Rwanda rebels say renegades killed bishops

WRAPPED in shawls, the bodies in the courtyard kept silent vigil as figures passed through the gathering dusk. Bony feet protruded from the shrouds, indicating the slow wasting of hunger.

Kabgayi is home to hundreds of starving civilians who have been living under occupation by government troops for the past two months. As their wounds testify, many are the survivors of attacks by government- sponsored militias; others are living evidence of atrocities committed by the rebels.

The parish mission on the outskirts of the government- held town of Gitarama was the biggest and one of the country's oldest centres of Christianity. But last Sunday three leading Rwandan bishops and 10 priests were gun ned down there by renegade members of the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RFP).

The clerics had sought refuge in a parish centre in the village of Byimana, south of Kabgayi. Among them were the bishops of Kigali, Kabgayi and Byumba, Hutus of long-standing ecclesiastical office. The group had been brought behind rebel lines to Byimana for protection. Massacres of Tutsi civilians had taken place in churches and parish centres, leading to rumours that certain clergy members have facilitated or condoned the killings.

The priests and bishops were moved twice before being installed in a house in Byimana under RPF guard. Last Sunday four renegade rebels burst into the hiding place, spraying rooms with automatic gunfire. Only the guards survived. One of the attackers was shot dead before the other three escaped.

'Some of the men who carried out this attack had family members butchered by government soldiers and Hutu militias,' said the RPF colonel, Frank Mugambage. 'We have no evidence implicating the priests or bishops in kil lings, but these soldiers must have believed they were somehow involved.' The RPF commander on the Kabgayi front said the renegades were known. If caught they will face courts martial and execution by firing squad.

Yesterday, as the clerics were buried, a handful of RPF soldiers lounged around the side entrance to the church, rifles slung over their shoulders. Inside, a funeral mass was coming to an end. The last shovelfuls of clay were being thrown into a tomb which had been opened in the apse floor.

The RPF has not been slow to mete out summary justice to government soldiers or Hutu militiamen who have massacred civilians. The guilty are bound hand and foot before being shot mercilessly through the head. If not despatched with the first bullet, they are often left to bleed to death.

But incidents such as that perpetrated last Sunday by renegade rebels pose a severe embarrassment for the Tutsi- dominated rebels. The RPF wants to convince the populace, whether Hutu or Tutsi, of its ethnic impartiality. If it is to maintain its credibility by embracing both tribal groups it must not revenge itself against Hutus alone.

The RPF military campaign is going well. But to win the war and overthrow the hardline Hutu regime is only half the battle. General Paul Kagame and his fellow rebels know that if they are ever to establish a government of national unity they must first win over that portion of the population which regards them as the enemy.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific