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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
science
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

SAP BW BO

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW BO - 6 MONTHS - LONDON London (Gr...

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried