During the Genocide against Tutsi in 1994, men were the most active in mass killings that left over one million people dead.
But in Nyarubaka sector – a small village in rural Kamonyi district in Southern Rwanda, the story is completely different.
In this area, Genocide was specifically a task for women. When killings erupted in April 1994, there was a woman-militia only identified as Mukangango.
Mukangango’s target was Tutsi boys and she wished to see none of them alive, and she was advancing her odd motive.
Their only crime was to have been born in the same area where Maj. Gen. Fred Gisa Rwigema – the first leader of Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) was born.
For Mukangango, she wished to see no Tutsi boy growing up in that village to avoid another Fred Rwigyema in the future.
Mukangango’s plan entrenched among women militias in the area.
For instance, Bernadette Mukarurangwa – a former member of parliament who mobilized and armed Interahamwe militias to exterminate all Tutsis in her area, was one of the female militias that backed Mukangango.
Mukarurangwa reportedly fled the country after the Genocide, while Mukangango died during the war.
How Boys Were Brutally Exterminated
During the Genocide in Nyarubaka and its neighbourhood, thousands of Tutsi could come from different corners heading to Kabgayi in current Muhanga district for safety.
But little did they know that Mukangango and accomplices had already organized militias and set barricades in every corner. Most road blocks were set in junctions such as Nyamiyaga-Nyarubaka and Musambira-Musumba roads.
While fleeing, women fondly carried their already tired children. But at one of the roadblocks, they did not know that militias were screening boys among other children, all done on orders of Mukangango.
Clautilde Mukabagire is an elderly Genocide widow of Nyarubaka sector. She narrated to KT Press how it happened.
When they arrived at a one of the barricade in Gitega – a village in Nyarubaka sector, she saw the marauding militias wielding machetes and nail-spiked clubs.
“They stopped us and ordered boys to stand aside. When we resisted, they started beating us and killings began,” Mukabagire told KT Press.
When they fled to Kabgyi, Mukabagire had four children. Two of them (boys) were killed in her eyes. “I watched Interahamwe dumping my children in a ditch alive. They screamed until their voices went silent,” Mukabagire told KT Press.
Hundreds of other boys were also killed at the roadblock. According to Pacifique Murenzi – head of Ibuka – an umbrella organization of genocide survivors in Nyarubaka sector, “More than 150 bodies of boys were retrieved from that ditch. They were moved to Kamonyi genocide memorial site,” he said.
The militias never stopped there. The mothers were the next target for rape. “We were raped by militias after killing our children,” Mukabagire.
Mukabagire says that after the boys, killers also continued with other Tutsi, and they spared no one-young, old, men and women did not survive either.
She rarely narrates her ordeal, due to extreme trauma she went through. In fact, despite 24 years after the genocide, Mukabagire gets weak and emotional whenever she passes by the deep ditch where her children were dumped. She also recalls the beatings she endured at the site.
“Whenever I pass by, the feeling of pain I had 24 years ago comes back afresh. This is a tragic moment for me,” she told KT Press as tears rolled her face.
Mukabagire has managed to live a post-genocide life together with other survivors in the area.
Meanwhile, survivors in the area have for the past 24 years appealed to authorities to help them construct a monument at Nyarubaka junction especially at the ditch where Tutsi boys were dumped.
“To us, the memorial will display history as a place of massacre and will be remembered by generations to come,” said Olivier Kalimba – a genocide survivor in the area.
Speaking to KT Press, Pacifique Murenzi said that Ibuka has since made advocacy for the memorial to be constructed at the site. “The district has been promising to construct the memorial up to now. We are still waiting,” Murenzi said.