Rwanda: No justice for Kibeho Massacre victims 20 years later

by Ann Garrison

Flashpoints, Pacifica Radio, broadcast April 22, 2015

On April 22, 1995, 4,000 to 8,000 Rwandan Hutu people, maybe more, were massacred at the Kibeho Camp for Internally Displaced Persons in Southwestern Rwanda. No one has ever been prosecuted, even though there were many witnesses and detailed photo-documentation by at least two photographers.

Transcript

U.N. troops carry a victim away on a stretcher. Most troops were combat medics and they were too outnumbered to have stopped the massacre. – Photo: George Gittoes
U.N. troops carry a victim away on a stretcher. Most troops were combat medics and they were too outnumbered to have stopped the massacre. – Photo: George Gittoes

Flashpoints Host Dennis Bernstein: In Berkeley, I’m Dennis Bernstein. You’re listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. Between four and eight thousand internally displaced persons, refugees inside Rwanda’s borders, were massacred at Kibeho IDP camp in Southwestern Rwanda 20 year ago. This is one of many crimes of Paul Kagame’s army, for which no one has ever been charged or prosecuted. Independent reporter Ann Garrison has this remembrance.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: The Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide are intertwined in U.S. interventionist ideology. According to this ideology, the U.S., with NATO and/or its other military partners, must intervene to stop the next Holocaust or “the next Rwanda” – in Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq or wherever else they feel morally compelled to “stop genocide.”

And Rwandan President Paul Kagame has been given license to “hunt down Hutu genocidaires” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 20 years of war that have cost more than 6 million lives, as vast quantities of Eastern Congo’s mineral wealth were smuggled out through Rwanda and Uganda.

But what really happened in Rwanda? Who killed whom – how, when and for what purpose? The Hollywood morality play “Hotel Rwanda” told us that extremist Hutus killed a million Tutsis in 100 days until Gen. Paul Kagame’s Tutsi army stopped the genocide in 1994.

Today, however, marks the 20th anniversary of the Kibeho Massacre of April 22, 1995, when Kagame’s army murdered 8,000 or more unarmed Hutu refugees in a camp in Southwestern Rwanda, and the U.N. Security Council made sure that no one was ever prosecuted.

The Kibeho massacre is one of many committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Army in Rwanda and DR Congo, but it is one of the most shocking because it was witnessed by U.N. Peacekeepers from Australia, Zambia, and the U.K. and well documented by at least two photographers, but no one was ever prosecuted for the crime.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Kibeho Massacre of April 22, 1995, when Kagame’s army murdered 8,000 or more unarmed Hutu refugees in a camp in Southwestern Rwanda, and the U.N. Security Council made sure that no one was ever prosecuted.

In his book about the massacre, Australian combat medic Terry Pickard wrote: “We could only hope the RPA [Rwandan Patriotic Army] would let us leave after what we had just witnessed. They had just murdered thousands of unarmed, starving, thirsty and helpless men, women and children. Even babies had not been spared. Some of those who had survived the lethal onslaught of 50 caliber machine guns, AK47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars were ruthlessly hunted down and bayoneted to death where they lay injured.”

George Gittoes in “The Deluge,” a documentary film in progress
George Gittoes in “Le Deluge,” a documentary film in progress, www.thedelugefilm.com

In “The Deluge,” a documentary film in progress, Australian photographer George Gittoes describes a young girl who shepherded her sisters and her mother to safety before she died, even though she herself was already riddled with bullets.

George Gittoes: There was this girl, like she was just riddled with bullet wounds, like she was just … shouldn’t have been walking. It was like Bonnie and Clyde’s car; she was just all shot up. And she came over to me and like a ghost, she just put her hand out to me and she said, “Don’t you go anywhere.” Well, I wasn’t going anywhere because, like, I would have just been cut in half by bullets myself.

And then she went and got her older sisters and I think her mother. It was an older woman. And then, like a little gaggle of geese, she brought them back through all the dead, all the bullets and she kept on getting hit by more bullets, but none of them did. And then she just settled them around me, and she said, “Now you get them out of here.”

And she … she put her head down on my chest, and she was all hot. And then within a few seconds, she was cold. And she died. And that was, in my whole life, the bravest, the bravest thing I’ve ever seen. And that girl hadn’t done anything. She couldn’t possibly have been part of any genocidal massacre.

KPFA: Today, Gittoes sent a note in response to several questions, which read: “No one knows how many were killed. I would personally estimate much more than anyone else has. The RPA fired mortars and rockets and machine guns into those fleeing down the hill towards the river. Many died in the river. I have photos of this. These were never accounted for. It was brutal murder.”

The Australian medics counted 4,100 bodies with a mechanical counting device until they were ordered to stop and said that they thought they had counted about half.

In 2010, Rwandan exile and British citizen Rene Mugenzi organized a commemorative event with Amnesty International, other human rights organizations and U.N. peacekeepers who had witnessed the Kibeho Massacre.

Rene Mugenzi: In April 2010, we organized the event to commemorate victims and to raise awareness about the killings that happened and the justice that should be done. And at that event, we invited human rights organizations and also some former U.N. peacekeepers who were present during the massacres. Those peacekeepers include a British soldier, an Australian and a Zambian.

KPFA: And one of them had taken photographs of the massacre?

Mugenzi: Yes, one of them had shown us pictures which showed what happened. You know, how the RPF came and prepared and shot those people. And those pictures had never been shown publicly before.

KPFA: And now, after that, the BBC reported that President Kagame, Rwanda’s President Kagame, had sent assassins into London to kill you and your friend Jonathan Musonera.

Mugenzi: Yes.

KPFA: And have you been threatened since?

Mugenzi: We haven’t because the U.K. government has warned the Rwandan government not to try to do those terrible acts on British soil. So since then we haven’t received any threats from anyone.

KPFA: A long list of enemies of the Rwandan government have either been assassinated or disappeared, including President Kagame’s former intelligence chief, Patrick Karegeya, who was strangled in a Johannesburg, South Africa, hotel on New Year’s Day in 2014. The Rwandan government’s enemies include all those who describe the Rwandan Genocide and its aftermath in any way differing from their official account.

For Pacifica, I’m Ann Garrison.

Flashpoints/Mike Biggs: And that wraps it up for another edition of Flashpoints.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch, Colored Opinions and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at anniegarrison@gmail.com. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.

There are more voices of witnesses to the Kibeho Massacre in “Le Deluge,” a film in progress about the Rwandan massacres and their aftermath in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, including the ensuing 20 years of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For more information about the film, see www.thedelugefilm.com.