The 17 protectors of friendship pact ‘Abarinzi b’Igihango’

During the 9th Annual Forum of Unity Club Intwararumuri, 17 people were recognized for their outstanding acts of humanity in helping thousands of Rwandans survive the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, while others did extra ordinary acts in instilling unity among Rwandan in the aftermath of the Genocide.

Selected from across the country and locally referred to as Abarinzi b’igihango (protectors of friendship pact), the 17 people received ‘Unity Awards’ from the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission and the Unity Club.

Unfortunately, 12 of the award recipients would be recognised post-humously ; they lost their lives while trying to save others during the Genocide.

Here, we bring you their heroic deeds and heroines as compiled by the Unity Club.

Eliesel Barangwanzare (deceased)

Born in the 1948 to Rudahungwa and Nyirampuhwe in Nganzo Cell, Muyogwe Sector Gakenke District, Barangwanzare was an affiliate to the ruling genocidal political party, the National Revolutionary Movement for Development MRND.

Exceptionally, he refused to be swept by the wave of hatred that was being preached at the time by MRND, to an extent that he refused to learn how to operate a gun yet he was a cell leader at that time. He rescued two children from Kabingo Cell and hid them in his area.

Barangwanzare also urged people residing in his cell not to participate in the Genocide.

In 1995, he became the sector chief and would play a key role in fighting the deadly attacks by infiltrators (abacengezi) in the late 1990s through early 2000s during which many people were killed. Barangwanzare provided valuable information needed by the national military defence to defeat insurgences and was instrumental in encouraging his citizens to cooperate in fighting abacengenzi.

Barangwanzare was later killed by the notorious “abacengezi” in a gruesome murder that saw his head severed and hung by the window of his office, while his body—wrapped in sheep hide—was suspended on the national flagpole.

Dr Jean-Baptiste Habyalimana (deceased)

He was the only Tutsi to ever become a governor—then known as “Perefe”—during the genocidal regime. Habyalimana was born in 1950 to Paul Nkangura and Therese Mukarweru in the present Kibeho Sector, Nyaruguru District.

During the Genocide, Habyalimana did all he could to prevent killings from extending to his administrative boundaries of former Butare Province. This forced his seniors in the genocical government to first remove him from office to be able to “preach” about killings in Butare.

Throughout the Genocide, Habyalimana refused to abandon his fellow Tutsi in Butare and vowed to die with them. He was killed during the Genocide along with some members of his family.

Jean Marie Vianney Gisagara (deceased)

He was born in 1966 to Canisius Kanyandekwe and Venantie Mukakundiye in Nyanza District.

When he was still the mayor of Nyabisindu, he tried to avoid mass killings from spreading into his administrative area. He urged his junior local officials from spreading genocide ideology and stopped several militia attacks from reaching the area with the help of police officers.

Despite being a Hutu, Gisagara was later killed and his body was trolled on a moving truck, as a “massage to all the residents” of Nyabisindu that the government then was able to remove any “obstruction” that would stop them from killing the Tutsi.

Gisagara was killed alongside a police officer he had instructed to disperse Interahamwe militia. Many of his family members, including his parents, who were sympathetic with the Tutsi, were also slaughtered.

Thadée Karamaga

The former Corporal in the ex-FAR was instrumental is saving 17 Tutsi children from being killed during the Genocide. The 61-year-old Karamaga is a resident of Kinoni Sector in Burera District.

He was based in Kanombe Military Barracks during the Genocide. He found two children alive among bodies of those killed near former President Juvenal Habyarimana’s home and took them to his residence.

He was also responsible for hiding the body of the former Prime Minister Agathe Uwiringiyimana, despite being put at gunpoint and asked to bury her body without a trace.

“Before leaving the military barracks to flee the country during the Genocide, I wrote the names of Agathe Uwuringiyimana on her coffin to make it easy for people to identify her body,” Karagama said.

He fled the country to DR Congo with 17 children. When he returned to the country, he joined the struggle to fight the deadly attacks by infiltrators.

Rose Mukankaka

In 1994, Mukankaka formed Association Mwana Ukundwa (AMU) to bring together Genocide orphans who bore different physical and psychological damages. Some of the children were picked from the streets. Currently, AMU operates from five districts of Huye, Karongi, Kicukiro, Gisagara and Kayonza.

Godelive Mukasarasi

She overlooked her struggles as a Genocide widow to help her fellow widows to heal from the post-genocide physical and psychological trauma. Mukasarasi acted as an advocate for women who were raped during the Genocide and encouraged them to come to terms with the children they had conceived out of rape.

She was also instrumental in mobilising activities directed to promoting unity and reconciliation in her area.

The 60-year-old is also the founder of an organisation known by its French acronym, SEVOTA, that helps to counsel Genocide widows and survivors.

Leopold Munyakayanza (deceased)

He was killed because of his several successful efforts to save many Tutsi during the Genocide. He helped many of them to cross Lake Kivu by boat to Idjwi Island in the neighbouring DR Congo.

During a fourth attempt to evacuate Tutsi to a safe haven, Munyakayanza, together with his cousin Sosthene Munyurabatware, were ambushed my Interahamwe and killed from Mirambi Centre. The two are said to have been buried alive.

Sosthene Munyurabatware (deceased)

Despite being Hutu, the God-fearing and prayerful Munyurabatware was killed together with his cousin, Leopold Munyakayanza, for trying to save Tutsi from being killed.

Callixte Ndajimana (deceased)

Through his military acquaintance, he tried to fight the Interahamwe to save Tutsi from being killed. He urged residents in his locality to shun killings and tried to comfort those who had sought refuge in a church at Mugina Parish.

When the leaders realised that he was making it hard for them to kill the Tutsi in his area, they invited him for a meeting in former Gitarama Prefecture. But it was a trap. Ndajimana was killed in Ntongwe.

It is well known that Genocide occurred at Mugina Parish after Ndagijimana had been killed.

Jean-Baptiste Ntawuruhunga (deceased)

Despite being Hutu, he is hailed for refusing to attend preparation meetings to execute the Genocide against the Tutsi.

Ntawuruhunga also refused to abandon the Tutsi who had sought refuge at his home. He was later killed after attempting to fight Interahamwe and declining to separate himself from the Tusti.

Ntawuryerera Isacar (deceased)

He is another individual who tried to evacuate the Tutsi from killings to Idjwi Island. On several occasions, local leaders stopped him asked him to desist from helping Tusti to escape but he kept on doing the brave act of humanity.

The sector chief and his children killed Ntawuryerera. His body was thrown in a pit where the militia dumped dead Tutsi during the Genocide.

Fr Mario Marie Falcon

Fr Falcon, an Italian, has been the head of Muhura-Byumba Catholic Parish since 1990. The parish is located in Muhura Sector in Gatsibo District.

Fr Falcon is believed to have saved over 300 Tutsi who sought refuge at his church. During the Genocide, he was asked to leave the country but stayed put ; refusing to abandon Tutsi who were hiding at the church.

Since 1990, Fr Falcon is said to have hid a number of Tutsi from murambi who were being hunted for killing.

Fr Jean-Bosco Munyaneza (deceased)

Fr Munyaneza was the head of Mukarange Parish in Kayonza District during the Genocide. He was accommodating about 10,000 Tutsi at Mukarange Catholic Parish before Interahamwe militia attacked the church, slaughtering the priest along with the Tutsi who had sought refuge there.

Before then, he had been asked to abandon Tutsi to be killed ; but, he refused. This led him to lose his life and the lives of those he protected.

Fr Joseph Niyomugabo (deceased)

During the Genocide, Fr Niyomugabo was the head priest at Cyanika Catholic Parish. He refused to abandon Tutsi who sought refuge at his church.

Being a Tutsi himself, he risked his life—after letting down oseveral offers to help him escape. He instead decided to stay with the Tutsi refugees at his church, feeding them and providing all he could.

Unfortunately, he was killed before the Genocide was stopped—together with the people he was housing at the church.

Sosthene Renzaho (deceased)

During the Genocide, Pastor Renzaho was asked by Interahamawe militia to separate Hutu from the Tutsi in his church, which he declined to do.

He was killed in a gruesome manner ; dismembered and left to die a painful death.

Leonard Rutagayintabaza (deceased)

He tried to hide 10 families of the Tutsi, but was killed together with those who sought refuge at his home. His death was a result of conspiracy from his younger brother, who reported him to the militia.

Sr Marcienne Kamuzima

Sr Kamuzima is said to have shown extraordinary act of bravery by refusing to hide from killers but instead sheltering dozens of fellow Tutsi at Shangi Catholic Parish during the Genocide.

After the Genocide, Kamuzima was instrumental in offering counseling to the Genocide survivors and helping them to heal from post-genocide trauma.