THE KILLER: "I was like an animal"

by Katy Migiro | @katymigiro | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 2 April 2014 10:38 GMT

Frederick Kazibwemo: "I was not normal. It’s like I was two different people. One part of me had to save the life of this Tutsi child. Another part felt like I had to kill Tutsi." Photo taken in Mbyo, Rwanda, March 21, 2014. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Katy Migiro

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A man convicted of taking part in the genocide talks about what made him murder nine neighbours

MBYO, Rwanda (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Frederick Kazibwemo was 25 years old when he killed nine neighbours during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

"On April 7, the day after the president’s plane crashed, the local authorities called all of the Hutu in the village for a meeting.

"They told us that the Tutsi killed the president. The mayor told us we have to kill the Tutsi. We should take their land and cows. We should take everything. Many of us Hutu were poor and the Tutsi were rich.

"We understood it to be the law because it was coming from the government.

"It was not a surprise. Before the plane crashed, they had told us that we were going to kill the Tutsi but they didn’t tell us when.

"In 1992, people in our village killed their Tutsi neighbours. I saw the bodies in a pit latrine.

"They were trying it out ahead of the genocide.  I think it was organised by the government because the killers were never punished.

"During the genocide, the first Tutsi I saw being killed was hiding in his neighbour’s house. I knew three of the men who killed him.

"On April 10, soldiers captured some Tutsi on the Burundian border, which is not far from here. They brought them to the village and told us to kill them. I watched but I didn’t take part.

"That day, my Tutsi neighbours came to hide in my house. There was a woman and her four children.

"The next day, some people came to my house and found them. They reported me to the authorities who called me and asked me: ‘Why are you hiding Tutsi? You are supposed to kill them.’

"I went home and I told them that I would be punished if I allowed them to stay.

"The woman said to me: ‘Even if I die, please, I beg you, let my child, Aline, survive.’

"She was the youngest, a girl aged nine. I hid her in a basket where I used to store my grain.

"I was scared but I did it because they were close neighbours.

"About 20 minutes after they left, they were killed. I heard about it and went to that place. I saw their bodies.  

"Aline asked me if her family was dead and I told her. She was traumatised.

"After that, I started to participate in the killings. I felt free to kill because the government told us to do it.

"Early on the morning of the 15th, we held a meeting and discussed who we were going to kill and how. Then we split up.

"Our group had about 80 men. We found a family of eight hiding in a bush. They were drinking porridge.

"I knew them. They were my neighbours. The woman was called Mukamumana Ummacule and she was with her seven children. I remember the names of two of the teenage boys, Nkurunziza and Niyomugabo.

"We chanted as we attacked them: ‘Woooo.’

"One girl escaped. We killed the others using machetes and spears from our houses.

"They were begging for forgiveness. But because of the government order to kill them, we didn’t forgive them. We killed them.

"I did it because the government told us to. They never did anything bad to me. I had to respect the government.

"We buried their bodies in two different places. We didn’t want them to smell or dogs to start eating them.

"When we finished, we met up again to report how many people we had killed, who we had killed and who we didn’t see and had to look for next.

"When you are killing, you don’t feel anything. You’re like an animal. But afterwards, you wonder why did I kill those people?

"When I got home, I thought about how I used to visit them at their house, how they used to invite me over. I felt sick.

"On the 20th, we went out to kill again. This time we were about 40 men. We found two men hiding in cassava trees, eating cassava. We killed them.

"I was not normal. It’s like I was two different people. One part of me had to save the life of this Tutsi child. Another part felt like I had to kill Tutsi.

"The Rwandan Patriotic Front arrived in our village on May 1. By then, all of the Tutsi in our village were dead or had run away.

"If they hadn’t come, we Hutu would have started to kill each other. We had physical fights over the Tutsis’ land and money that we had taken.

"Everyone left. We were scared. I ran with my family to a refugee camp in the south of Rwanda run by the French. We walked seven days to get there. The RPF attacked it and we came back home in August.

"In March 1995, government officials came to my house and arrested me.

"In 2003, the president said that people who confessed and apologised could be freed. I wrote down what I did and I was given a seven year sentence. I had already been in jail eight years so they let me go.

"When I remember those people I killed, I feel sick. Sometimes I think about how I’m living and how they’re supposed to be alive as well.

"After the genocide, I took Aline to an orphanage. Now she’s married with two children. She has a good life in Kigali.”

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