, there were tribal elements to the killing and there was genocide. People were killed on the basis of their ethnicity, but there were many Hutus and Tutsis who were opposed.

The majority of Rwandans were against the fighting. They were opposed to the war, whether it be by Hutus or by Tutsis. And what basically happened was two groups – one was dominated by Tutsis and the other was dominated by Hutus – were fighting for power over the country. And you were right that Western interests exploited the situation through Kagame. But the basis of it, Kagame himself and his military were mostly Tutsis and the government at the time was mostly Hutu, and so there was a tribal element to it. But that was not all that there was to it.

The majority of Rwandans were against the fighting. They were opposed to the war, whether it be by Hutus or by Tutsis.

M.O.I. JR: For those that are tuning in, you are listening to the voice of the Claude Gatebuke, a 1994 Rwanda Genocide survivor and human rights activist, on the Block Report. For people who would like to further their education on the 1994 genocide or the current war in the Congo or if they would like to learn more about Paul Kagame – be it that he will be in Northern California at Sacramento State this Thursday – where do you recommend that they get that information?

Claude: I recommend if you would like to learn about starting with the Congo – since it’s an ongoing conflict and it’s happening today – start with going to friendsofthecongo.org and get more information. Go to africaafjn.org, Africa Faith and Justice Network, and you’ll find information both on Congo and Rwanda. And also if you would like to contact me, you can reach me at cgatebuke@gmail.com, and I’ll be glad to share resources with you and more information with you.

There is also a lot of information on various human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch (hrw.org) and Amnesty International (amnesty.org).

If you would like to learn more about what’s going on in Rwanda today, what happened in 1994 and what is happening in Congo, I recommend those sites and those organizations, but also you can reach me by e-mail and I will point you to the right information.

In Sacramento on Thursday, the third (of November), we are mobilizing communities of survivors of Kagame’s massacres – especially in Congo, but also in Rwanda – to demonstrate at Sacramento State University, where Kagame will be speaking and the truth will be turned on its head by having a genocide perpetrator speak about genocide denial and genocide prevention.

If you would like to join us, please be at Sacramento State University at 9 a.m. That’s what time the demonstration starts, 9 a.m. on Thursday, Sacramento State University, there will be a demonstration against a genocide perpetrator, Paul Kagame, speaking at a genocide conference.

M.O.I. JR: Well, thank you again, Claude Gatebuke. Thank you for being with us. Thank you for sharing your story recollecting the horrific time that you had to spend and along with your family under the regime of the Western supported Paul Kagame. Thank you, man.

Claude: Thank you, Minister of Information.

The People’s Minister of Information JR is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’“ and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe,” both available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He also hosts two weekly shows on KPFA 94.1 FM and kpfa.org: The Morning Mix every Wednesday, 8-9 a.m., and The Block Report every Friday night-Saturday morning, midnight-2 a.m. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.

Claude Gatebuke is a Rwandan Genocide and civil war survivor and human rights advocate. He is the executive director and co-founder of African Great Lakes Action Network (AGLAN), an organization focused on justice, peace and prosperity in the African Great Lakes Region, and a member of the African Great Lakes Advocacy Coalition that brings together over a dozen advocacy organizations with a common vision for a peaceful Great Lakes Region of Africa. He is a regular guest at campuses, churches, community organizations and conferences around the U.S. and has appeared on local, national and international radio and television stations. He can be reached at cgatebuke@gmail.com.

Listen above to the interview, broadcast on KPFA’s Morning Mix Wednesday, Nov. 2, 8-9 a.m., the morning before Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s scheduled appearance at the Third International Genocide Conference: Negationism, Revisionism, Survivors’ Testimonies, Eyewitness Accounts, Justice and Memory at Sacramento State University in Sacramento, Calif. As it turned out, President Kagame did not appear in person. He made his remarks, instead, from a Youtube post projected on an auditorium screen. For further information, see “His Academic Excellency Paul Kagame at Sacramento State University?” “Rwanda’s Kagame, keynote speaker at a Sac State genocide conference?” “Rwandan president’s visit to Sac State met with criticism” and “Rwandan president spoke at Sac State via YouTube.”

This explanation and audio editing are courtesy of journalist Ann Garrison, who attended the Sacramento conference, and the transcription is courtesy of Friends of the Congo.

 

55 thoughts on “Rwanda Genocide survivor: My mother and I were ordered to dig our own graves

    1. John Brothers

      Mr Pekaboo,
      Your name says exactly who you are. What are you hiding. Can you back up your statement by some tangible facts? I have known Claude since he came to the US, and his story has not changed. When I first saw him, he was new and you could see and hear the trauma of what they had gone thru. Unless you are working for General Kagame, I want to see you retract your statement if you can't back it up.
      Kagame is the most corrupt leader i Know off, and he paradoxically runs on a reputation of being one of the "least corrupt dictators".

      Reply
  1. John Brothers

    Kagame needs to exit while he can still find countries that can welcome him and save him from prosecution.
    Actually, he might be able to negotiate that Rwanda law does prosecute him after leaving power. Changing the constitution and going beyond 2017 will be digging his own grave like his army did it to many Rwandans.

    He always says that 11 millions of Rwandans love him, and yet he forgets that Gadhafi and Moubarak used to say the same just a few years ago. The wind of change is at his doorsteps, he just needs to wake up and and he will see it.

    Reply
  2. Kirezi

    You guys must be ignorant about Rwanda and indeed Africa,Paul Kagame is one of the great leaders of our time,After stopping Genocide against Tutsis in 1994, he embarked on working for the unity of his people,brought justice instead of condoning revenge, worked for security both at home and in the region and now Rwanda is one of the developing countries that is giving hope the whole world just seventeen years after that horrible tragedy.Stop your cheap politicking and hatred against a man who has done miracles for his country!! your biggest problem is jealousy!! and you have no right to speak on behalf of 11million Rwandans who have expressed their consent of their present in the last elections when they voted him more than 93% they really spoke a loud !! and if that tells you nothing then you better keep quite because you will never be told by any thing else.Get reminded that Genocide against tutsis in Rwanda started long a go in the 1950s when Kagame's parents fled to Uganda, so don't say that it was triggered by the downing of that plane, again you should know very well that Habyarimana's plane was shot by Bagosora's army with the help of the French who were not happy with Habyarimana signing the peace agreement with RPF. God bless Rwanda and Paul KAGAME.

    Reply
    1. Rugamba

      You must be Kagame himself, a man who is ashamed of his exploits and always fear telling the truth. Why is it taking this long to him to take credit of the blow he used to take over the country. You may be right to say that the genocide of Tutsi started in 1950. Surely you imaginary date may coincide with your short memory. Why not saying that it has started long before 1950? You and other knowledgeable of the Rwandan history know very well that Tutsi was stopped with the 1959 revolution, when perpetrator of it fled the country because the whole population had become intolerant the criminality of its leaders. You also know that descendants of those criminal came back to exterminate Tutsi who did not follow them which the materialized in 1994. Surely if in you opinion a leader has to kill his own people, Kagame is not only the greatest leader of our time, he also is the greatest leader of all times.

      Reply
    2. Aimable

      I am Rwandan and my right to vote was taken away last year because General Kagame refused any real political opposition to be part of the ballot. If Kagame was brave enough, he would have let the names of all real opposition leaders be on the ballot. Then you would have seen the real election results.

      Reply
  3. ukuri

    Kirezi, kagame may be good now, but crime is crime and he took his share!
    1) how dare you say the genocide started in 1959? You mean hutus with total control of the country had to wait 30 years to exterminate he tutsi? Oh pleaseeeee
    2)being voted 93%…lol. Habyarimana was voted 99% time and again. Was he that popular though? You clearly have been indoctrinated and that can t be good!
    3) Ex-far downed the plane? How majy soldiers frim that army have fome forth to back that lie? NONE. On he ther had we have already more than 5 from the RPF so far! That speaks volumes!

    Reply
  4. Alexander

    John, on which basis are you making you allegations!!stop being confused by the lies of Gatebuke and others like him who are only bent on stealing people's money in the west by telling lies about their country!! we know it very well that Gatebuke is telling all those lies just for money!. In Rwanda we are happy with our President, look at the development going on, Rwanda ranks best in doing business,Is the least corrupt country in Africa, We are excelling in good governance and with firm institutions and yet you equate us with the Qaddafi and Mubarak as Kirezi put it Kagame was elected by Rwandans at more than 93%,those dictators never allowed elections during the time as presidents,So please stop insulting the will of Rwandans .

    Reply
    1. Rugamba

      Were the 8 millions Congolese on the top of more than 2 millions Rwandese killed by Kagame and many more he is planning to kill a collateral for your cherished development. What kind of development are you talking about? Is it the unparalleled oppression prevailing inside Rwanda, the terror inflicted to Rwandans outside of Rwanda? Material development that serves to torment people I was supposed to help is a hell.
      Continue to enjoy the blood of innocents you have been sharing with your boss for the last 21 years.

      Reply
    2. Aimable

      Alexander, General Kagame`s forces fought with his mentor Museveni`s forces in Kisangani in Congo for money. So, I can understand why you think everything is about money. It cannot dawn on you that Claude actually believes in speaking out against human rights abuses no matter who the perpetrator is, no matter who the victim is. Anyways, the United Nations Mapping Report was published. It is only a matter of time before your hero General Kagame faces justice for all the women, children, elderly and the sick that his forces butchered.

      Reply
  5. Ann_Garrison

    I could point to 17 years of UN reports and human rights investigations about this, but I know by now that it wouldn't help. The last time I mentioned those reports, and a Reuters news archive from the third week of May 1994, I had to file an assault complaint against members of the Rwandan contingent at a Sacramento State University conference.

    Reply
  6. Jayson

    This is crazy! This guy is calling"Social Revolution" 1959 massacres in Rwanda against Tutsi!! Genocide was not caused by the president who died, because was planned for long time, the bought machetes and distributed guns days before. Can you explain how in couple min after shouting the plane, the killed all ministers they didn't want and premier minister(all in opposition parties)….Who real shoot that plane!
    That guy just need some cash…we will find the truth.

    Reply
  7. victor

    The likes of Gatebuke and Rusesabagina are a disgrace to Rwanda. No wonder they have the same scheme of selling lies to The West to make a living positioning themselves as advocates of peace. Both seem to be obsessed with turnishing Kagame and Rwanda's names. If they really care about Rwanda ,they should be condmning publically denouncing FDLR's acts of violence against innocent people especially women and should be bold enough to also give credit where do.
    Time will tell andtheir true colors will betray them.

    Reply
    1. Aimable

      FDLR has had its share of blame. Now, let us talk about the predator General Kagame since his crimes eclipse anything the FDLR has ever had the capacity to do. And please, Rwanda is not Kagame no matter what his conceited ego would like him to believe. Rwanda will go on and will in fact prosper without a mass murderer like General Kagame ruling it.

      Reply
    2. Mukamwezi

      Victor i agree with you, Gatebuke and Rusesabagina are just there to eat money. they are just true opportunists

      Reply
    3. The Messenger

      @victor: If you really care about Rwandan,you should keep you rNONSENSE to yourself!you are so confused!poor you!

      Reply
  8. Frank LeFever

    Kirezi neglects to say that in 1959 only some Tutsis fled into exile. When Kagame's thugs (who got their training in butchery assisting Museveni in his "bush war") massed in Uganda and invaded Rwanda (1990), they did not hesitate to kill Tutsis living peacefully in Rwanda, as well as killing Hutus — nobody was spared when they took their bloody campaign to Kigali and beyond, killing countless others in Congo (where they still cause civilian deaths and where they steal Congo resources to support the Rwandan "economic miracle"). Kagame's invasion began long before the genocide and can reasonably be said to have hardened the positions of Hutu extremists and caused the genocide (shooting down the plane and assassinating two presidents merely accelerated the process).

    Reply
  9. seamus

    Good grief,

    So much support for the Hutu Power genocidaires. I'm not sure what the motive for the lies is in this country. I guess one might be partisan in Rwanda, but why the Hutu support outside? Tutsi aren't African enough??

    Reply
    1. The messenger

      Seamus, why are you bringing up the Hutu-Tutsi thing?I thought in Rwanda everybody is Rwandan and everybody love each other.So,YOU are the one dividing Rwandan people,Shame on you.

      Reply
    2. Aimable

      Throwing around insults that have no link to the topic at hand will not change a thing. The fact is that General Kagame's crimes are becoming more and more known and documented. Insulting anyone who accuses Kagame will not shield Kagame from facing justice for his crimes.

      Reply
  10. Frank LeFever

    Seamus descends to new depths. Slimey even for a Kagame agent. I wonder if he will be at the Senate briefing tomorrow.

    Reply
  11. Frank LeFever

    Congo elections & Congo atrocities: US Senate briefing Dec. 6, 2011
    by Frank LeFever on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 1:56pm

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011 Time: 2:30 PM to 04:00 PM

    Elections and the Implementation of the United Nations Mapping Exercise Report: Senate Briefing on Democratic Republic of Congo, Evaluating the 2011 Elections

    Who: African Great Lakes Advocacy Coalition (Africa Faith and Justice Network, African Great Lakes Action Network, Friends of the Congo, Foreign Policy in Focus)

    Speakers:

    Federico Borello, Former United Nations coordinator of the Transitional Justice and Anti-Impunity Unit at the UN mission in Congo (MONUC) and was part of the UN Mapping Team in Congo

    Nii Akuetteh, Nii is a long-time activist, founder of the Democracy & Conflict Research Institute (Accra, Ghana)

    Ntama Bahati, Policy Analyst, Africa Faith and Justice Network

    Claude Gatebuke, Rwandan genocide survivor and Executive Director and Co-Founder of the African Great Lakes Action Network (AGLAN)

    Fidele Lumea, Executive Director of Congolese American Council for Peace and Development focus on Humanitarian Assistance, Peacebuilding and Development

    Emira Woods, co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies

    Kambale Musavuli, Friends of the Congo, Spokesperson & Student Coordinator

    Ngwarsungu Chiwengo, Professor of English at Creighton University Event

    For more information and speaker bios (PDF): https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1552/images

    Location:

    US Capitol Visitor Center

    First St and East Capitol, NE

    Washington, DC

    Room SVC 202-203

    Entrance to the U.S. Capitol is located on First Street and East Capitol Street, NE. ROOM: SVC 203 and SVC-202

    RSVP required: The US government requires a list of attendees–Please RSVP at bahati@afjn.org or call 202-884-9780

    For questions email Bahati Jacques at bahati@afjn.org or call 202-884-9780

    Please allow time to be processed through security.

    Reply
  12. therisingcontinent

    I find Claude Gatebuke's account of Rwanda genocide the most close to the way I would myself tell the story of that horrible time in the past of my country.

    Reply
  13. Kirezi

    Rugamba ,I think if you have some allegations to make, you better also provide evidence! your abusive language also shows that you are only driven by hate and not reason. That can't help you at all.

    Reply
    1. The messenger

      Kirezi : Which evidence are YOU providing before telling others to provide one, show the right exemple my dear!

      Reply
  14. Kirezi

    Frank le fever, what you are saying is common language for all revisionists and does not present any facts and you would look wise if you provide any evidence of what you are saying.

    Reply
  15. Kirezi

    The messenger,I thought this forum was meant for civilized people! I'm shocked at your abusive language and indeed this shows who you are!.

    Reply
    1. The messenger

      Kirezi, the MONSTER and uncivilised here is YOU who is OBVIOUSLY a Congo genocide denier.Don't be ashamed by my language,be ashamed by what system you support.

      Reply
  16. Frank LeFever

    Kirezi, please make explicit one specific thing I said ("what you are saying" is too vague) and I will be happy to provide the evidence supporting my statement.

    Reply
  17. Richardson

    Please stop all this madness about Rwanda and President Paul Kagame.Rwanda is a symbol of development and democracy in Africa, this did not come by itself after the Genocide!! it is the leadership of president Kagame doing all these good things we see in Rwanda just 17 years after the genocide,so give Rwanda a break and let Rwandans continue with their development. One thing for sure that Rwanda should be aware of , is that after defeating the genocidal regime and the whole world watching as the genocide was taking place you should not be surprised by this kind of hatred that you are experiencing today, you only need to be strong enough to continue with your development and fight whoever would wish to take you back where you came from.Again know that those comments expressing a lot of hatred are from just wishful thinkers who only live in that world of fantasy and feel consoled through their abuses.
    Just give them a few days they will crumble!!! God Bless Rwanda and your President Paul Kagame!!

    Reply
  18. Alex

    Thank you Richardson!! just rest assured, there is nothing that can take Rwanda back to its past and we are determined to continue with the development of our country.Beggars like Gatebuke and others like him,whose intentions are to tarnish the image of Rwanda because of money they get from those revisionists, our best advice to them is to come back home and work with other Rwandans to further our development, otherwise they will live to regret their ill intentions on Rwanda.
    God Bless Rwanda

    Reply
  19. Aimee

    I think western media should stop being lazy,I'm a journalist by profession, but have never seen unbalanced and unfair stories like the ones we are seeing these days about this beautiful African country of Rwanda.Now I'm wondering! why these journalists usually speak to one side,they should also speak to other people other than Gatebuke who is even likely not to be a survivor of Genocide or being used by other negative forces.Please speak to genocide survivor associations and even the government other than giving us a one sided story based on baseless allegations and lies of these revisionists and beggars.

    Reply
  20. Gordon

    Thumbs up Rwanda!!!! those people are just jealousy of your good President and for sure you need to ignore their madness and keep on your good development agenda.
    God bless President Kagame and Rwanda!!!!

    Reply
  21. Mukamwezi

    Aimee thank you so much, i agree with you Gatebuke is not a genocide survivor and i actually believe if he is investigated well they even find out that he was part of the killers.
    Ann Gerson your just an evil but you should not waste your time Rwandans went through hard time and i promise you will not do anything to us.Please stop being evil on Rwanda.

    Reply
  22. Frank LeFever

    Kirezi chickens out again, having neither the intellectual nor moral resources for a cogent argument. I repeat my challenge: try to cite one thing (anything) I have said for which you can offer evidence to contradict or at least raise questions about. "Everything" or "you know" is the retort of a coward or a dullard (not mutually exclusive, inasmuch as Kagame apologists often seem to be both).

    Reply
  23. Frank LeFever

    Aimee — a "journalist by profession"? How marvelous! Odd, however, for a journalist to publish without a byline. Is there some reason why you conceal your identity and the news outlet where you publish your work?

    Listen to "the other side"? I know some journalists are lazy, but surely even you must know that we HAVE read what has been put out by survivor groups, and one cannot escape seeing what the Rwandan government puts out!

    Investigate Gatebuke? Excellent idea — why don't you take that project on? Or is your specialty "fashion trends" and "pop culture" rather than Investigative Journalism?

    Reply
  24. Kirezi

    Frank Le Fever,if you cannot provide evidence of what you are saying, then better keep quite!! you have no moral ground to ask for a cogent argument when you have nothing to argue about. So please stop your cheap propaganda and hatred against Rwanda.

    Reply
  25. Aimee

    Thanks Mukamwezi,for sure this guy Gatebuke is a real revisionist and is being used by the detractors of Rwanda out there!! one thing you should know very well is never lose much of our time on these false allegations, because the true story about Rwanda is well documented,let us tell our true story and leave the revisionists alone.As for Frank Le Fever we are not talking about identities here, we are talking about professionalism,its good you admitted some journalists are lazy and this is a good example of a lazy journalist who only looks at one side.Again if you are saying that you have read what has been put out by survivor groups give it to those people so that they at least write a balanced story.

    Reply
  26. Frank.

    I think these revisionists must be very stupid, do they think the world is blind to the extent of not knowing what is being done in Rwanda,I agree with you Aimee we should not waste our time on these mad people just obsessed on a busing the will of Rwandans.
    Thumbs up President Paul Kagame and Rwanda!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

    Reply
  27. Ubuntu

    Dear African brothers and Sisters, stop waiting your time. Ann and Frank have shown their true colors. For you my brother Claude, you need help. I am not here to defend Kagame or RPF. RPF did not come to your house to kill you and your family, Interahamwe did. Never forget the Hutu Ten Commandments. Good like with you crusade. Rwanda is moving on.
    Ubuntu

    __The ‘Hutu Ten Commandments’_as published in Kangura, No. 6_(December 1990) ____——————————————————————————–_

    Reply
  28. ubuntu

    Dear African brothers and Sisters, stop waiting your time. Ann and Frank have shown their true colors. For you my brother Claude, you need help. I am not here to defend Kagame or RPF. RPF did not come to your house to kill you and your family, Interahamwe did. Never forget the Hutu Ten Commandments. Good like with your crusade. Rwanda is moving on.
    Ubuntu

    Reply
  29. Frank LeFever

    It is unfortunate that "ubuntu" (I wonder what his real name is) is so disadvantaged in reading and comprehending prose beyond a primary-school level. Perhaps he should enlist the aid of an educated friend or public-spirited teacher to read the transcript of the interview slowly and carefully for him, searching for the imaginary passage which "ubuntu" imagines that Claude said the RPF came to his house (either to kill him or to "rescue" him).

    As usual, another Hutu-demonizer needs to explain why Hutus would wait until they had lost control of the country and faced imminent defeat by an invading army to implement any "plan" to kill Tutsis — why did they not do so in the years before RPF was strong enough to invade? In any country (the US included) there are uncivilized groups who would welcome the chaos of war for the chance it gave them to murder whatever scapegoat they have focused on; in Rwanda, Kagame provided such an opportunity, knowing it would serve his purposes.

    Reply

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