Home Special Reports I Cannot Leave My People – Tribute to Nyagasaza, the Bright Young Leader of Ntyazo

I Cannot Leave My People – Tribute to Nyagasaza, the Bright Young Leader of Ntyazo

by Jean de la Croix Tabaro
2:24 pm

Late Nyagasaza Narcisse

In 1956, the family of Rwamanywa and Nyirabusherengwa was blessed with a baby boy who would become their last born of seven children.

Born in their elderly age, they called him Nyagasaza Narcisse and raised him in the family which had its values of love to the neighbor without discrimination whatsoever.

Time to go to school, Nyagasaza went to the nearest Primary School of Rutete in Matara Sector and was the best pupil from Primary one through Primary Six and national Exams.

Canisius Kayitarire who is Nyagasaza’s nephew recalls that, despite the discrimination against Tutsi in that time, the ministry of Education had no choice, but to send Nyagasaza to the best school of the country because he was very intelligent.

Nyagasaza got admission at Groupe Scolaire Officiel de Butare where he also completed with the highest score in National Exams.

For a Tutsi candidate, getting a scholarship to the National University of Rwanda(UNR) was not something obvious. Nyagasaza, despite being the best student at national level who deserved a government scholarship in world prestigious universities, had no choice but to become a teacher.

He went to teach at Saint Joseph Kabgayi in the current Muhanga district and, from there, the school itself found it unfair to cut short an education path of a very bright young man.

They paid him scholarship to the university of Rwanda, according to an old friend and neighbor of Nyagasaza from Ntyazo Kabagamba Canisius.

Nyagasaza would go back to school for education and returned to Kabgayi’s Saint Joseph School after A1 Level.

He taught at the same school, but another well wisher pushed him further for the Bachelor’s degree. He graduated with highest score and on that day, something shocked his nephew, Kayitarire.

“President Habyarimana officiated the graduation, but he refused to shake hands with the best student. He was jealous because Nyagasaza was denied chance to go to best university of the world, but he still continued to shine,” Kayitarire says.

Nyagasaza was a model. After graduation, he returned to his school of Kabgayi until the multipartism era in Rwanda.

Kayitarire recalls that his teachers used to rebuke their classes, asking students to shine like Nyagasaza.

His education however, was not an easy thing. Nyagasaza’s brother, Claver Kanuma, 84 told KT Press, that his young brother was targeted during the conflicts that followed the 1973 accession to power of President Juvenal Habyarimana.

“He came home briefly after he was beaten. He would return to school later. My young brother was a role model in the family; he left us a legacy of love and tolerance,” he said.

Nyagasaza Joins A political Party

In 1991, when political pluralism was adopted in Rwanda, some members of Liberal Party-Partie Liberal(PL) picked interest in Nyagasaza and encouraged him to join, which he did.

During the elections of Bourgmesters in 1993, Nyagasaza was selected by his party for Ntyazo commune and he was elected.

However, his election has a background. Since the 1960s, Ntyazo had one burgomaster, his name Athanase Nzaramba. He led Ntyazo Commune, inculcated the hatred against Tutsi among the citizen until early 1980s when he felt he could bring in someone else that he would still manipulate.

A genocide survivor who spoke on condition of anonymity said that Nzaramba introduced Pascal Harelimana, his brother-in-law who served until early 1990s and left for Kigali.

While taking over from Harelimana, Nyagasaza wanted to reunify the people who were trained to hate.

“He would convene a meeting to call upon everyone to respect their neighbor, and to tell us his resolve to fight all those who were disseminating hatred,” said the source.

At this time, Nyagasaza welcomed Burundian refugees who were settled in Muhero and Mpanda camp, and towards April 1994, they were already in bed with Interahamwe militia, ready to kill the Tutsi.

Nyagasaza’s nephew recalls that Nzaramba was behind the organization of this militia, but Nyagasaza did not seem to know his evil plan.

“Nzaramba had twisted Nyagasaza’s name and used to call him Nyagacucu because he had evil plans against him though the innocent burgomaster knew nothing about it,” he says.

Refusing to abandon desperate citizens

During the Genocide, the Tutsi from Ntyazo tried the border with Burundi, and some of them managed to cross to Kirundo province via Mpanda village.

The Genocide intensified, and Nyagasaza’s siblings fled to Burundi, but, according to his nephew, Nyagasaza continued to keep his people together, and used to do patrol.

He even encouraged men to resist the Interahamwe militia that were coming from the neighboring Bugesera, and for a couple of days, they managed to chase them away.

In this resistance, several Tutsi were killed, but they also killed a notorious interahamwe, his name Joseph Muganza, the son to Nzaramba.

“He was pierced by an arrow of a good shooter,” said a source.

However, the Tutsi were overpowered and on the fateful day, April 22, 1994 Nyagasaza walked to the border where he found many desperate Tutsi trying to escape.

“He was a loving man. He waited for everyone to cross before him and hélas! armed Interahamwe, accompanied with the gendarmes from Nyanza seized him and put him aboard a truck to Nyanza,” said Kabagamba.

“At that time, I was also heading to the border and people who learnt about the incident helped me to evade.”

In June 2023, the Paris Court of Asize sentenced to life in jail adjutant gendarme Hategekimana Philippe Biguma who was commander in Nyanza after he was found guilty of genocide offenses, including the killing of Bourgmester Nyagasaza.

This information was confirmed by several witnesses in the court, and in video conference. They include Cyiriaque Habyarabatuma 69, a commander of Gendarme in Butare during the Genocide.

“Nyagasaza was killed by Biguma,” Habyarabatuma said.

Eyewitnesses say that Biguma first tied Nyagasaza’s hands, then threw him in the pick-up with so much insults. He then drove him to Mushirarungu while stepping on him. He shot dead the man in which the people of Ntyazo had put much trust because he was making a difference, compared to his predecessors.

“He actually was killed because of his determination to fight evil,” said a friend who watched the leadership of Nyagasaza closely.

Nyagasaza was added on the list of politicians to be honored from Kwibuka 30 onward. His name joined more than twenty other politicians to be honored on April 13 as the country concludes Kwibuka week.

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