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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Rwanda: Recent Documents, 1

Rwanda: Recent Documents, 1
Date distributed (ymd): 970824
Document reposted by APIC

This posting contains
(1) a HRW Africa statement on recent killings in Rwanda by both government soldiers and insurgents,
(2) excerpts from daily and weekly reports from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) for the Great Lakes.

Since release of the HRW Africa report on August 20, the UNHCR reported an attack in northwestern Rwanda by insurgents on Mudende, a camp housing Tutsi refugees from the Masisi region in Congo. 107 refugees were reported killed.

More detailed and more frequent updates on the Great Lakes region from a variety of sources can be obtained on the Web at

Human Rights Watch

Condemnation of Massacres Of Civilians By Rwandan Soldiers And Armed Insurgents

Human Rights Watch 485 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10017-6104
TEL: 212/972-8400 FAX: 212/972-0905

1522 K Street, N.W. Washington D.C. 20005
TEL: 202/371-6592 FAX: 202/371-0124

(August 20, 1997) Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) condemn the killings of hundreds of unarmed civilians by soldiers of the Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA) and by armed insurgents in a series of incidents in the northwestern prefecture of Gisenyi on August 8, 9 and 10. The first of these incidents took place just one day after the United Nations Human Rights Field Operation (HRFOR) published a report documenting the massacre by RPA soldiers of more than 2,000 persons, many of them unarmed children, women and the elderly in northwestern Rwanda during the preceding months.

These massacres took place in the context of a continuing armed struggle between RPA soldiers and armed groups composed largely of soldiers of the former Rwandan government (ex-FAR) and of members of the militia that participated in the 1994 genocide of Rwandan Tutsi. The Rwandan government has the right and duty to protect its citizens, but such defense must be conducted within the parameters of international humanitarian law: there is no excuse for killing unarmed civilians or combatants who have laid down their arms. The slaughter of unarmed civilians by the insurgents is similarly an inexcusable human rights abuse.

The number and scale of attacks that cost civilian lives have multiplied in the last several months. Human Rights Watch and FIDH deplore the continued delivery of arms to the region, including the recent resumption of arms sales to the Rwandan government by South Africa exacerbating the situation and facilitating the use of deadly force against unarmed civilians.

According to reports from a number of independent sources, including diplomats in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, RPA soldiers and insurgents exchanged fire in the crowded market of Mahoko at 10 am August 8. One report states that the firing continued for two hours and that the RPA fired mortars into the market. Independent sources estimate that 400 people were slain, most of them unarmed civilians. Rwandan authorities declare that "several" civilians were killed in the incident.

Later that day, armed rebels attacked the commune jail in Rubavu where hundreds of persons were detained on charges of having participated in the 1994 genocide. Witnesses declare that RPA soldiers drove away the rebels and then killed 200 to 300 detainees. Rwandan authorities reportedly admit that 185 detainees were killed but say the insurgents were responsible for these deaths. According to these official accounts, RPA troops had withdrawn from the immediate vicinity of the jail in order to regroup. In their absence, the insurgents took over the jail, liberated the detainees, and killed those who refused to join forces with them.

Rwandan authorities admit that at least ninety-five detainees were also killed at the commune jail at Kanama that same afternoon. Preliminary independent reports put the number of fatalities from this incident at approximately 200.

Authorities ordered the local population to bury the dead in mass graves in each community. Witnesses report that gunfire was also heard on August 8 and 9 in Muhira, Bisezi, Kanzenze and Nyundo sectors.

That evening and the next day, reportedly drunk RPA soldiers looted throughout the area.

According to the testimony received by Human Rights Watch and FIDH, the RPA moved armed personnel carriers into the area on August 9 and witnesses report having heard mortar fire. These accounts state that the RPA deliberately killed an undetermined number of civilians on August 9, some of whom were apparently identified on a list as persons to target.

On August 10, at 7 pm, the insurgents attacked a school at Gisa, where students were meeting with an officer of the national police. Reports do not indicate the number of persons killed or wounded in this attack.

Reports indicate that large numbers of people have fled their homes, some heading for the town of Gisenyi, others moving west towards the border with Congo.

The Rwandan government has arrested thirteen of its soldiers in connection with these incidents.


To the government of Rwanda:

Order RPA troops to stop killing unarmed civilians immediately.

Carry out a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of these killings and make public the findings. Continue to arrest and bring to trial as soon as possible all those apparently implicated in the incidents.

Guarantee full access to U.N. and nongovernmental human rights monitors, to organizations providing humanitarian aid, and to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection officers.

To the insurgents:

Order your troops to stop killing unarmed civilians immediately.

To the international community:

Bring all possible pressure to bear on the Rwandan government and the insurgents to halt the slaughter of unarmed civilians and to observe international humanitarian law. Condition financial and other assistance on a halt to these killings.

To the United Nations:

Revive the International Commission of Inquiry (Rwanda), implement the important recommendations it made in 1996, and provide it with a new mandate to investigate arms trafficking in the Great Lakes region (including Rwanda, Burundi and Congo) and propose to the Security Council specific and concrete measures aimed at curbing the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the area.

The Human Rights Field Operation should publish immediately and fully all available information related to deliberate killings of civilians.

Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights. Its Africa division was established in 1988 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Peter Takirambudde is the executive director and William Carmichael is the chair of the advisory committee.

Fdration Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l'Homme (FIDH; The International Federation of Human Rights) is an international nongovernmental organization for the defense of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. Created in 1922, it includes 89 national affiliates throughout the world. Antoine Bernard is the executive director. Eric Gillet is coordinator for Burundi and Rwanda.

Website Address:
Gopher Address:

Listserv instructions: To subscribe to the sub-Saharan Africa-specific list (to receive press releases and public letters only on sub-Saharan Africa), send a message to with "subscribe hrw-news-africa" in the body of the message (leave the subject line blank).

UN, Department of Humanitarian Affairs (UN DHA)
Integrated Regional Information Network for the Great Lakes (IRIN),
Tel: +254 2 622147; Fax: +254 2 622129;

[The material contained in this communication may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts from this report should include attribution to the original sources mentioned, not simply "DHA". For more information of receiving IRIN updates by e-mail, please contact]

Emergency Update No. 228 (13 August 1997)

  • Three people have been sentenced to death on genocide charges by a Rwandan court and ordered to pay a total of US$ 1.5 million in damages, AFP said yesterday, citing reliable sources. The accused are to appeal the verdict by a court in Gitarama, southern Rwanda. According to a July UN Human Rights Field Office for Rwanda (HRFOR) report, Rwandan courts have passed death sentences on 61 people out of 142 who have been tried for genocide this year.

IRIN Emergency Update No. 229 (14 August 1997)

  • Two international human rights groups Wednesday urged the Rwandan government to curb army killings of civilians, AFP said. In a joint statement, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues said they had written to President Pasteur Bizimungu and Vice President Paul Kagame to condemn the reported deaths of between 2,000 to 3,000 civilians in army operations in the northwest of the country in recent months. "It is your duty to order that these indefencible civilian killings and other violations of international law cease immediately and to check that this order is carried out," the letter said in part.

IRIN Emergency Update No. 230 (15 August 1997)

  • Jean Kambanda, the prime minister of the Rwandan interim government during the genocide was remanded in custody for a further 30 days at his own request by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Thursday. Tribunal president, Laiti Kama, said the extension was based on "the complexity and persistent difficulties of leading investigations in Rwanda," Fondation Hirondelle, an independent media organisation, reported. Kambanda was arrested on 18 July in Kenya and transferred to the ICTR detention facility in Arusha, Tanzania.

IRIN Weekly Roundup 17-97, covering 12-18 August 1997

Rwanda - Officers arrested over civilian deaths

Six senior Rwandan army officers and seven soldiers were arrested Friday for taking part in "killings and looting" in northwestern Rwanda, news agencies reported. The arrests occurred in Gisenyi during a visit by Vice-President and Defence Minister, Paul Kagame. The men allegedly opened fire on a market last Monday - killing at least 40 people according to AFP - in retaliation for an attack by Hutu rebels. Kagame called for them to face an "exemplary punishment", Rwandan radio said. Two international human rights groups Wednesday condemned the alleged deaths of between 2,000 and 3,000 civilians in army operations in the northwest over recent months. Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues said in a letter to Kagame and President Pasteur Bizimungu: "It is your duty to order that these indefencible civilian killings and other violations of international law cease immediately."

Rwanda - Heavy fighting in Gisenyi

Local sources reported heavy clashes between the army and rebels last weekend in Gisenyi prefecture, with villagers moving closer to the town to avoid the fighting. Some 300 prisoners were allegedly killed in the cachots of Kanama and Rubavu. The road linking Gisenyi and Ruhengeri was briefly blocked last Friday between Rubavu commune and Nkamira transit camp by rebels who shot dead one man in an ambush. The army killed 23 rebels and lost five soldiers in reopening the route. The army have deployed reinforcements and armoured personnel carriers to Gisenyi. Humanitarian sources who recently visited Ruhengeri say the food security situation is precarious with malnutrition rates high especially in the less secure northwest and southern areas of the prefecture. The situation has been exacerbated by the mass return of refugees. According to WFP, nearly 60,000 metric tons of emergency food aid will be needed to feed some 690,000 vulnerable people throughout Rwanda during the July-December period.

Rwanda - Genocide suspects on trial

A former senior Rwandan army officer accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide was arrested last Monday in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa and transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda's (ICTR) detention facility in Arusha, Tanzania. The arrest of Samuel Manishimwe, the former military commander in Cyangugu, brings to nine the number of suspects picked up in Kenya since 18 July. Jean Kambanda, the prime minister of the interim government during the genocide, was Thursday remanded in custody for a further 30 days at his own request by the ICTR. Three people were sentenced to death on genocide charges by a Rwandan court in Gitarama, AFP reported Tuesday. The accused are to appeal the verdict. Rwandan courts have passed death sentences on 61 people out of 142 who have been tried for genocide this year, according to a July report by the Human Rights Field Office for Rwanda (HRFOR).

Meanwhile, 155 Rwandan refugees arrived in Kigali from Gabon Tuesday. Most of them were immediately led away by the military. UNHCR, which was not involved in the operation, expressed particular concern over eight of the returnees. The repatriation followed an abortive attempt last Sunday to fly home 115 mostly ex-FAR and their families from the Gabon. The Gabonese aircraft turned back to Franceville after a rebellion onboard the plane.

IRIN Emergency Update No. 231 (19 August 1997)

  • Rwandan Vice President Paul Kagame said yesterday that human rights violations are being dealt with but must be viewed within the context of the ongoing fighting in the northwest region. Responding on Rwandan radio to a series of reports by international human rights groups condemning alleged civilian killings by the army in its counter-insurgency operations, Kagame said it is "as if there is no fighting happening. As if it is simply a violation of human rights." He stressed that the army was battling "groups that are bent on causing insecurity" and their "collaborators". He added, "these elements will have to be fought and will have to be defeated." Kagame however noted: "if there is any problem associated with our troops in the process of fighting these elements of instability, that also will have to be handled, because there are mechanisms to handle that ... The process is there. And the means to investigate are there, and that is all being done."
  • The UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) yesterday extended the detention of four genocide suspects by 30 days to give the prosecution time to finalise its investigations. The four are Sylvian Nsabimana, the former prefect of Butare, Aloys Ntabakuze, the ex-commander of the para-commando battalion, Belgian journalist Georges Ruggiu who worked at Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines, and Col. Gratien Kabiligi who served on the Rwandan army's General Staff until July 1994. The tribunal will rule later in the week on a defence counsel request for the provisional release of Hassan Ngeze, a former editor-in-chief of the monthly 'Kangura'. All the suspects were arrested in Kenya last month. According to ICTR rules, they can be detained for a maximum of 90 days after which the indictments must be confirmed or the accused released.

IRIN Emergency Update No. 232 (20 August 1997)

  • Namibia is prepared to hand over a genocide suspect working in the country on a formal request by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), according to news agency reports. Andre Rwamakuba, Rwanda's education minister during the genocide, is currently employed by Namibia's ministry of health. Namibia has no extradition treaty with Rwanda. Meanwhile, the detention of Hassan Ngeze by the ICTR sitting in Arusha, Tanzania, was extended for a further 30 days yesterday to enable the prosecution to finish its investigations. Ngeze was the former editor-in-chief of the 'Kangura' newspaper.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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