Officials and employees of the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB) have paid tribute to the victims of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, including 330 former employees of Office Nationale des Cultures Industrielles (OCIR)’ Café and OCIR Thé.
The commemoration main event was held on May 4, 2023 at the Kigali Genocide Memorial where 259,000 genocide victims lay to rest, and this was after laying wreath at the memorial monument from NAEB headquarters in Gikondo, Kigali.
Prof. François Masabo, a university lecturer who conducted research on the massacre in OCIR indicated how hard was to the Tutsi in OCIR Café and OCIR Thé to survive, due to the fact that leaders were among those who planned the Genocide.
On the helm there was Michel Bagaragaza, former leader of OCIR Café who acted also as the Vice President of MRND and Martin Bucyana, president of extremist party CDR who lived in Gikondo.
“The Tutsi who worked in OCIR were in the middle of a danger, because Gikondo was inhabited by many CDRs, and we knew that OCIR Café was the second-office of Hassan Ngeze due to his friendship with Michel Bagaragaza,” he said.
OCIR staff were victim of severe harassment, with some being fired and even imprisoned under ‘Ibyitso’.
“During the genocide, company’s resources and money played a central role in killing Tutsi in different parts of the country because the Director of OCIR was one of the master minders of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi,” Masabo added.Cases to mention was the Nyabihu factory which had stored weapons that killed Tutsi who had fled to Nyundo Cathedral and were killed by the workers of Rubaya and Nyabihu tea factory.
Claude Bizimana, the Chief Executive Officer of NAEB said that the institution is still in the process of searching for its former workers who were victims of the Genocide and whose whereabouts unknown.
“So far, we have identified only 330 bodies. We are still seeking information on others who have not been identified,” Bizimana said.
“We will continue to consolidate efforts with families of the victims, because they are our family and we remember the good work that they have done.”
The CEO also hinted to their role in the ongoing struggle against the Genocide ideology.
“The violence and brutality of the Genocide against the Tutsi gives us the task of ensuring ‘Never Again Genocide,” he said.
He further said, “Remembrance is a good opportunity to embrace brotherhood by being close to the survivors of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi and helping them in every possible way to play the role that their parents would.”
Yvette Dusabe, who lost her parents, former staff of OCIR and her brother when she was 8-years-old, explained the horror she experienced during the Genocide.
“At the evening of the President Habyarimana’s plane crash, I was a child but immediately realized that things had changed, because ever since, we started hiding,” she said.
“They killed us massively on April 14. I remember it was a rainy afternoon when interahamwe militia stormed the compound of OCIR where we stayed, with all sorts of weapons. They loaded us in minibuses without seats and drove us at Gatenga cemetery where a huge pit was ready to swallow us.”
On their way, she said, killers selected men and started shooting them, but Dusabe thought it was a movie, until his father fell down.
“Five men, including papa were killed first, but killers turned to us too. The only difference is, men were shot while women and children were killed with machetes,” she said.
“One Muganza, my father’s workmate was particularly tortured killed badly in front of my eyes. I saw the incredible.”
Dusabe continued to lay down in the pile of dead bodies. That evening, only four children survived but with many wounds.
“We ended up being only four children with wounds and one of us died in CHUK, so I think she succumbed to injuries,” she said.
Laurent Ndagijimana who represented the umbrella of Genocide survivors association-Ibuka said that the Ethnicity Theory was a non-valid excuse to kill their fellow brothers.
He urges NAEB to preserve the history of the institution in a sustainable manner.
“I thank NAEB for taking part in caring for the families of the survivors, but the struggle is still on in writing the history of the institution, seeking testimonies, and preserving them in a long-lasting way so as to make the tragic history unforgettable,” he said.
Families of the Genocide victims who worked at NAEB were grateful to the institutions for keeping the memory of the beloved family members every year, but also requested that this support continues in the years to come.