Survivor of Cyitabi Attack Narrates Ordeal; Says Attackers Spoke Kirundi

Zelot Habimana

On Saturday evening, unidentified assailants set fire on three passenger vehicles, killing two civilians and injuring eight in Southern part of the country.

The attack happened at 18:15 hours in Cyitabi Sector of Nyamagabe District – inside the thick Nyungwe forest.

On Monday, Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) spokesperson Lt. Col. Innocent Munyengango confirmed that RDF killed three of the assailants, while others fled to neighbouring Burundi.

The spokesperson further said that two more Rwandan victims of the attack who had been rescued and taken to the hospital died – bringing the number to 4.

KT Press spoke to Zelot Habimana – one of the victims of the Saturday evening attack.

Speaking from a hospital bed at University Teaching Hospital of Butare (CHUB), Habimana narrated the ordeal.

How the attack happened

At around 4pm on Saturday, December 15, Zelot Habimana left Huye district in Southern Rwanda to attend his nephew’s wedding in Rusizi district, western Rwanda – some 85 kilometers away.

All was set for the weeding, as Habimana carried his bag full of wedding attire including shoes and other items.

He boarded OMEGA Bus that operates the Rusizi-Huye-Kigali route. At about 5pm, the bus which Habimana boarded started a 2-hour long trek of Nyungwe forest that borders Burundi.

About 20 minutes into the forest, Habimana told KT Press in an interview, a section of RDF soldiers were seen patrolling the forest.

“When we drove about 20 minutes passed RDF soldiers, we noticed a huge tree placed in the middle of the road. The bus driver started planning how to pass around the tree,” Habimana narrated to KT Press.

As the driver lowered the engine, Habimana and other passengers started noticing a big group of armed people in the bushes near the road.

“I was seated near the door. I noticed armed men coming out of the forest. They approached the bus and started firing at us. Everyone started screaming for dear life,” narrates Habimana.

As gun fire raged, said Habimana, “They (armed people) approached the bus and ordered everyone to come out. I was the first to be ordered to open the door but I refused,” He narrates.

Kirundi speakers

On refusal, one of the armed men, fired at the bus door. “He threw me out and started asking me if I am a Rwandan. I first could not clearly understand him since he was purely speaking in Kirundi. He hit me in the back and cut my right arm with a sharp knife before I fell down,” Habimana told KT Press.

Upon looking up, Habimana says he was struck by fear when he saw dead bodies of fellow passengers on the road side. “I witnessed the armed men firing at another Alpha bus and a small passenger vehicle that had arrived at the scene from Rusizi. All this happened in a span of 10 minutes,” Habimana told KT Press.

Rescue mission

As the militiamen raged on firing at the three vehicles, said Habimana, “A big truck belonging to Cimerwa Cement Company arrived from the other side heading to Rusizi. It had an RDF soldier on board. The truck stopped, as the soldier started firing back at the militias.

Amidst the scuffle, the militias disappeared in the middle of the jungle after noticing RDF soldiers coming to our rescue,” said Habimana.

Amidst screaming from the victims, RDF soldiers started to calm them down as the rescue mission began.

“We were taken to Kigeme hospital for treatment, while those with relatives were later taken out of the hospital to be with their families,” said Habimana who was also transferred from Kigeme to CHUB in Butare town.




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