Revenge killings by troops in Rwanda

Richard Dowden,Africa Editor
Friday 05 August 1994 23:02 BST

EVIDENCE that members of the Rwanda Patriotic Front have taken part in revenge killings and arbitrary executions is emerging for the first time since the final stage of the civil war began in April this year.

Although overshadowed by the genocide of Tutsis by Hutu militias this spring, the killings by the RPF troops will not only make it difficult for the new government to persuade the two million, mainly Hutu, refugees to return home, but also make it harder for the international community to support the new government. Until now, the RPF soldiers have earned a reputation for discipline and restraint, though there have been persistent rumours and second-hand stories of isolated atrocities.

Two recent victims of death squads, interviewed by expatriate aid workers, gave accounts of how they had been left for dead, after being beaten with nail-embedded clubs. Jean-Marie Vianney Twagiramungu, interviewed in a refugee camp in Burundi, said he had tried to return home on 16 July. Like many others, he had fled from the advancing RPF in early April. Mr Twagiramungu was in poor physical condition, still bearing the wounds of the attack.

He said that he and eight others, including his three-year-old son, whom he carried on his shoulders, had been ambushed at Mututu by a party of about 30 Tutsis. Three managed to flee, but he and four others had been captured, tied up and then assaulted with clubs, machetes and hoes. All five had been left for dead, with about 25 other corpses, in a sorghum plantation. His attackers came back after a while and held the victims' noses to check that they were dead. His little son, his brother and his cousin died, but he was still alive and managed to crawl away and find help.

Violette Mukubutera still showed scars on her head from an attack by a nail- studded club, when she was interviewed in Burundi. From Kigali, Mrs Mukubutera said she had hidden from the RPF when they attacked the city, but they gave themselves up in early May when they heard on the radio that the RPF were not killing people. They were taken to a camp at Rutonde, she said. First of all, the young men were taken away, including her husband. Only one of them came back; the rest were tied up and thrown in the river. Tutsi women then told them they were to be executed the next day, so she and her child escaped from the camp. Mrs Mukubutera was caught by a uniformed RPF unit. Her child was killed and she was hit on the head. Eventually she escaped to Burundi.

These accounts, similar to those told to journalists inside Rwanda in recent days, will provide grist to the paranoia mill of the Hutu refugees who are fearful of returning home because they believe the, mainly Tutsi, RPF government will kill them. The incidents may be unrelated, springing more from a desire for revenge on the part of individual Tutsis, than a policy by the RPF. Some members of the RPF have returned home, after the war, to find their entire families wiped out. But although first-hand evidence of RPF atrocities has been rare, the tight control placed on journalists in RPF areas has led many people to wonder if they are hiding something.

Yesterday, Save the Children called for a 'massive flow of material assistance' to the new government and support in helping to establish the rule of law in the country.

(Photograph omitted)

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