Arusha, February 24, 2004 (FH) - The first estimates were categorical: one hundred thousand dead in a hundred day, in other words, one thousand victimsa day! Even though the July 2000 census reduced the figure by half, it could not remove the fetid smell that engulfed the hills of this South-western town of Rwanda. Just as in other parts of Rwanda, the genocide in Cyangugu was systematic.

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Numerous sites were the venues of horrible massacresSome of those sites were mentioned during the trial of the so-called Cyangugu group at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) while others were mentioned in reports by human rights organisation. The tribunal is due to deliver its verdict in the Cyangugu trial on Wednesday. Parishes Churches in Cyangugu just like in any other part of Rwanda, traditionally considered as safe havens, became the sanctuary of thousands of refugees. Cyangugu cathedral was already home to hundreds of refugees well before April 6, 1994. The refugees, fearing reprisals, had fled their homes following the death of Martin Bucyana, president of a radical anti-Tutsi party, the CDR. According to a joint publication by Human Rights Watch and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), “Leave none to tell the story”, tensions in the region started with the October 1993 Coup d'Etat in neighbouring Burundi. About twenty Tutsis were killed at the time. The document asserts that by March 1994, soldiers and militia in Cyangugu and other areas were prepared to start killings. The Cyangugu public prosecutor estimates that between ten and fifteen thousand people were killed at Mibilizi parish in April 1994. Currentlysituated in Gashonga district, Mibilizi is one of the oldest parishes in Rwanda. It was established at the beginning of the 20th century, immediately after Save (Butare in the south), Zaza (Kibungo in the east) and Rwaza (Ruhengeri in the north). Massacres at Mibilizi began around April 8 and continued for about ten days. According to witnesses interviewed by African Rights, most of the refugees came from the communes of Nyakabuye, Cyimbogo and Gishoma. Nyamasheke parish in commune Kagano, was attacked between April 15 and 17 and an estimated ten thousand lost their lives. Provincial authorities replaced gendarmes who had protected the refugees with some elements in favour of the massacres. Another religious site attacked was Shangi parish in Impara district. The bloodiest attack took place at the end of May and Cyangugu judicial authorities estimate the dead to be between five and ten thousand. Also situated in Impara district is the parish of Nkaka which was attacked on April 18. “Whatever direction one looked, one could see killers”, recollected a witness interviewed by African Rights. Between five and six thousand died. Hanika parish mostly sheltered refugees from Gatare and neighbouring Kirambo commune but others came from Rwamatamu in Kibuye prefecture. The parish was a subject of quasi daily attacks between 11 and 20 April. An estimated seven thousand people had taken refuge there. Research by African Rights also talks of hundreds of other people killed at Nyabitimbo and Mwezi churches in Karengera commune. Stadiums and other sitesThere were many refugees at Kamarampaka stadium in April 1994. Most of them had first taken refuge at Cyangugu Cathdral but were attacked on April 11. They were transferred to the stadium by provincial authorities around April 15. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) alleges that the refugees were not allowed to leave the stadium. Hecontinues that those who attempted to do so were either forced back inside or killed by gendarmes and militias who surrounded the site. He continues that the gendarmes could also enter Kamarampaka stadium and kidnap people at any given time. The ICTR notably charges that the accused in this trial selected Tutsis and opposition members from pre-established lists and took them to a place called Gatandara to be killed. Massacres also took place on April 11 at Gashirabwoba stadium in Gisuma commune, where hundreds of people had sought refuge. Other refugees were killed in administrative buildings such as district and provincial headquarters, schools and hospitals. An island of compassionDespite the horrors that had taken residence in Cyangugu, one place remained untouched by the insanity, Nyarushishi camp in Nyakabuye commune. The architect of this island of humanity was Lieutenant Colonel InnocentBavugamenshi, commandant of the local gendarmerie. Human Rights Watch and FIDH reported that this Rwandan officer save the lives of ten thousand Tutsis and handed them over in June 1994 to the French contingent of Operation Turquoise. The accused in the so-called “Cyangugu trial” are the former minister of Transport and communications, André Ntagerura, 54, the former Prefect of Cyangugu, Emmanuel Bagambiki, 55 and the former commander of Karambo military barracks in Cyangugu, 43- year old Lieutenant Samuel Imanishimwe. An alleged militia leader, Yussuf Munyakazi, was also initially on the same indictment, but since he can not be tried “in Absentia” (he has not been arrested yet), he was struck off the charge sheet. The ICTR also has in its custody the former public prosecutor of Cyangugu, Simeon Nshamihigo, though his trial has not started yet. The government of Rwanda on the other hand has established a list of 352 people considered tobe the architects of the massacres in Cyangugu province. Thousands of others considered to be the instruments of the genocide will be brought before the Gacaca semi-traditional jurisdictions which are expected to begin working in june. KN/AT/CE/FH(CY''0224e)