Africa: Jail raid frees Rwanda mass murderers

Militiamen have attacked a Rwandan jail, releasing fellow Hutus held for alleged genocide. Amelia French in Kigali says the government which came to power after the genocide fears it is succumbing to a bush army of killers.

The group of around 300 armed Hutus stormed a makeshift jail in central Rwanda on Wednesday in what appears to have been a well-planned attack.

At least 500 prisoners were freed and all of them escaped, along with the militiamen. The army said six civilians were also killed when militiamen attacked their homes in the same settlement; some of them had been macheted to death.

The prisoners who got away were - like the militiamen - all Hutus.

The dead are all believed to have been Tutsis. They were the survivors of the Hutu-inspired genocide that decimated the country's Tutsi minority in 1994.

Now it appears that the same men who killed up to a million Tutsis before their regime was overthrown three years ago are returning from the forests where they have been hiding to take revenge on the few who survived.

Since the return late last year of almost 2 million Hutu refugees from exile in surrounding countries, this tiny central African country has become a battlefield in an undeclared war between the Hutu rebels and the Tutsi-led government.

The jailbreak in Bulinga, in central Rwanda was the second of its kind in two days. According to the country's military, more than a hundred prisoners were sprung from a jail at Rwerere, in the north-west, almost exactly 24 hours earlier.

Since April this year, Hutu militiamen have stepped up their campaign of violence in the north-west, staging ambushes and attacking military targets, local officials, prisons and settlements which are home to those Tutsis who survived the genocide. The Rwandan government says it is no coincidence that the violence has increased simultaneously with the most recent mass repatriation of Hutu refugees from eastern Zaire.

They say many of the returnees are members of the former army or their militia allies, the so-called interhamwe, who led the 1994 killings. "Those in the jail have the same ideology as the militiamen," Richard Sezibera, a military spokesman, said yesterday.

The prisons are an easy target. With an estimated 120,000 Hutus awaiting trial for the carnage of 1994, virtually every district has had to hurriedly transform unused buildings into makeshift jails. Some have standing room only. Hygiene and sanitation are pitifully bad and disease is rife.

But, many detainees seem to feel safer in than out. Many fear retribution from Tutsis in their home districts. There have even been reports of returnees asking to be let into the jails. Some are so ramshackle that anyone wanting to escape could do so easily, though they would risk being shot.

The lack of will to escape means that security has not been a serious problem. In addition, the number of jails and the conflict in the north- west means few soldiers can be spared to guard each one. So, when hundreds of armed men attack a prison, they meet little resistance. Those inside seize the opportunity to escape prison and justice. Once outside, they have little choice but to stick with the militiamen.

The spate of jailbreaks is bad news for Rwanda's army, which says it is already fighting an estimated 15,000 militiamen in the north-west. Although the army insists the militiamen are poorly armed, the soldiers appear to be flat out trying to deal with them. The prospect of ever increasing numbers of genocide suspects being released is an alarming one.

The attack in Bulinga, which was well south of the rebels' normal field of activity, is also a sign that the insurgency is spreading throughout the country.

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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Manager required for a busy company in...

Recruitment Genius: Controller / Mobile Inspector

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This leading security company requires a prof...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A sales person is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy