Africa File: Rebels lose their 'good guys' image

The murder of the three Catholic bishops in Rwanda adds a ghastly new dimension to what must be one of the worst pogroms ever. The rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) had a relatively good reputation for a guerrilla movement until recently. Its fighters seemed disciplined and well-organised and although they shot first and asked questions later, they did not perpetrate the massacres of women and children.

Yesterday the RPF radio admitted that four of its fighters had killed the three bishops and 10 other clergymen at Kabgayi, just south of Kigali. They had been guarding the clergymen and the radio said the fighters believed the bishops had taken part in the killings of their families.

It is remarkable that the RPF has owned up to the killings. Not many hard- pressed guerrilla movements whose troops go berserk would make such an admission. But the killings destroy the image of the RPF as the good guys trying to seize the country in order to stop the killings. The admission confirms reports from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other aid agencies that the RPF has been carrying out reprisals. It is now clear that many of their fighters, driven to a frenzy of revenge and hatred, have caught the killing disease and have cracked.

Two of the bishops killed were close to the former president and all three were Hutus. Archbishop Vincent Nsengiyumva of Kigali was a bastion of the old Hutu, one-party state establishment. He served on the central committee of the ruling party from 1975 until 1990 when the Vatican forced him to resign. He had recently come under criticism for not speaking against the massacres. So had Bishop Joseph Ruzindana of Byumba. Bishop Tadeo Nsengiyumva, no relation of the Archbishop, was much more a man of the people.

When the killings started in April he said in despair: 'The Christian message is not being heard. After a century of evangelisation we have to begin again because the best catechists, those who filled our churches on Sundays, were the first to go out with machetes in their hands.' In Rwanda, which is 60 to 70 per cent Catholic, the Hutu bishops are said to have blocked the appointment of Abbe Mulvara, a well-known priest who is Tutsi, to a bishopric.

The local Catholic Church seems to have betrayed its record elsewhere in Africa where it has a good, though rarely heroic, record of keeping a distance from dictators and staying close to the people.

SUNDAY is the anniversary of Nigeria's aborted election last year which was won by Chief Moshood K O Abiola, a wealthy businessman. His victory wasn't part of President Ibrahim Babangida's plan so the election was cancelled. General Babangida was then forced out and power was seized by his former deputy, Sanni Abacha.

Mr Abiola, who has vowed to form his own government by Sunday, now says that he has not pressed his claim too vigorously because General Abacha and his soldiers promised to let him become president. 'They assured me that I will become president,' he said. 'The arrangement was that I would be sworn in in April of this year. But soon after they came in and tasted power, they began to sing a different song.'

I SHALL always keep the little note I got this week from Nad Pillay, the soft- spoken spokesman for the African National Congress in London. He announces that the ANC office in Penton Street is finally closing. It was a dingy place, piled with posters and pamphlets. It should be preserved as a monument to persistence in adversity. Correspondence, says Nad, can be forwarded to the South African embassy in Trafalgar Square.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests