Rwanda: Responsibility of the Rwandan Gendarmerie in the Preparation of the Genocide Committed Against the Tutsi in 1994

The Rwandan gendarmerie was mandated to ensure public security and conduct preliminary police investigations to identify “troublemakers” and refer them to the Prosecutor for legal proceedings. Instead of upholding this mandate, the Rwandan gendarmerie was involved in establishing a repressive system that targeted Tutsi solely for their ethnicity, lending support to the pogroms instigated by extremist politicians.

Let’s begin with October 1990. Among the individuals that the gendarmerie falsely accused and arrested for alleged RPF complicity, none had a pre-existing detention file before being placed in prison or crammed into football stadiums, which were turned into detention centres. For some detainees, these files were fabricated months later by intelligence agents, then forced upon prosecutors, gendarmes, and police inspectors for their signatures. Notably, the police inspection service was under the gendarmerie, notorious for its practice of torture to obtain confessions. Major Laurent Munyakazi led the “criminology” unit where these atrocities occurred. French officers also worked at this unit under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Michel Robardey.

The tragic plight of Tutsis arrested and falsely imprisoned at that time under the guise of being RPF collaborators is extensive. When reading the files written by the Rwandan gendarmerie against these individuals, it is evident that they are all accused of collaboration with the enemy without any concrete material evidence of complicity. Such was the case for 13 employees of the SIEVA printing press owned by Evariste SISI.

The intelligence service first arrested Philippe Nkeramihigo, Head of Personnel, accusing him of holding pro-RPF meetings in his office. They then arrested four other employees:

  • Théophile Kamanzi, who led the printing service
  • Faustin Ntaganda, who led the commercial service
  • Célestin Rutayisire, who led the laboratory
  • Oswald Munyaneza, who was an agent in the commercial service

All these people were considered RPF accomplices simply because they worked as Tutsi agents at the SIEVA printing press or because they were friends with Evariste Sisi. These accusations were mentioned in their arrest files compiled by the intelligence service.

The intelligence service also arrested Tutsi women who worked at the SIEVA printing press, falsely accusing them of printing identity cards sent to the Inkotanyi. They include:

  • Lasie Uwimana
  • Jeanne Nyirazesa
  • Marcelle Mukamazimpaka
  • Ernestine Mukamuligo
  • Dative Mukasekuru
  • Eugénie Mukanyundo

These women were beaten to the extent that Mukamazimpaka died in April 1991. Mukamuligo was detained with her less-than-one-year-old infant. All these Tutsis were initially detained and beaten at the Gikondo gendarmerie station, commanded by Lieutenant Balinda, who was renowned for his cruelty. Following this, they were transferred to the central prison in Kigali on October 13, 1990.

In the files compiled by the intelligence service, the accusations against Mukamazimpaka and Mukamuligo noted that ‘the SIEVA establishment employed them for the counterfeiting of identity cards sent to the Inkotanyi.‘ The intelligence service also mentions that ‘The informer is Léocadie Mukamana.’ It is crucial to remember that during this period, the accused lacked legal representation, making them vulnerable to false accusations based solely on verbal testimonies. This context is particularly relevant when considering the pattern of arrests involving Léocadie Mukamana.

In the files of all the imprisoned SIEVA printing press employees, it is striking to note that Léocadie Mukamana denounced them. This raises questions about her proximity to the regime because there are no other reasons that would explain her denouncement of more than ten employees, who were all immediately imprisoned without tangible evidence.

We have been able to access some lists of people arrested by the gendarmerie during the initial surge of arrests targeting suspected RPF accomplices in 1990. These lists are incomplete, representing only a fraction of the estimated 10,000 detainees. Those we have been able to consult concern 248 people arrested by the Nyarugenge gendarmerie station, 81 by the Nyamirambo station, and 88 by the Gikondo station.

The charges listed prove that these people were wrongfully arrested without any legitimate grounds and were detained solely based on being Tutsi, suspected of being RPF accomplices due to this affiliation.

The following gendarmes prepared the Nyarugenge brigade files:

  • Lieutenant Colonel Jean Ngayinteranya
  • Major Munyakazi Laurent
  • Captain Hakizimana
  • Commander Nzabonimpa
  • Commander Mpatswenumugabo
  • Lieutenant Habyarimana
  • Lieutenant Nkulikiye
  • Second Lieutenants Bizumuremyi, Bizimungu, Rusigi, and Bikweno
  • Chief Warrant Officer Bukera
  • Sergeants-Major Nzamuye, Semahore, Kageme, Nsengimana, and Ndikubwimana
  • Sergeants Bizimana, Bigirimana, and Rukamata

Commander Nzabonimpa, Major Munyakazi, and Sergeant Hitimana prepared the files of those detained at the Nyamirambo station. Some files mention that they were arrested by military personnel.

For the Gikondo brigade, the gendarmes were as follows:

  • Lieutenant Colonel Ngayinteranya
  • Major Munyakazi
  • Major Rwarakabije
  • Commander Nzabonimpa
  • Captain Hakizimana
  • Captain Habimana
  • Captain Munyawera
  • Lieutenants Nkulikiye, Balinda, Ntirugiribambe, and Ndayisaba
  • Second Lieutenants Ngor

According to the information in their files, most of those arrested were labelled as accomplices of the RPF simply because they were Tutsi or did not have their identity cards or residence permits at the time of their arrest. Some individuals were also considered RPF accomplices based on denunciations from the population.

Among all those arrested, only three were accused of specific charges. The first was Emmanuel Masengesho, who worked at Kigali Bank. He was accused, in collusion with his sister Violette Murorunkwere, who worked at ORINFOR, of collecting money for the RPF. Their file mentioned that this money was deposited into Masengesho’s account, and RPF members withdrew it from a bank in Bujumbura.

The second person was Hamisi Bazoza, a driver at ONATRACOM. He was accused of firing on the Kigali military camp with a machine gun from Biryogo, a neighbourhood very close to the camp. These allegations were said to have been transmitted by Kayitare, also a driver at ONATRACOM. This appears to be a pure denunciation against a colleague, possibly stemming from personal conflicts.

The third accused person was Évariste Kalisa, who worked at Electrogaz, as the head of the electrical network in Kigali. His file mentioned that he was denounced by the head of the Electrogaz station in Kigali, Jonathan Ntirikwendera, and Augustin Hakizimana, who was the station chief in Gikondo. They fabricated the lie that Kalisa had taken all the keys to the electricity cabins of Kigali-North and Kigali-South and had asked his colleagues to provide him with maps indicating all the power lines in the capital. When they refused to provide this information, he allegedly became angry. His detractors claimed he aimed to cut off the power that illuminated the Kigali military camp. He was arrested based on this fabricated accusation, unsupported by any material evidence.

Between 1990 and 1994, the Rwandan gendarmerie also allowed cases of violence against civilians, particularly Tutsis, to occur with impunity.

On February 9, 1993, Le Flambeau, a newspaper associated with the Rwandan government’s opposition, published issue number 4, containing photos showing French soldiers fighting alongside the Rwandan army against the Rwandan Patriotic Army of the RPF-Inkotanyi. During the day, a French gendarme, Major Corriere, stationed with the judicial police service of the Rwandan gendarmerie, went to the editorial office of this newspaper to violently harass the journalists, ordering them to reveal the identity of the informant who provided the photos of the French soldiers taken in the field of military operations.

The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Rangira Adrien, immediately called for help from the Group of Neutral Military Observers (GOMN) of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which intervened and asked Major Corriere to allow the journalists to do their work independently, without any hindrance. However, the French gendarme did not stop there; he went to the PHOTOLAB photographic laboratory and accused two Tutsi employees, Rudasingwa Joseph and Byukusenge Anne Marie, of providing the photos. These employees were taken to the gendarmerie office known as “Criminology” to be beaten and tortured, released only through the intervention of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which their families had alerted. It should be noted that France had deployed a contingent of French gendarmes, commanded by Colonel Michel Robardey, to Rwanda. They were tasked with using information technology to compile a list of presumed accomplices of the Inkotanyi, indicating their ethnicity. These lists were used in the systematic targeting and killing of Tutsis during the 1994 genocide.

On November 22, 1992, 43 residents of the Nyakabanda cell in Kigali (Kicukiro sector, Kanombe commune) wrote a letter to the Prime Minister to alert him of the massacres committed by supporters of the MRND and the CDR in this cell. This letter described the persecutions suffered by Tutsi and Hutu from opposition parties for two months. It reported that since July 1992, many acts had been committed by a section of the Interahamwe calling itself “Inyange za Remera.” The letter also indicated that the authorities enabled the killers to act because even when they were arrested, the gendarmerie did not detain them for long. Here are some excerpts from the letter:

In a few words, we would like to inform you, Excellency the Prime Minister, about the horrors that these Inyange have committed against the population of the Nyakabanda cell since July. […] On September 27, 1992, Interahamwe launched an attack against Ngoga, Cyriaque Munigantama, and Rukiya Urayeneza. They vandalized their home because they were Tutsi, they declared. Nine tenants of houses belonging to Ngoboka were chased under the pretext that an RPF accomplice housed them.

On September 28, 1992, Interahamwe Paul Zikanga, an instructor of the Inyange, was arrested with a grenade while in a bar where he had repeatedly claimed that the inhabitants of the Nyakabanda cell only understood the language of grenades. The gendarmes of the Remera brigade arrested him, but a few days later, he was released. They continue to disturb the security. No punishment anymore! […]

On October 12, 1992, the Interahamwe, commanded by Bernard Dusingizemungu, ransacked the houses of Bazilisa, Eliane Mukankusi, Ambroise, a customs agent, Bernard nicknamed ‘Milenge,’ Boniface Uzabatunga, Claude, and Micheline. After this act of vandalism, they were chased from their homes. These Interahamwe told them that they were victims of their ethnic (Tutsi) and regional (South) affiliation.

On November 4, 1992, the Interahamwe destroyed the houses of Nathalie Mukamurera, Solange Nyirabahima, Philomène Mukakimenyi, Donatille Mukamurera, and Maniraguha. They looted them, and these five people were chased from their homes. When the commander of these Inyange, Aloys Ngirabatware, realized that he was hated by the population – even though he enjoyed impunity – he strategically lent Inyange to Thomas Kabonabake (journalist at L’écho des mille collines), who was determined to provoke troubles and shed the blood of political opponents.”

Analysis of this situation closely reveals that Thomas Kabonabake planned to incite trouble in the Nyakabanda cell and spread it throughout the city. This sad reality was observed in an attack that these Inyange launched outside Nyakabanda, particularly in Gikondo, Gatenga, Kanombe, Remera, and elsewhere: “Thomas Kabonabake can harm. As he loudly claims, he has 80 Interahamwe at his disposal, and one whistle is enough to gather them. Imagine someone who hosts and feeds more than 10 Interahamwe, mostly made up of criminals, even though he himself has no recognized employment, and his so-called newspaper is unsellable. These Interahamwe have set up a roadblock in front of his house. Since 6 p.m., they have been checking the papers of passersby and robbing them of everything they have on them.

We would like to tell you in a few words about some reprehensible acts committed by him: on the evening of October 26, 1992, his wife, Judith Kawera, picked a quarrel with her neighbor Anthere Nyilimana, whom she overwhelmed with insults. She threatened to launch an attack of Interahamwe against him. After a few minutes, she brought Interahamwe, who tried to provoke trouble, but no one reacted to their provocation. […]

On October 27, 1992, under the leadership of Kabonabake’s wife, the Interahamwe attacked a widow, her neighbor Sada, who manages a shop nearby. They terrorized her to force her to leave the place. To convince her of the seriousness of their threat, they stabbed her employee at the barbecue and left him dying. All this confirms the threats that Kabonabake kept repeating. […]

We have thoroughly examined this problem. We have found that it is complex because every time the commune tried to resolve it, the public prosecutor and the gendarmerie got involved. As for the gendarmerie, we believe that the problem is due to the attitude of the command of the territorial company and the Kicukiro brigade. Their commanders publicly stated that they would never arrest the Interahamwe. Indeed, when you investigate these troubles, you will find that no Interahamwe has ever been apprehended for the acts he committed, despite the presence of gendarmes patrolling day and night. If you find that we are lying, we are willing to apologize. If we return to the functioning of the commune, we know very well that it arrested many people that it made available to the public prosecutor. However, the next day, the prosecutor released them, and they returned to continue their criminal acts. Among these wrongdoers, we mention:

  • Vovo, aka ‘Zaïrois’;
  • Ukundayezu, aka ‘Etincelle’;
  • Paul Zikanga;
  • Nsengimana;
  • Claude Kalisa, aka ‘Adjudant’;
  • Madeleine Uwamahoro, aka ‘Kabuwa’;
  • André Habyarimana alias ‘Yayu’;
  • Jean de Dieu Kagabo, aka ‘Colonel Bradock’;
  • Gatabazi.

We must also inform you that the file of Kabonabake and his wife is in the hands of the prosecutor, but nothing is progressing. We do not understand why they are not arrested and detained, as they threaten the security of the population every day. […]

On November 13, 1992, Kabonabake himself had the First Sergeant-Major Balthazar Munyampanzi killed through a unit of the presidential guard (GP) commanded by Lieutenant Turatsinze, in plain view of everyone.”

Such cases, expressed in a letter written by residents of a single cell in the city of Kigali, illustrate the extent of violence, terrorism, and massacres committed by the Interahamwe with the support of the gendarmerie, which, in normal circumstances, should ensure peace and security.

On September 4, 1992, the massacres taking place in the Kicukiro Commune led to a meeting of the high hierarchy of the Rwandan gendarmerie, led by General Ndindiriyimana. The following personalities participated:

  • the mayor of Kicukiro, Evariste Gasamagera
  • Major Jean-Marie Vianney Nzapfakumunsi, commander of the gendarmerie in the city of Kigali
  • Major Innocent Bavugamenshi, commander of the “headquarters” company
  • Commander Pierre-Claver Karangwa, in charge of intelligence at the gendarmerie
  • Captain Ildephonse Mugiraneza, intelligence officer at the GD
  • Lieutenant Vincent Karekezi, commander of the intervention and discipline platoon
  • Lieutenant Léon Mpozayo, G1 officer, rapporteur of the meeting

The meeting acknowledged that insecurity prevailed in the Kicukiro commune, and assassinations with firearms were very frequent, especially in the Gatenga, Gikondo, Kicukiro centre, near Oprovia, and Ziniya neighbourhoods. It was observed that some wrongdoers wore military uniforms, particularly in Gikondo. The mayor revealed that their commander was named Mpangare but did not explain why he had not been arrested and detained despite being well-identified.

In March 1992, massacres targeting Tutsis were committed in the Mbogo Commune, located in the Kigali Rural prefecture. At that time, 19 killed Tutsis were identified. Several Tutsis from Mbogo (Ruhanya sector, Bukoro cell) had to flee their property. Those with means sought refuge in Kigali, while others returned home, living under the daily threat of their attackers.

In 1993, massacres resumed in the same region between February 21 and 28, 1993. Tutsis from the Ruhanya and Mbogo sectors fell victim to atrocities, with 18 people perishing. During the nights of February 25, 26, and 27, 1993, the family of the elderly Gatanazi was attacked. Eight people were burned alive in their house, with only two children surviving, Antoine Kabanda and his sister Vénantie Gasengayire. The victims were:

  • Michel Gatanazi, an 80-year-old elderly man
  • Charlotte Kabanyana, Antoine Kabanda’s wife
  • Agnès Gatanazi Kamurenzi, 74 years old
  • Tharcisse Nilingiyimana
  • Félix Niyibizi, 6 years old
  • Olive Nyirahene, Gatanazi’s granddaughter (one of Kabanda’s four children)
  • Jacqueline Tuyizere
  • Béata Uwingabire

After the massacre of the Gatanazi family, the mayor of the Mbogo commune, Vincent Twizeyimana, was informed but never went to the massacre site to have the victims buried. Even the neighbours allowed the bodies to decompose in the open air. The sector counsellor and the cell leader were equally unmoved by this barbarity. Alerted by human rights organizations and journalists who had gone to investigate the massacre, the bodies were buried by other Tutsis who had come from Shyorongi to seek refuge.

Apart from the Gatanazi family in the Mbogo commune, other Tutsis were killed on the night of March 1 to 2, 1993. The victims were:

  • Jean Habimana’s wife, Catherine Mukamana
  • their child Muganajabo, 4 years old
  • their infant Ndayambaje, 9 months old
  • Nyirabandi, 62 years old
  • Uzayisenga, Habimana’s daughter, born in 1958
  • Donata Musabyimana, Habimana’s sister
  • Mushatsi, Habimana’s son, was born in 1986

The only survivor of this family is Habimana’s son, born in 1990. He had been severely burned and injured. After these massacres, 393 people from the Kigali prefecture wrote a letter to President Habyarimana, pleading with him to protect the threatened population. They also informed him that communal and military authorities had participated in these massacres, and nothing had been done to restore security.

The year 1992 was also dramatic for the Tutsis in the Kibuye prefecture, especially those in the Rwamatamu and Gishyita communes. The troubles began on August 20, 1992, and lasted for a week. The sectors that were particularly affected include Ngoma, Mpembe, Mara, and Marangara in Gishyita; Nyagahinga, Mugozi, Rwabisindu, Butembo, and Gitsindwe in Rwamatamu. 500 houses were set on fire, and more than 5,000 people sought refuge at the Mubuga parish in Kibingo and at the Rwamatamu communal office.

The judicial authorities failed to prosecute the perpetrators, as revealed in a confidential telegram dated August 24, 1992, sent to the Prime Minister by the Director-General of Internal Intelligence, Dr. Augustin Iyamuremye. This telegram was intended for the Minister of Justice and denounced the dysfunction of the Kibuye prosecutor’s office, which did not prosecute those responsible for the atrocities in the Gishyita commune in Kibuye. Dr. Iyamuremye indicated that a few people had been arrested and placed in provisional detention, but they had to be released as the prosecutor had not established their files within the deadlines stipulated by law. This finding testifies to the prosecutor’s lack of willingness to hold “troublemakers” accountable.

As also highlighted in a note dated February 11, 1991, and prepared by the head of the Kibuye intelligence service, Didace Dushimiyimana, the massacres of Tutsi in Kibuye in 1992 had been planned since 1991. In this note, Dushimiyimana reported that a security meeting took place on February 11, 1991, where residents of Gisenyi planned to attack the Tutsi in Kibuye, similar to what they had done in Gisenyi. He also mentioned that in this security meeting, the Kibuye prefect claimed that President Museveni intended to create a Hamito-Hima kingdom by annexing Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.

Didace Dushimiyimana concluded his note by specifying that participants in this security meeting had decided to distribute weapons among the population in the communes bordering Lake Kivu. The Hutu in Gisenyi were even preparing to launch an expedition to Kibuye. They had declared that “The Tutsi of Burundi are braver than the Hutu of Kibuye.” In other words, the Hutu of Kibuye were considered traitors; otherwise, they would have eliminated the Tutsi.

The extent of the massacres committed against the Tutsi in Kibuye in 1992 was discussed by high-ranking officials of the national gendarmerie during various meetings. The minutes of the meeting on August 29, 1992, held at the gendarmerie headquarters, included the following participants:

  • Major Paul Rwarakabije, G3, gendarmerie headquarters
  • Commander Pierre-Claver Karangwa, G2
  • Captain François Nkukiliye, interim G1
  • Captain Jérôme Ngendahimana, G3 officer
  • Captain Ildephonse Mugiraneza, G2 officer
  • Lieutenant Léon Mpozayo, G1 officer
  • Lieutenant Espérance Mukamusonera, manager at the gendarmerie
  • Sub-Lieutenant Mathias Nsabimana, head of the secretariat service at the gendarmerie

The agenda of this meeting had a single item related to the security situation in the Kibuye prefecture. It was acknowledged during this meeting that large-scale massacres had been committed in the Gishyita and Rwamatamu communes, and tensions prevailed within the population of the Gisovu and Gitesi communes.

The meeting also recalled that, on August 27, 1992, the Prime Minister and two army and gendarmerie chiefs of staff had visited the Gishyita and Rwamatamu communes. Observing the mass exodus of residents, they held a public meeting. At the meeting, they established an ad hoc commission to investigate the origin of these acts of violence and their perpetrators. Drawing upon their observations, the chief of staff of the gendarmerie announced to the participants that these disturbances could have two leading causes:

  • Following the amnesty decreed by the President of the Republic, several bandits were released, and detainees collaborating with the RPF were scattered throughout the country. They interacted daily with the youth of political parties, especially that of the MDR. According to him, this entire group caused insecurity and was manipulated by the RPF. Tutsi assisted these individuals from the PL party in better infiltrating rural areas. They caused disruption and fled in such a way that acts of self-defence committed by the Hutu were the only ones seen and condemned. This, according to Ndindiriyimana, aimed to thwart the peace agreements.
  • The second cause, according to him, lay in the extremist elements of Hutu and Tutsi, who exploited the situation for their agendas.

Ndindiriyimana’s words thus attribute the problems of insecurity and atrocities committed in the Gishyita and Rwamatamu communes to innocents, namely, Tutsi and Hutu, who did not support the massacre plan. Such statements serve to legitimize extremist Hutu.

In the report of this visit on September 1, 1992, signed personally by Ndindiriyimana, a passage indicates that one of the leaders who had called on the Hutus to kill the Tutsi was the commander of the Kibuye gendarmerie, Lieutenant Bizumuremyi. This gendarme had already been denounced by Rwandan non-governmental organizations and the Liberal Party, and the issue of his behaviour had even been debated in the Council of Ministers. Ndindiriyimana chose to conceal his actions by deciding to transfer him, along with other gendarmes who had similar criminal inclinations. In Kibuye, Bizumuremyi was thus replaced by Commander Haguma. He was brought back to Kigali and then transferred to Gisenyi to collaborate with Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva.

The report dated September 1, 1992, conducted by the gendarmerie, on the damages caused by these disturbances also indicates that eight houses were set on fire in Rwamatamu on August 28, 1992, and that 500 Tutsi families had sought refuge at the Mubuga parish in the Gishyita commune. These refugees were still afraid to return home for fear of being attacked again by the Hutu. The report even went so far as to shift the blame onto the victims: ‘de facto, it is observed that these Tutsi no longer want to coexist with the Hutu.’

Five Rwandan non-governmental organizations for human rights -ADL, AVP, Ardho, Kanyarwanda, and Lichredor – could visit Kibuye then. They stated that the murders had reached a significant scale. When they arrived at the Mubuga and Kibingo parishes and the communal office of Rwamatamu, they found more than 5,000 displaced Tutsis, while the gendarmerie had claimed there were only 500. These individuals were living in deplorable conditions.

The report from these associations’ notes that the commune and the prefecture authorities did nothing to stop the atrocities and prosecute their perpetrators. Instead of ensuring the security of the victims, whether it was Prefect Clément Kayishema leading the Kibuye prefecture, the security services, or the communal authorities, all encouraged the Tutsi to return home without any security measures in place, and most of the houses had been destroyed or looted.

Human rights organizations were particularly astonished to find that gendarmes and military personnel were searching for “troublemakers” among the Tutsi. They published the names of some Tutsi arrested by the authorities and detained in unknown locations. They included: