Kiziguro Memorial
The Kiziguro Genocide Memorial was created on 11th April 1995, and is located near the Kiziguro Sector office. 14,136 Tutsis are buried at the memorial, including victims who were killed on site and others whose remains were exhumed from places scattered throughout the neighboring sectors. One of the survivors from Kiziguro reported that 3,900 Tutsis were killed there. When the genocide erupted, 5,500 Tutsis had sought refuge at Kiziguro, but some of them decided to leave and were subsequently killed and thrown into a pit. It is believed that 11 Tutsis were later rescued from that pit. Every 11th of April is dedicated to the commemoration of the victims of Kiziguro. Before the genocide, the memorial was the Kiziguro Catholic Church.

Eastern Province (Kiziguro Sector, Gatsibo District)

Early Violence 1959-1962

During this period some of the Tutsis living in Kiziguro were killed; many on the shores of Lake Muhazi at Nyamarebe. Others were accused of being members of the UNAR (Union Nationale Rwandaise) political party by the Belgians and placed in jail (with the assistance of Congolese bodyguards who worked in Zaza formerly known as Gisaka cya Mirenge) where they were subject to abuse. Many fled the country. Tutsi owned homes were burned and looted and their cattle stolen.

First Republic 1st July 1962 – 4th July 1973

During the First Republic, Tutsis living in the Murambi commune were persecuted by the local leader Rwagashayija. A quota system limiting access for Tutsis to education and jobs was also implemented.

Tutsi students were denied full access to secondary school education; those who managed to get an education went to seminaries or had their identity cards changed from Tutsi to Hutu. However, if they were discovered, they would be chased out of school. Known Tutsi students were often forced by their teachers to state their ethnic identity in class and were thus humiliated in front of their Hutu classmates. In order to avoid this discomfort, some Tutsi students dropped out of school or avoided class. In addition, Tutsis were deprived of jobs in the government and high-ranking positions in the army.

Second Republic 5th July 1973 – 6th April 1994

The persecution of Tutsis continued in the former Murambi commune during the Habyarimana regime. Locally, they were only spared from persecution during the rule of Munyakayanza, who went on to become a Member of Parliament in 1983 and was replaced by Jean Baptiste Gatete. Gatete had a special hatred for Tutsis and was later found guilty by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for crimes of genocide.

Gatete started out by investigating and identifying any Tutsis who had changed their identity cards to Hutu. All identified people were called in, questioned by commune authorities, and were forced to change their identity cards back to Tutsi.

Gatete also promoted divisionism, awarding all Hutu men who impregnated Tutsi girls and encouraging Hutu men to undermine the dignity of Tutsi girls and women.

In school, Tutsis were banned from public secondary schools. Those Tutsis who managed to complete primary school could not advance and were forced to find low skill positions. Some Tutsis attended vocational schools such as CERAI. Another school frequented by Tutsi students was CERAR and Family School.  

Similar to their experiences during the First Republic, Tutsis continued to be deprived of access to government and military positions. Those who managed to find employment worked as teachers, in low skill positions, or in the informal sector.  

In October 1990, when the RPF Inkotanyi initiated the war, many Tutsis were accused of spying and were imprisoned. Gatete arrested 16 Tutsis from different sectors of Murambi and accused them of being RPF Inkotanyi. They were transferred to the Ngarama military camp, tortured by soldiers, and later transferred to the Byumba military camp in Gicumbi district. Upon their arrival, some were killed and thrown in pits. Those bodies found at Byumba were exhumed and reburied at the Mutete genocide memorial. Apart from those who were killed at the military camp, other Tutsis from Murambi were arrested by Gatete and transferred to Byumba Prison. They were beaten severely, resulting in death or disablement. More Tutsis fled to Uganda to escape this persecution and violence.

Even after the multi-party political system was introduced, Gatete continued to persecute the Tutsi population. Whenever the MRND, the country’s ruling party at the time, held meetings, members would sing, “Let’s wipe RPF spies out!” After those meetings, Tutsis would be threatened, beaten, or their homes attacked. Tutsis who attended PL (Liberal Party) meetings were threatened as the PL was said to by the political party of the Tutsis. As a result, many Tutsis who supported the PL were no longer safe sleeping in their own homes.

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In 1992, the first wave of Interahamwe perpetrated violence took place. Interahamwe troops launched an assault on the Tutsis living in Rwankuba sector, Gatete’s home sector. They destroyed Tutsi homes, plundered property, killed cattle, and attacked Tutsis. Some Tutsis sought refuge in Kiziguro church and Rwesero seminary. The wounded were taken to Kiziguro hospital by Father Santos. The violence attracted the attention of human rights organizations that arrived to investigate the matter. The government sent in ministers to calm the situation, requested that the Tutsi citizens who had fled return, and replaced Gatete with a new leader, Jean de Dieu Mwange.

However, these measures were merely symbolic and Gatete retained his powers as commune leader.   

Around this time, Hutu and Tutsi parents came together to found a private secondary school called APACOM that would meet the education needs of their children. When Gatete learned that Tutsi students were studying there, he attempted to force a quota system that would limit the number of Tutsi students. The parents and the local church leaders refused to implement the quota, invoking Gatete’s wrath. Tutsi students were denied their marks at school and expelled without cause.

Genocide 6th April 1994 – 19th July 1994

Early in the morning on 7th April 1994, Tutsi homes in Murambi commune were attacked. Interahamwe militias destroyed their houses, plundered their belongings, raped Tutsi women and girls, and perpetrated mass murder. Others were bound and thrown alive into Lake Muhazi. From 7th to 10th April, killings took place throughout the commune. Those who managed to escape the killings fled to Kiziguro church, believing they would be safe there. However, on 11th April, the Interahamwe from all over Murambi commune gathered with other Hutus at Kiziguro church to attack the Tutsis who had sought refuge there. The leaders of the killings at Kiziguro included the commune leader, Gatete, the new leader Mwange, Valens Byansi (president of the CDR party in Murambi), Rwabukumba (the former leader of Muvumba), and Nkundabazungu. In addition, soldiers gathered at the church to assist with the massacre. The killers ordered the priests and nuns to separate themselves from the Tutsis as the killings began. Soldiers shot at civilians and threw grenades in the church. Civilians and the Interahamwe attacked using traditional weapons and farm tools. The killings lasted through the morning and into afternoon; afterwards, the killers looted the dead bodies, forced those still alive to stand in a queue next to a pit (a 50-meter pit had previously been dug next to the church to be used as a well), killed the first 10 people in line and forced the 11th person to collect the dead bodies and throw them into the pit. The 11th person was then thrown into the pit alive.

On 14th April 1994, RPF Inkotanyi reached the Kiziguro church and managed to save 11 people found alive in the pit and hiding around the church.

Kiziguro Genocide Memorial

After the genocide, victim remains at the church and through the surrounding sectors were collected and reburied with dignity at the Kiziguro genocide memorial. To date, the remains of 14,136 victims have been buried. The annual date for commemoration at Kiziguro is 11th April.