Oral Testimony of KANAMUGIRE Philippe


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Title:Oral Testimony of KANAMUGIRE Philippe
Sequence:1 of 2
Abstract:The oral testimony of Rwandan elder KANAMUGIRE Philippe recorded by the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda, with the assistance of the National Museum of Butare, Rwanda. In two separate recordings, the testimony describes the political and cultural history of ethnicity in Rwanda. It is given in Kinyarwanda, with English transcript and subtitles available.
Contributors: MUTANGUHA Freddy
Kigali Genocide Memorial
Publisher:National Museum of Rwanda
Interview Date: 2006-01-12
Rights:Institute of National Museum of Rwanda
Subject Headings: Genocide--Rwanda--History--20th century
Tutsi (African people)--Interviews
Tutsi (African people)--Crimes against--Rwanda
Rwanda--Ethnic Relations--History--20th Century
Rwanda--History--Civil War, 1994--Atrocities
Creator: Kanamugire Philippe; National Museum of Rwanda
Formats: mini-DV tape

Continues with Part 2 of the Oral History Testimony of KANAMUGIRE Philippe.

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Testimony of KANAMUGIRE Philippe
Kanamugire: My name is KANAMUGIRE Philippe, I am the chairman of Wisemen Committee of Rwanda; Wisemen Committee of Rwanda has its office in the buildings of the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports, which office we have been lent by the ministry.
Kanamugire: I am married and I have children; they are seven; two of them died.
Freddy: Would you tell us in details how you saw the beginnings of genocide? You know that our country experienced genocide. As a wise old man, you lived certainly with politicians; would you tell us what are the causes of the genocide, how and when it started?
Kanamugire: The causes of the genocide constitute a very long story. I group them in two contexts: the first is that may be those who first contributed to it did it unknowingly; without having the knowledge of the nature of Rwandan society and the history of Rwanda; then the action that had been started off in the time served as an instrument to their successors when the time of exercising politics arrived.
In fact, shortly after the arrival of White men; first they came… They saw in us different people. They established the term "ethnic group"; do you know the meaning of ethnic group? I don’t think that if you check it up, you can say there are different ethnic groups in Rwanda! According to its definition in French, you realize that there is only one ethnic group in Rwanda.
They came, arrived, observed, then considered the looking, height, at one time they even measured noses; a person with a long nose was automatically of Tutsi ethnic group, one with a big nose was of Hutu ethnic group, a Mutwa was a short Hutu close to a dwarf. It was fixed that way.
Later, when they were about to start the census, another law was promulgated something one could easily see to be different from the reality. It was stated that any person with more than ten cows is a Tutsi; any person with less than that number is a Hutu. For this, there are some Tutsis who were registered as Hutus because they did not have that number of cows and Hutus who were registered as Tutsis for they had more than the required number. You can see that if they really intended to conduct a scientific study of different ethnic groups they would not have based on such criteria. In a whole country, there be two identical individuals.
Even in Europe where they come from people do not look the same; they are not of the same height. For a person to be stout, "corpulence" in French, it depends on many factors. It depends on how they lived; it also depends on whether they did not have problems while growing up like sickliness resulting from diseases. However, White men did not consider all of this.
Later on, they even based on that and started investigating on the "origins" of some. I think that the Batwa were the ones to be acknowledged as the real autochthonous because, it was said, they had been living in the Equatorial Forest. I can’t imagine then how one can locate the Equatorial forest in Rwanda!
It was said that Hutus were the first to arrive. At a time, they even said they arrived ten centuries before the Tutsis. Even confirming this, they did not base themselves on any convincing scientific proof. Then they said that the Tutsis came from somewhere else; they first located their origin in the Caucasia, you know the Caucasia is in Russia. At a time they said that because they love cows as Egyptians do, they are probably from Egypt. They went on till they said that Tutsis came from Abyssinia.
All of this is nonsense since they did not specify the period. You can realize that they said it just for the sake of saying it. People grasped that history. So, I think that, in the time, I was saying it earlier; I confirm that they did with the intention to plunge us into what happened. It is just things they did not pay much attention to when they came. They just took it that way saying that such people have the same origin.
Definitively, you can see that this has its origin in the time of white explorers who had come to spy Rwanda. You know, white men had shared African countries when we did not know. We did not know anything at all. So, explorers came to see the situation of the time. When they arrived in Tanzania, they wanted to get in Rwanda. They entered Rwanda unknown. People who saw them realized that they were of a different skin color. They attacked them and the white men went back to Tanzania. The King of Karagwe himself told them that the country could not be easily invaded. He told them:”if you intend to enter, do it in a peaceful way and above all introduce yourselves“. It was like asking for a visa so that they might enter. They did it exactly that way.
There was a non-aggression pact between the King of Karagwe and the Kingdom of Rwanda. This is also found in the history of Rwanda and has farther origins because it is the very Kingdom where the King of Rwanda went for asylum and was brought up by his aunt till he returned and came to the throne. For this, the King had decreed that Rwanda would never attack Karagwe. Because of the pact, the King of Karagwe sent a message to the King of Rwanda. The Rwandan king of then was Rwabugiri. The king of Karagwe warned: ”please, do not try to fight against those visitors who are intending to enter. They have stronger weapons than yours“.
They came. Everything in the time had first to pass through soothsaying. Soothsayers had said that the White men would not be hosted by the king Rwabugiri. Rather his son would. They had also indicated the place where the King would host them. They had indicated the place near Kingogo called Kageyo. The king hosted them there. They went to meet him. When they arrived, may be in order to show their power and one of their guns, they opened fire. They fired into the air actually as sign of showing what they had and Rwandans did not. Rwandans took it for just fun and laughed. Rwabugiri begged them to give him those guns because he had also some he had been given by Arabs. He only had few given by Arabs.
They left; the first to rule over Rwanda were Germans. When Germans arrived, they did not really change things abruptly. Seemingly, they wanted to be advisers for Rwandan administration in order to assist them as far as development is concerned. Germans let the administration as they found it and advised leaders. It was like an indirect rule. They used to advise us.
With the end of World War One, all colonies of Germany were taken from it. At that time, Rwanda was called their mandated territory. When they left, Belgians came. Meanwhile, there were other white men for example one who was called Hoker. I guess that was his name. He wrote about Rwanda:”there is a small country in Africa, in central Africa. It is ruled by a King“. ”When you arrive in that country, you believe you are in a black country", he said, "because they have an administration system almost similar to one of our countries".
When Belgians arrived, I think they based on that as well in order to take over, and said that people who had applied such an administrative system in Africa were not originated from there. They went on till they said that Tutsis came from Abyssinia. [That is what pushed them to investigate very far till the Caucasia,] actually in order to show they are people who imitated the achievements of white men’s countries. When Belgians arrived, they did different things from Germans. They took all the power of the king from him. The king was simply reduced to their instrument who just executed their instructions.
Till that time, allow me to go a little back, there were missionaries of the Catholic Church who had come before. When they arrived, they spied Rwanda, studied its structure and everything. I think their intention was to warn their colleagues later. It was the time of Bishop Hilt; he is the first bishop in Rwanda. He had an auxiliary, Class who later became a Bishop and his successor after the former died.
In the same time, in order to seduce many adherents, Hilt wanted to first convince the lower class because they constituted a bigger number. However, Bishop Class, his auxiliary, wanted to focus on the leading class. For him, they should rather convert leaders, after having observed the way population respected the king and were faithful to him. For him, in case they had established good relationships with the king, they would gain several adherents, who would convert to their religion according to the saying that "the prince’s religion is the religion of his people." That was his strategy.
After Bishop Hilt died and Class succeeded him, he took over the policy. In other words, he followed the policy that he had chosen which was different from that of Bishop Hilt. That is why he had once written to the Belgian Government advising them: "if they want to develop Rwanda, you should use the Tutsis because they are born with a potential for leadership." It was said it is in their nature. From that time, the advice was followed. Belgians made it that way.
Later the school you often hear of was founded; The School of Bwanakweli. In the school, Swahili, Geography and Mathematics were taught. It was established in Nyanza. It was exclusively for children of leaders. A child of a non-leader, even of Tutsi could not be admitted.
I don’t remember well the year, but it was probably in 1930. I don’t think I remember well unless I check where I wrote it. Anyway, it is a long time ago!
Martin: Under which reign was it?
Kanamugire: It was under Musinga’s reign. Later on, Musinga himself asked a white man. Once children were going to school at Nyanza and among them there were some whose parents were not leaders. When they arrived in the classroom, the white man sent them back and they went. When Musinga went to Kabare in Nyanza where white men were living, he found children crying. He thought they had been beaten for their mistakes. He asked them:”why are you crying?" They replied: ”we’ve been sent out!” He asked again: ”Why were you sent out?“ They replied: ”because we are not children of leaders“.
He put them in front of them and took the same way. He asked the white man:”is it true that you’ve sent these children out because they are not of leaders’? They replied:"yes. That is the order! We must collaborate with them because they are good at leadership". Musinga said:"Fancy that! Don’t you think you reversed things rather? Instead of teaching those who already know, you should be teaching those who don’t! Will you take time to teach Batwa, another for Hutus and another to teach the Tutsis? It is like one troop. Why don’t you put them together and teach them so they learn together?" The white men said:"we are not following your orders. We are rather following those from our authorities". Musinga said:"now, register these children as my own". The children went back to the classroom.
This shows that what is said is nonsense. There is even a proof, go and investigate. Among the children there was one called Kagabo and because he had been at school, he was called the son of Musinga. People used to tease him saying Kagabo Son of Musinga. When we grew up it was said like that. We heard it like that. Later, when those children completed their studies they were obviously the ones to be appointed to administrative positions.
Administration was fully put in the hands of Tutsis. Both Hutus and Batwa who before were leaders and in the majority were relieved from their duties and were substituted for those children freshly from school. That is how the power was put in hands of Tutsis. You will also see that this was their main accusation when they wanted to divide people later.
With the arrival of Astrida School in Butare, Groupe Scolaire, you often hear of, there were many sections. There were Administration, Nursing, Veterinary surgery, and Secretarial section. Of all these, Administration was exclusively reserved for children of leaders. Others, Hutus or Tutsis, the Batwa of the time did not yet go to school, were oriented to other sections. Consequently, leadership became little by little similar to the ancient monarchy where a king bequeathed the throne to his son. In the same way, when a leader was relieved he was substituted for his son. So, leadership was like a heritage, a legacy one got from his father. The practice went on this way and all was done by white men.
There came another time. Till then white men were the real leaders. People were called to gather. It was called "the date", that is the day to go to receive orders. They could order to come on one day or another. Then it was called “the date". People went there to receive orders without any right neither to ask for clarifications nor express one’s worries. One had to execute them exactly the way they had been given to him during all that time.
To be brief, after World War Two, revolutionary ideas arose in some countries. The white men observed and realized that they should make some reforms in order to prevent discontent colonies and people. They promulgated a law in 1952, if I remember well…, which law allowed countries, nationals, to have a council where they can express their wishes.
They established a council at the level of what was called "sous-chefferie". I can compare it to a sector today or may be more than a sector… nearly a district. There was also a council of a "chefferie". At the time the chefferies were called provinces. They were like provinces. There was again a council at the level of the "territory". For example the territory of Kigali comprised several provinces. Provinces chose their representatives to the council of the territory. Above the territory, was the national council. The recommendations from the sous-chefferie council were brought to the chefferie council, the recommendations from there to the territory council and from there to the national council; the highest organ of the country.
However, the decision from the national council was only executed after the approval of the colonial government. It could reject some and there were no explanations to be given.
That is why they had established the council for the King Rudahigwa after having banished his father and substituted him for his son since 1931. In 1938 he started demanding the abolition of patron-client system. Rudahigwa said: "from a long ago, a client belonged fully to his patron. One would apply for a job to patron and take a wife from his servants. Today, a client does not belong to his patron anymore; he rather belongs to his patron and to the government at the same time. One employs him the whole week. He won’t have time to work for himself and to work for his patron".
Actually, conflicts had started to rise. Clients could not have time to work for their patrons. White men told him he was rushing things too much. They told him that patron-client system was the cement of the unity among Rwandans. White men themselves said that!
In 1945 RUDAHIGWA demanded it once again. He was again told that he was rushing too much. They told him hold on a bit. After the promulgation of the law establishing the councils I was just telling you, Rudahigwa based on it to make the demand the national council’s complaints rather than his own. He demanded it in 1952 and in 1953, the Belgian government agreed. Then power sharing started. That is how events unfolded. Since then, Rwandans understood that they had been given the right to say whatever they wanted, that it was from the bottom of the white men’s heart to consider their wishes.
At the national council a document you’ve heard of (I don’t know where it can be found) called "Mise au Point" [Finalization] was issued. I don’t know whether there are the national council’s archives that can still be found. They wrote to Belgians asking them to communicate the vision they had for them. It said: "You should also tell us when you will grant us partial autonomy". They thought Belgians would understand it well. When they heard "autonomy", they immediately thought that they implied nothing else than independence. Instead of accepting, the national council’s copy was given to what was called "Mission". I don’t remember how it was called. It was a team from Belgium whose mission was to listen to the wishes of Rwandans.
What was next… I think that a year later, what was called "Manifeste des Bahutus" [the Bahutus’ Manifesto] was first issued. The Manifeste des Bahutus was drawn at Kabgayi. It was drawn by priests such as Rogermep, Arnaute … I don’t remember all of them. They started it off. Then they called former seminarians among them Kayibanda who was working for Kinyamateka and others who translated the Mise au Point into Kinyarwanda maybe in order to conceal that it was drawn by foreigners. So, the Mise au Point was issued under their names.
The Mise au Point, accused the Tutsis’ leadership of all those crimes that had been committed by Belgians: monopolization of power as I was just telling you, saying that they had been reduced to slavery by the Tutsis, saying that they had been whipped by the Tutsis, saying that they had been forced to work in public fields [shiku]. All of these charges were put upon the Tutsis’ leadership whereas it did not exist and white men were really ruling...
MISSING: It is especially on this point that people usually get confused. I recently attended a meeting where I was invited to give an exposé to laureates of vocational training at Gacuriro. I was asked, among other questions, about the Mise au Point. They asked me: "what was written in the Mise au Point was it really lies?" I replied: "it was true a hundred per cent". But I said it was put upon people who should not have been accused of it. It should have been put upon colonizers because they introduced it. I explained to them the whole story which story I am going to tell you as well.
MISSING: As far as monopolization of power is concerned, I think I have already told you that white men themselves wanted it to be so. The second is that whipping was real and everyone in Rwanda was whipped. All people from all categories except the king. In the time, even Chiefs were whipped. It disappeared later after. I am going to give you the story, you will certainly laugh! There was a Chief called Nturo. When a white man wanted to whip him, he caught his arm. He was a very strong man. Strong indeed! The white man became angry and left. He went to his camp and picked a gun. Nturo went to hide himself next to a cow. The dispute was about the small number of cows that had been brought for earmarking. That is vaccination. Cows had to be vaccinated. He hid himself next to a cow and took the gun from the white man. When he took it from him, Nturo pointed it at him. The white man saw that the other was going to shoot at him but Nturo was just intimidating him. The white man left. Later after, he went to report him to the Resident and the King.
MISSING: The king told them:"listen! Even I myself beat a Chief. Do you imagine beating a chief at the sight of his subjects! Do you think they can respect him anymore? Not at all!" From that time they stopped beating chiefs. However, their assistants called Sous-Chefs [deputy chiefs] who worked in white men were still whipped. Thus, saying that only Hutus were whipped [beaten with kiboko] is a lie. Even the word "Kiboko" for "whip" is not Kinyarwanda. You know that the hippopotamus is called "kiboko". It was a stuff white men used to walk with in their hands. I guess it was arteries taken from hippopotamus that they dried up and treated them or something alike. A white man had the kiboko all the time! Wherever he went he was with a secretary and the kiboko! In case he met a person who was not on his duties as instructed, he could tell the secretary to whip him.
MISSING: So, let’s talk about shiku [forced work in public fields]. Shiku… frankly speaking, politics is very bad! Shiku was introduced by white men. The origin of the name shiku refers to digging virgin fields [umushike]. Normally, in the time, a Rwandans used to work in their own fields and could leave fallow some or dig others as they liked. Then after the introduction of shiku (the reason why it was called shiku), people picked very huge unpopulated spaces and dug them.
MISSING: Why was it so? It had been an order after Ruzagayura famine you often hear of that cost lives of many people. In order to fight against the famine, white men had established that order. They indicated for example a number of acres on which to grow sweet potatoes, another for cassava or groundnuts or soya. The only crops they did not order are those that they were sure Rwandans loved to initiate themselves to grow them namely beans and sorghum. On the contrary, they grew others because it was an order. A person could have a plot of land in one region and on one space in order to facilitate monitors to know that people completed the required acres. One who had not completed the required acres was beaten. After the abolition of Kiboko Punishment, he could be reported to tribunal, tried and punished. He paid a fine.
MISSING: Then for political reasons, meanwhile with shiku a person harvested on his own and brought crops at his home. It was not actually a common field. Only one each person had his own plot of land and at harvesting time he gathered crops he grew and took them to his home. At the time of shiku there was no famine in Rwanda anymore.
MISSING: That is why they say they were enslaved by Tutsis. Go and ask all old people. They know it. Nobody had called upon a person to come and become his client. A person went to work as one’s client on his own initiative as today one goes to apply for a job. When one was mistreated by a patron, he had the right leave him. The patron could not pursue him. Not at all. This is the way I explained it to the young men and they understood.
When the UN started visiting Rwanda, its first Commission praised the achievements of Belgians. However, the Commission said in its report:"you’ve developed Rwanda in many aspects but there is one you did neglect; politics". That is the reason why, in order to implement the UN recommendations, they allowed multiparty system. People could now express their ideas through their political parties. At that time some people for example those who had been at school understood what democracy was, what was happening in the masters’ countries, we could even read some newspapers that reached here.
I remember a man called Rukeba. After I was transferred from Gisenyi territory, at that time some people who had been at school understood what democracy was, to Kigali Ngali in Buriza, I used to meet him here in Kigali town. He was a man very interested in politics. All he knew was just reading and writing. He could not speak French. Whenever you met him, he told you:"here is a newspaper!" There was one newspaper called Pourquoi Pas. It usually criticized white men issues. He could tell you: "hey my son! Would you please go and read then tell me what you’ll have read!" Rukeba’s story is a long one; even before the creation of UN, at the time of the League of Nations, Rukeba was could denounce white men’s mistakes. He wrote and no one could know where he had got addresses from.
Once again, Rwandans were mistaken. They thought: "as we have allowed us to found political parties, they want us to enter democracy". UNAR was founded. However sometime ago there had been associations such as APROSOMA. It was an association that intended to protect the lower class. It was transformed into a political party. There was also PARMEHUTU which was an association later transformed into a political party as well.
Thinking that people intending to teach us democracy withstood such a party like APROSOMA chaired by GITERA is itself surprising. Obviously, all low class people comprising in what had been called ethnic group, belonged to that side. You can see that having accepted the designation PARMEHUTU itself triggered discords. They intentionally ignored that the mass had the same sufferings be it Hutus, Batwa or Tutsis. They went on that way.
They based then on all those accusations of the manifesto. UNAR which means National Union of all Rwandans did not make any discrimination. All categories were found there. There was a very big number of Hutus. You may ask people; we exiled with them. We exiled with Hutus and Batwa. The exiled did never think to come back pretending that their relatives had won Independence and ruled over the country. We lived together abroad and there was no discord at all among all the people in exile till we came back. I mean of course those who did; others died outside their motherland. This shows you well that Rwandans have been divided by someone else.
There even some who went beyond that and resisted in such a way that they shared sufferings with others. Instead of saving lives of some and deliver those of others they refused and preferred to exile. That is courage showing that in the time Rwandans were good neighbors. You even saw some marks of it because recently we have heard of people that were protected by others.
Later on, UNAR members went to complain in the UN. They lodged their complaints. The first Commission that came was chaired by an American ambassador called Maconesiz. He arrived in Rwanda, conducted interviews and went back. That was just the beginning. By the way! There some sequences I have left out and which are the causes of all of that.
As I have already told you the political parties were founded. UNAR succeeded. You may ask old people who were in Kigali how events unfolded that time. The white men realized that UNAR had a very big of supporters and started arresting its leaders. However, they did not start their arrest immediately. It started right after the death of Rudahigwa as you heard. White men said he died a mysterious death, that the cause of his death was ignored to them whereas he died within their hands. Rwandans suggested the autopsy but Belgians refused. You see it well that the reason why they refused autopsy is that they knew they were not innocent.
Frankly speaking, what would autopsy cost them considering that they would even satisfy those who were putting his death over their heads? They should have done it in order to prove their innocence. On the contrary they avoided it themselves.
Since then political parties began campaigns. UNAR was demanding an immediate independence whereas PARMEHUTU was suggesting more forty years before being granted independence. RADER was suggesting more eight years. RADER comprised both Hutus and Tutsis. It was like UNAR; they grouped Hutus and Tutsis. Even APROSOMA had few Tutsis but PARMEHUTU did not accept any Tutsis.
Discords went in that way and ended. A time came; for us who had been in seminaries we had an association grouping former seminarians. Our chairman was in the time was a man called Simon Munyakazi. He convened a meeting. Those who were able to, we went to Kabgayi and passed three days there. We were to spend three days but we did not; I will tell you the reason of it as well!
Former seminarians I am talking about are not only people who completed their studies there; even priests and bishops came. Bishop Parodin himself was present. Bishop Bigirumwami and other priests were there too. We were living in the seminary and we became like pupils on a boarding school again.
On the first day of the meeting the chairman of the association gave the main reason for the meeting and said:"it is not a kind of pride, but former seminarians were the ones to build the Rwanda but they are going to be the ones to destroy it too". "I want to know the reason", he said. "Those people studied in the same seminary with us. We say that they went somewhere else and fetched another behavior from there. So, let’s look for the reason behind. Let’s see the cause of all these things. Let’s set an aim. Let’s see all the issues in the Manifesto and their truth or falsehood.
At the very moment a man called Papias Gatwa, a former seminarian, raised his hand and said: "listen! I want to you a shortcut to go through and know the truth we need to. The person to give and show us that shortcut is Bishop Parodin. All those people who work in his office or in his own newspaper Kinyamateka, or do whatever… wrote the Manifesto".
Bishop Parodin became angry and said: "I did not know that the aim of the meeting you have convened is to persecute the Church". Papias told him:"do not confuse your personality and the Church sir! I have just said Parodin not the Church". He quickly opened the door and went out. Bishop Bigirumwami observed and thought (I guess so; he did not tell me that): "if I stay he will think that I am with them". We wondered what we would do next. Things were started badly. Many suggested postponing the meeting to another day or the following weekend after which a Monday would be off. May be that other time anger would have subsided. We left and went back home. We fixed another weekend after which a Monday was a day off.
Dock windowTable of Contents
History of Rwanda
Ethnic Origins of Tutsis/Hutus
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General History
Rwanda (01:48-46:32)
Government and Political Life
Events Preceding Rwandan Genocide
Political Parties and Movements, Rwandan
(founding of)
(meaning of)
(members of)
Responses to Persecution and Totalitarian Rule
United Nations
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Bishop Bigirumwami
Bishop Classe
Bishop Hirth
Bishop Parraudin
Kanamugire Philippe
Munyakazi Simon
(king of Rwanda, history)
(king of Rwanda, impact)
Papias Gatwa
(king of Rwanda, history)
(death of)
(king of Rwanda, history)
(king of Rwanda, hosting white men)
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Kigali Ngali
Butare (go to page)
Groupe Scolaire
Astrida School
Nyanza (go to page)
School of Bwanakweli
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