\Rwanda said on Friday it will send a thousand troops to Mozambique to help the country battle extremist militants wreaking havoc in the north of the gas-rich nation.
Islamic State-linked jihadists have been terrorising the impoverished Cabo Delgado province since late 2017, stoking fears that the violence could spill over into neighbouring countries.
“The government of Rwanda, at the request of the government of Mozambique, will today start the deployment of a 1,000-person contingent of the Rwanda Defence Force and the Rwanda National Police to Cabo Delgado Province,” Kigali said in a statement.
The forces will “support efforts to restore Mozambican state authority by conducting combat and security operations, as well as stabilisation and security-sector reform”, it added.
Rwanda’s deployment follows last month’s decision by regional bloc the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to send forces to help quell the insurgency.
The Rwandan contingent will work with the Mozambique Armed Defence Forces and those from SADC “in designated sectors of responsibility”, said the statement from Kigali.
Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi, himself a former defence minister, had for long shied away from asking for foreign military intervention to fight the jihadists, instead of relying on private military companies.
But last month he vowed to crush the militants with the help of regional allies as attacks escalated over the last year.
Rwanda is a major contributor to the UN’s peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic and last year sent hundreds of troops to the unstable country after an alleged attempted coup.
Rwanda on Monday announced fresh restrictions including a ban on weddings as it struggles to contain a surge in coronavirus infections.
“All social gatherings including celebrations of all kinds are prohibited,” a government statement said Monday evening. “Traditional, civil and religious weddings are suspended.”
Other measures due to come into force on Wednesday include the extension of a nationwide curfew, from 7 pm (1700 GMT) until 4 am, restrictions on movement between districts, and the suspension of air travel to neighbouring Uganda where coronavirus cases are spiralling.
“The public is reminded of the critical importance of complying with health measures including physical distancing, wearing face masks, and ensure hand hygiene. Penalties will be applied for non-compliance,” the statement said.
Rwanda has, up to now, avoided the worst of the pandemic by enforcing some of the strictest containment measures on the continent and implementing a rigorous regime of testing and contact tracing.
But over the last few weeks, cases have shot up with authorities counting 662 cases and seven deaths on Monday.
The country of 13 million people has registered a total of 31,435 positive cases and 388 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
A nationwide campaign aimed at vaccinating 60 percent of the population by next year has so far reached just three percent of the population.
Two days after Mount Nyiragongo erupted, out of the volcano’s direct path Hadidja Dusengimana felt a powerful tremor and a sound “like a landmine” rippling through her home in Gisenyi.
“We were sleeping and the house started to shake… Then I heard a boom. We ran out of the house and saw the damage,” said Dusengimana, surveying the deep fissure running from the courtyard to her living room, where sunlight now peeps through cracked walls.
Gisenyi, on Rwanda’s northwestern frontier, is separated by an international border from Goma, the eastern Congolese city in the shadow of Nyiragongo, and most at its mercy.
They have endured the immediate terror in recent days as Africa’s most active volcano has spewed lava but those in Gisenyi — about 20 kilometres from the crater — have not been spared its wrath.
Violent tremors in the aftermath of the May 22 eruption have damaged houses, ripped up roads and cracked water pipes in the city.
Businesses are shut, while the city’s hospital services had to be relocated. Some 1,800 homes have been affected and nearly 340 completed flattened, the city municipality says.
To compound the pressure,thousandsof refugees from Goma have poured into the city on the shores of Lake Kivu, fearing Nyiragongo could blow again, all in need of emergency shelter and assistance.
The Dusengimana family, who live just a few hundred metres from the DR Congo border, have been sleeping in the courtyard of their home for a week, sharing the space with chickens and a pig.
“We’re going to sell him, because we can’t live like this,” said Dusengimana, a 40-year-old farmer and mother of eight.
“We’ve organised the yard so that everyone can sleep. In the morning, we light a fire, and in the evening we take out the mattresses to sleep.
“But we are devoured by mosquitoes,” she said, gesturing to her face pocked with bites.
She does not know when her lot will change, with cash in low supply and little help to rebuild her shattered home.
“With help, I could rent somewhere else and escape the mosquitoes, but since I have no money, I’ll have to sleep outside and wait to see what happens,” she said.
A neighbour, who declined to be named, confessed to being so worried she couldn’t eat.
“We worry so much about our house,” she said of her earthquake-damaged dwelling, “we can’t fix it.”
The damage is worse than even during Nyiragongo’s last major eruption, a disaster in 2002 that covered the eastern part of Goma in lava and claimed more than 100 lives.
“We had nothing then, no earthquakes,” said Kabaya Seratiyeri, a man in his 80s. “This was so powerful it scared us.”
‘God will help us’
Rwanda has extended assistance to Congolese refugees escaping the volcano’s path, setting up tents and clinics and assisting those unable to return home.
But those in Gisenyi affected by the disaster say help has been slow coming.
“The Congolese are coming, and they have help. If they get help, we should get help too. If not, God will help us,” said Dusengimana.
Her neighbour said: “We are asking for help, our children are suffering.”
“They came on Monday to take stock of the damage and register us, but we haven’t heard anything since,” she added.
Deogratias Nzabonimpa, the deputy mayor of Gisenyi in charge of economic development, said the refugees were in dire need and assisted as a point of priority.
“They were the first to be served so that they did not lack the means to survive,” he told AFP.
“Now that we have finished with the orientation of the various refugees from Congo, we are proceeding with the Rwandans who have been affected. We hope that within two or three days, everything will be up and running,” he said.
On Sunday morning, at a makeshift camp that just a day earlier housed Congolese evacuees, Rwandans in need gathered for handouts of food, soap, and blankets.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Friday described vaccine distribution in Africa as “scandalously inefficient” and warned against building an “invisible wall” around parts of the world unable to secure jabs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in May said two percent of Covid-19 vaccines globally had been administered in Africa, a continent of over 1.2 billion people.
Kagame said efforts to ensure fair vaccine access, including the WHO-backed Covax initiative, remained “scandalously inefficient” and added that depriving Africa risked prolonging the pandemic.
“The fact that Africa is not receiving vaccines, in the end is not good even for those getting the vaccines,” Kagame told AFP and France Inter in an interview late Friday.
“The backlash will be there, it will come back to them. If we do it equitably, then we have the chance of eradicating it globally.
“I hope we don’t find ourselves in a situation where it’s like building an invisible wall. Those who have been vaccinated saying ‘we need to remain safe so we need to keep away those who are not vaccinated’.
Kagame said it was essential Africa start manufacturing its own vaccines but pointed to hurdles in the way of investment, intellectual property rights and technology.
“These are things that need to be quickly sorted out,” he said.
“Our desire here in Rwanda, we hope we can see vaccine being manufactured here in no less than a period of one year. That is on a very optimistic side.”
In early May, the US expressed support for lifting intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines to speed up production and distribution around the world.
Many EU countries have expressed skepticism about such a move.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who this week gifted Rwanda a batch of vaccines during a state visit, said Friday in South Africa that he agreed to a temporary waiver on patents if it would spur vaccine production in developing countries.
Rwanda has recorded nearly 27,000 cases of Covid-19 and around 350 deaths from the disease, according to the health ministry on May 27.
Former NBA player, Nigeria’s Ben Uzoh became the first player to score in the newly-created Basketball Africa League (BAL), but the historic game belonged to the host Patriots Basketball Club of Rwanda who defeated Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers 83-60 at the Kigali Arena.
Although the Hoopers had a promising start, they struggled to adjust to the Patriots’ aggressive defence.
And turning the ball over 20 times didn’t help.
Wilson Nshobozwabyosenumukiza, who came off the bench, and Prince Ibeh led the Patriots comeback, and the Nigerians couldn’t find any answers.
And to make matters worse for the Hoopers, they got in foul trouble early in the second quarter, and things were never the same.
Nshobozwabyosenumukiza, who established a record for most steals in a single game in the FIBA AfroBasket Qualifiers in February, proved crucial defensively on Sunday, making the Hoopers look helpless.
Trailing 18-17 at the end of the first quarter, Ibeh thought it was about time to turn things around.
Ibeh’s two thunderous dunks early in the second quarter ignited the Patriots to a 13-0 run as the hosts took absolute control of the game, and they never looked back, leading at one point by as many as 29 points.
Costner Brandon led all scorers with 20 points and Ibeh contributed 11 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocked shots for the hosts.
Patriots guard Kenneth Gasana, who contributed seven points and four assists, paid tribute to his team.
“We played good inside, we limited a lot of inside points and we took advantage of the turnover that they had,” the Rwandan international said, adding that “it feels good to start the BAL with a victory.”
Talking about Ibeh’s performance, Gasana added: “He’s a beast, I loved the way he played. He really protected the paint.”
The Basketball Africa League (BAL) have unveiled the rosters of the 12 participating teams ahead of the league’s inaugural season, which tips off on Sunday, May 16 at 4:00 p.m. CAT / 10 a.m. ET at the Kigali Arena in Rwanda.
The BAL rosters, subject to change, feature 154 players from 24 countries across Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S.
Each of the 12 teams, which come from 12 African countries, will have up to 13 players (12 active and one inactive), at least nine of whom are citizens in their respective team’s home country and up to four of whom are from other countries, with no more than two players per team from outside of Africa.
Ben Uzoh, who joined Nigeria’s Rivers Hoopers, is poised to become the first former NBA player to play in the BAL, having played for the New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Toronto Raptors from 2010-12. He was also a member of the Nigeria Senior Men’s National Team at the 2016 Olympics, FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019, and FIBA AfroBasket in 2013 and 2015.
Nine players bring NBA G League experience to the BAL’s first season: Brandon Jay Costner and Prince Ibeh (Rwanda’s Patriots BBC); Myck Kabongo and Demarcus Holland (Mozambique’s Ferroviàrio de Maputo), Ibrahima Thomas (Mali’s AS Police); Uzoh, Taren Sullivan and Robert Christopher Daniels (Rivers Hoopers); and Ater Majok (Tunisia’s US Monastir). Twenty-one BAL players have NCAA Division 1 experience, with 11 of the 12 teams featuring at least one former Division 1 player.
BAL teams feature a combined 19 players who previously participated in Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Africa, the NBA, and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach program for top prospects from across the continent, including Mohab Yasser Abdelaty Abdallatif (Egypt’s Zamalek). Abdullatif is poised to graduate from NBA Academy Africa this year and becomes the first NBA Academy prospect to play in the BAL.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Wednesday signalled he was ready for a new phase in ties with France after a landmark report acknowledged French responsibility over the 1994 genocide, as Paris ordered the opening of key archives.
The 27th anniversary of the start of the slaughter — an event that still casts a shadow over France — was marked by conciliatory moves on both sides to heal long-troubled relations.
The report, handed by French historians to President Emmanuel Macron last month, “marks an important step toward a common understanding of what took place,” Kagame said in Kigali.
“It also marks the change, it shows the desire, even for leaders in France, to move forward with a good understanding of what happened,” said Kagame in his first reaction to the report.
The archives to be opened by France concern the work of former president Francois Mitterrand between 1990 and 1994 when the genocide began, according to a statement by the French presidency.
Also to be opened are those of the prime minister at the time, Edouard Balladur, in accordance with his own wishes, it added.
Many of the documents — which include diplomatic telegrams and confidential notes — were sources for the long-awaited report by historians handed to Macron.
All the documents cited in the report will also be declassified and made public, the presidency said.
The decision is part of Macron’s “committment” to create conditions favourable to help better understand France’s role in Rwanda, it said.
– ‘Cover-up’ – The genocide saw around 800,000 people slaughtered, mainly from the ethnic Tutsi minority, between April and July of 1994.
The commission concluded that France bears overwhelming responsibilities over the genocide and was “blind” to preparations for the massacres.
It said there had been a “failure” on the part of France under Mitterrand, while adding there was no evidence Paris was complicit in the killings.
Macron ordered the report after years of accusations France did not do enough to halt the massacres and was even complicit in the crimes.
The issue has poisoned relations between France and Rwanda under Kagame, a former Tutsi rebel who has ruled the mountainous nation in Africa’s Great Lakes region since the aftermath of the genocide.
Kagame and his wife Jeannette earlier lit a remembrance flame at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where every year commemorations are held to mourn the dead.
The genocide between April and July 1994 began after Rwanda’s Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana, with whom Paris had cultivated close ties, was killed when his plane was shot down over Kigali on April 6.
The report said France under Mitterrand adopted a “binary view” that set Habyarimana as a “Hutu ally” against an “enemy” of Tutsi forces backed by Uganda.
France had been “involved with a regime that encouraged racist massacres,” although there was no evidence that it had any “willingness” to join in the genocide itself.
Kagame said a parallel investigation carried out by Rwandan authorities would release its own findings this month, saying the conclusions “go in the same direction” as the French report.
But he criticised “the decades-long effort by certain French officials to cover up their responsibilities”, saying it had caused “significant damage”.
“The important thing is to continue working together to document the truth,” Kagame said.
– ‘Half measures’ no use – The historian Vincent Duclert who chaired the historial commission told the Mediapart news site that he believed France now needed to apologise for its policies in Rwanda, which were characterised by “great violence and a very colonialist superiority”.
The Elysee has said it hoped the report would mark an “irreversible” reconciliation process between France and Rwanda, which Macron has said he wants to visit this year.
Welcoming the Duclert report, the French foreign minister at the time, Alain Juppe, acknowledged it had highlighted the failures of the government.
“We did not act in the way we should have done,” he wrote in Le Monde, saying France had not understood that “half measures” were of no use in the face of a genocide.
“We lacked understanding of what genocide was and the need to act without delay to stop the massacres with all the determination that was possible,” he said.
Rwanda on Wednesday became the first African country to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, with around 100,000 doses delivered in what the pharmaceutical giant hailed as a “milestone” for the continent.
The East African country received nearly 103,000 doses of the vaccine at the capital Kigali through the UN-led Covax initiative, which aims to provide equitable access to Covid-19 jabs for poorer countries.
Pfizer said the first shipment to Africa of its vaccine represented “an important milestone for the region, for Rwanda, and for the global health partners working tirelessly to fight this pandemic”.
“Our goal is to make vaccines accessible worldwide and today’s delivery to Rwanda is a great step forward,” said Janine Small, Pfizer Global President for Emerging Markets, in a statement.
An official at Rwanda’s health ministry told AFP the vaccines — which must be kept at ultra-low temperatures — were “immediately transported to cold room freezers” upon arrival at Kigali aboard on a KLM flight at around 2015 local time (1815 GMT).
Earlier in the day, Rwanda took separate possession of 240,000 doses of the AstraZeneca jab, its first delivery under the Covax facility.
The health ministry said the collective 340,000 doses would be dispatched Thursday from a biomedical warehouse in Kigali to district hospitals and onward to hundreds of health centres dotted across Rwanda.
Vaccinations will begin Friday, with the country of 12 million planning to inoculate 30 percent of its population this year, and 60 percent by the end of 2022.
The ministry said the vaccine shipment should protect about 171,500 frontline personnel, as well as other priority citizens such as those over 65 or with underlying health conditions.
“We will immediately roll out our prepared vaccination plan, which will see target risk groups across Rwanda receive their first of two vaccine doses,” Health Minister Daniel Ngamije said in a statement.
In February, Rwanda became the first country in East Africa to begin vaccinating against the disease, targeting high-risk groups such as healthcare workers after acquiring around 1,000 doses of the Moderna jab.
Rwanda has carried out more than a million coronavirus tests and detected just over 19,100 cases. As of Wednesday, 265 people had lost their lives to the disease.
It imposed some of the strictest anti-coronavirus measures on the continent, including one of Africa’s first total shutdowns in March 2020. It put capital Kigali back under a full lockdown in January after a surge in cases.
Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine is based on different technology to AstraZeneca’s, and is expected to be much more effective in protecting against the onset of Covid-19 when transmitted through the South African variant.
The body of the Italian ambassador killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo arrived in Rome late Tuesday, as Rwandan Hutu rebels denied accusations they were behind the attack and instead blamed the armies of the DRC and Rwanda.
Luca Attanasio, 43, died on Monday after a World Food Programme (WFP) convoy was ambushed in a dangerous part of eastern DRC.
The envoy’s Italian bodyguard, Vittorio Iacovacci, and Congolese driver Moustapha Milambo also died on the field trip.
An Italian military plane carrying Attanasio and Iacovacci’s flag-draped coffins was met at Rome’s Ciampino airport by Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
Foreign minister Luigi Di Maio and defence minister Lorenzo Guerini joined him to meet Attanasio’s widow and three daughters, who flew home with the bodies.
DRC President Felix Tshisekedi and his wife had earlier made a “condolence visit” to the family at the Italian ambassador’s residence.
The DRC’s interior ministry on Monday blamed the killings on “members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)” — a Rwandan Hutu rebel group that has plagued the region for more than a quarter of a century.
But the FDLR rejected the allegation, blaming the Rwandan army and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) in a statement received by AFP Tuesday.
It said the ambassador’s convoy was attacked near the Rwandan border, “not far from a position of the FARDC”.
“The responsibility for this despicable killing is to be found in the ranks of these two armies and their sponsors who have forged an unnatural alliance to perpetuate the pillaging of eastern DRC,” it said.
Authorities in both countries have not reported the presence of any regular Rwandan troops in the DRC.
An expert at the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), a US monitor, told AFP the Hutu rebel group, however, has a known presence in the region.
“The FDLR are near the place where the attack took place. It’s in the realm of possibility that the Rwandan rebels are responsible,” the expert said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Scores of militias roam the DRC’s four eastern provinces, many of them a legacy of wars in the 1990s that sucked in countries around central-southern Africa and claimed millions of lives.
Some of the FDLR’s founders were involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide during which the Hutu majority slaughtered 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis but also Hutu moderates.
The group is opposed to the current Rwandan government, but has not launched any large-scale attacks in Rwanda since 2001.
– Dangerous region – Monday’s attack occurred north of the North Kivu capital of Goma on National Highway 2 — a road that runs through thickly forested, mountainous terrain next to the porous border with Rwanda.
The world-renowned Virunga National Park, a UNESCO-listed wildlife reserve that is a haven for critically-endangered mountain gorillas, straddles the area.
Tshisekedi’s office said Attanasio had arrived in Goma on Friday morning aboard a MONUSCO plane.
He left on Monday morning in a two-vehicle WFP convoy heading for Kiwanja, in the Rutshuru area, accompanied by his bodyguard and WFP workers, it said.
The convoy was ambushed three kilometres (1.9 miles) from their destination by six assailants, armed with five AK-47 assault rifles and a machete.
“They proceeded by firing warning shots before forcing the people in the vehicles to get out and follow them into the depths of the (Virunga) park, which they did by shooting dead one of the drivers to create panic,” the president’s office said.
Park rangers and army troops nearby heard the noise and pursued the attackers.
“Five hundred metres (from the site of the ambush), the kidnappers fired point-blank at the bodyguard, who died on the spot, and at the ambassador, hitting him in the abdomen,” the presidency added.
– Security questions – After the Italian government expressed shock and outrage at the attack, newspapers in Rome on Tuesday raised questions about security preparations for the trip.
Foreign Minister Di Maio is scheduled to speak to lawmakers about the attack on Wednesday.
The DRC interior ministry said Monday that security services and provincial authorities had not been informed of the trip in advance.
“(They) were unable to provide special security for the convoy or come to its aid because of a lack of information about their presence in this part of the country, despite its reputation for instability,” it said.
But the WFP said the attack “occurred on a road that had previously been cleared for travel without security escorts”.
A UN humanitarian official in the DRC, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that this meant the convoy had to be a minimum of two vehicles.
A Rwandan opposition figure exiled in South Africa was on Sunday shot dead in Cape Town, his party said, calling the attack an “assassination”.
Seif Bamporiki, 49, who was the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) coordinator in South Africa, was killed as he delivered furniture in the crime-ridden township of Nyanga.
While the motive for his murder is still unclear, RNC spokesperson Etienne Mutabazi told AFP the method mirrored past politically-motivated attacks.
The killing “was executed in a similar modus operandi of luring the victim in a compromising and insecure environment for assassination,” he said.
Mutabazi was referring to past attacks on Rwandan dissidents in South Africa including ex-intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya, whose body was found strangled in his room in a luxury hotel on January 1, 2014.
Bamporiki and his colleague from a pawn shop were accosted by two gun-toting assailants as they waited for a client who had disembarked from their vehicle to collect money to pay for a bed he had bought.
The client had “been looking for him for quite a while”, Mutabazi said. “Even on Saturday, that particular individual came to the shop and said only Bamporiki could serve him.”
The attackers made off with the activist’s pick-up truck and money, leaving his body on the ground.
No arrests have been made so far.
Another Rwandan exile, former general Kayumba Nyamwasa, survived two assassination attempts.
Pretoria described one of those, in June 2010 in South Africa, as an attack by foreign security operatives.
Mukakamanzi appears embarrassed for breaking down at the sombre memorial, lined with coffins, torn and bloodstained clothes and rosaries.
“I don’t know what came over me, I never cry,” she says, gripping a railing on the memorial’s perimeter wall.
“I was looking to see if I could spot my mother’s clothes but I couldn’t see them,” she says bleakly.
The slaughter of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority was sparked by the assassination of president Juvenal Habyarimana — although the bloodbath had long been in preparation.
On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Habyarimana, from the Hutu majority, was shot down in Kigali.
The plane was struck by at least one missile as it came in to land at Kigali, also killing Burundi’s president Cyprien Ntaryamira, another Hutu, on board.
The attack shattered a fragile peace process, triggering government-orchestrated massacres by Hutus that also targeted moderates in their own community.
– Killing machine –
Mukakamanzi carries with her a past of almost indescribable suffering, a burden that she shoulders by a steely will to survive. Despite her ordeal, she is a bubbly and gutsy businesswoman.
During several hours of interviews with an AFP journalist at Kibuye near Lake Kivu in December, Mukakamanzi recounted the nightmare months of 1994.
In the first weeks of the genocide, her family’s home was burned down. The family fled, seeking refuge at the Gatwaro stadium like thousands of other Tutsis, who had been promised the gendarmes would protect them.
But the reality was the opposite.
Like the Home Saint Jean hotel or the Kibuye church — whose priest, Mukakamanzi’s uncle, was thrown off the bell tower — the stadium was attacked by the extremist Hutu militia, the Interahamwe.
The notorious group was a killing machine, created to torture and massacre Tutsis.
“We heard gunshots from far away and saw the Interahamwe brandishing machetes outside the stadium and shouting ‘Tomorrow it will be your turn’,” Mukakamanzi said.
“We quickly realised then that death was waiting for us.”
– 10,000 dead –
On the afternoon of April 18, they “kept on firing guns and throwing grenades, and returned in the evening with machetes and knives to kill people,” she said.
The family tried to regroup that night.
The elder brother had already been killed and her father and younger sister were seriously wounded by grenade shrapnel. Her other brother and two nephews had disappeared and were probably dead, she thought.
“I cried and told Mama ‘they are going to die… we are lucky to be alive, we must leave,'” Mukakamanzi says.
But her deeply devout mother refused.
She said she had sworn before God “never to leave Daddy, either in good times or bad.”
She relates slowly, with great emotion, the last moments with her mother, whom she left kneeling in prayer beside her injured husband and younger daughter.
“I told her: ‘Goodbye, Mama. We’ll meet in heaven’.”
The Interahamwe stormed the stadium that night.
By the time they had finished their work, ten thousand people who had been sheltering at the stadium the previous morning lay dead.
Emerging from the memorial, Mukakamanzi points to a thickly wooded mountainside through which she fled.
– Baby buried alive –
She lived like a hunted animal the next few weeks, hiding in the forest and only emerging at night.
One day she came across a hostile group. She was stripped and attacked. A woman then plunged a knife into her breast — a wound that caused a horrendous swelling, Mukakamanzi says.
She tried to go to the home of her godmother’s brother in a school in Kibuye but found no trace of him.
“There were bodies strewn all over the school,” she remembers.
Discovered by an Interahamwe group, Mukakamanzi — fatigued and famished — was asked to “dig a hole to bury a baby alive”.
“I refused… they were going to kill me anyway,” she says, recalling the incident with glassy eyes.
“The Interahamwe dug a hole and put the baby in it… I can still see it shaking its head trying to get the soil out of its mouth.”
She was then beaten with mallets and left there.
In these bleakest hours came a ray of hope. She was found by a young Hutu man who was deeply devout and promised to hide her in his house in a locked room.
But one day she was discovered by the man’s mother who raised a furore, shouting “There is a cockroach (a pejorative term for Tutsis) here.”
Mukakamanzi was attacked with machetes, for which she still bears ugly scars on her scalp. She was thrown in the school’s latrines, where corpses had been piled.
– ‘Dogs wanted to eat me’ –
Even so, “nothing can stop fate,” she says.
The young man who had sheltered her returned and used a rope to haul her out of the latrines. But an Interahamwe group arrived, and he fled.
“I was covered in filth, there were worms on my body and I smelt horrible. They said ‘Let her alone, she’s going to die anyway'”.
Then began “the longest journey of my life,” she recalls, describing how she staggered to the local hospital to try to get medical treatment.
“The big problem I had was that the dogs, which were feeding off corpses, wanted to eat me. I had to fight the dogs away with a branch.”
The only silver lining was that Mukakamanzi’s animal-like state prevented her from getting raped.
“I was 21 and looked like an old woman and stank like a corpse,” she says. Even passing militias would let her be, saying “Leave this bit of rubbish, she’s going to die.”
At the hospital in Kibuye “where treating Tutsis was strictly banned,” she succeeded in joining a group of young women who were able to hide in the morgue during daylight hours thanks to the help of a male nurse.
Some nurses would come in secret to treat her, throwing buckets of water over her body to clean her and “wash the insects out of my wounds.”
But one day, the morgue remained closed and the group of young women were found by the Interahamwe and then thrown into prison.
– Life after genocide –
All appeared lost until a Dutch nun from Mukakamanzi’s church turned up at the prison and secured her release by paying the police.
Mukakamanzi took shelter at the home of her elder brother’s friend and at the end of June learnt that French troops had arrived in the town.
She then managed to get to an aid camp run by the French.
Mukakamanzi, like many other survivors, carved out a new life for herself in the bustle and anonymity of the capital Kigali and never once returned to the forest of Rubengera where she had hidden.
But things were never easy for her, even then.
Many of those who escaped the genocide like her have borne numerous sufferings since, adding to the heavy cross they already have to bear.
She married a genocide survivor who suffered from trauma, but they divorced a few years later and she raised their two daughters, now 24 and 20, by herself.
Mukakamanzi joined the Rwandan police force, retiring after 18 years of service to become an entrepreneur. She also survived a serious road accident.
– Justice and survival –
For nearly 10 years now she has been helping a Franco-Rwandan couple, Dafroza and Alain Gauthier, in tracking down genocide suspects sheltering in France.
She has been asked to testify in a Paris court in the trial of Claude Muhayimana, a French-Rwandan accused of transporting the Interahamwe to western Rwanda to carry out massacres.
The trial was to start in February but has been postponed — the Covid pandemic has made it difficult for witnesses to travel to France and give their testimony.
The Kibuye memorial is located near a school. Life has returned to normal here now and the silence is sometimes pierced by the cries of shrieking children.
“My family perished but I am here to get justice, that’s what I can do for my family,” Mukakamanzi says softly.
“What I expect from a trial is relief if justice does its work.
“In all honesty, no survivor can spend a single day without thinking about that. Every gesture reminds you of a family member, a friend. But one shouldn’t think of that all the time, because one also has to live.”