Identity card was passport to death

A PASSPORT to life, or death - the Rwandan identity card can be either, writes Richard Dowden. In the picture (left) you can see that the first line of information below the photographs denotes ethnicity - Hutu, Tutsi, Twa or naturalised Rwandan citizen. When the Hutu militias, the gangs of killers, began their genocidal massacres of Tutsis in April, they needed only to ask for identity cards to decide who lived and who were chopped or speared to death.

Like Protais Gahigi, a 38-year-old Tutsi man with five children who were all murdered in the church at a Spanish mission at Musha in eastern Rwanda. The card was picked up recently by Carlos Mavrolean, a cameraman for the American Broadcasting Corporation. He said it was lying on the floor, not far from the altar. Among the splintered pews and scraps of clothing on the floor were three unexploded grenades and a discarded machete. The blood on the card was still sticky.

The bottom card was lying outside the customs shed at Rusumo, on the border with Tanzania. Mugema, a 20-year-old Hutu peasant, was one of hundreds of thousands of Hutus fleeing the rebel army. It would have helped him through the roadblocks set up by his fellow Hutus but Mugema was probably one of those who threw away his card to try to conceal his ethnic identity as the mainly Tutsi rebels closed in, fearing they would seek revenge.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments