By Jean Pierre BUCYENSENGE
That is the name that still sends the chills down many a people’s spine in the present day Ruhango District, formerly Ntongwe commune.
Photo: Hundreds of residents defied scorching sun to welcome Kwibuka Flame in Kinazi, Ruhango District, on Saturday. Sorce: The New Times/ JP Bucyensenge
For each chill the name gives the people, the opposite reaction is the longing for the day Kagabo, a former bourgoumestre (mayor), would be brought to justice. He remains at large, 20 years later.
Kagabo, who is believed to have been the leader of militiamen that executed thousands in his mayoral jurisdiction as well as surrounding districts, especially in the then Mugina commune, is described as merciless, cold, calculative and vicious in his plots to exterminate Tutsis.
Survivors in both Kamonyi and the neighbouring Ruhango District accuse Kagabo and Burundian refugees in the area at the time of being at the forefront of the killings there.
Kagabo is said to have come up with “an elaborate plan to kill Tutsis and executed it with utmost care and in minute detail.”
The Burundians in question were those who were sheltered at the Nyagahama refugee camp, in the then Ntongwe commune.
“They [the Burundians] were stationed there in preparation of the killings which they would eventually commit,” says Samuel Dusabiyumva, a survivor and the head of the committee organising the burial of some 60,000 area Genocide victims.
“It was a plan to have them near places considered strategic and where it was believed Tutsis could hide.”
Nyagahama is also the place where the Burundians were picked from, paid, offered free transport and promised other rewards by then local leaders to kill Tutsis who had gathered in the then Mugina commune.
“He was tactical in his methods. He first targeted rich Tutsis and intellectuals. He emphasised both quality and quantity [in his killings] methods,” Dusabiyumva says of Kagabo.
Other survivors described Kagabo as “a mischievous leader who used his skills to exterminate Tutsis.”
“He was like a chameleon,” Dusabiyumva says. “He knew how to approach militiamen to mobilise them to kill and he had the charms to approach some Tutsis to know where they were planning to hide or escape through so he could send his killers after them.”
Sources say Kagabo was a medical worker and that he was sent to lead Ntongwe commune in the build up to the Genocide.
“May be the appointing authority knew him as someone who would successfully execute their genocidal plan,” Dusabiyumva says.
The Burundians enlisted by Kagabo joined hands with militia groups, gendarmes and soldiers to exterminate Tutsis, according to testimonies.
“If Kagabo was not the leader of the commune, the killings would never have been at the scale we saw. I bet so many Tutsis could have survived,” says Dusabiyumva.
Survivors believe Kagabo is alive and at large, probably in DR Congo.
It is estimated that more than 60,000 Tutsis perished in the former Ntongwe sector. The victims are set to be given a decent burial at a new memorial site being built in the area.
Testimonies indicate that the Burundians had been trained and offered military equipment in the build up to the Genocide. They used traditional weapons, grenades and rifles to execute Tutsis, survivors said.
“What they did was unimaginable. They killed Tutsis in the most horrific of ways. What saddens us the most is that they are still free, going about their lives in their country. The government should do everything possible to bring them to book,” Marie Claire Niyomujeje, a survivor, says.
Jean de Dieu Mucyo, the executive secretary for the National Commission for the Fight against the Genocide, said efforts to track the Burundians and other foreigners accused of playing a role in the Genocide has been ongoing.
“I am confident that time will come when they will face justice,” he said.
Source: The New Times