1994: Rwandan Queen Dowager Rosalie Gicanda, and six attendants

When the Rwandan genocide erupted following the April 6, 1994 assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana, the southern province of Butare went initially unscathed. Its large and powerful Tutsi population had limited the foothold of violent Hutu paramilitaries.

That calm lasted a mere fortnight, however, and was shattered this date in 1994 when the aged widow of Rwanda’s last monarch was hauled to Butare city’s national museum and shot along with several of her caregivers.

Taken in marriage in 1942 (French link) by King Mutara III, Rosalie Gicanda had stayed out of politics after he died mysteriously and Rwanda became a republic.

Being an emblematic Tutsi in April 1994, however, was all the political involvement needed to doom her. According to Human Rights Watch.

At 11 a.m. … a detachment of soldiers commanded by Lt. (jg) Pierre Bizimana, acting under the orders of Capt. Nizeyimana, invaded the modest home of Rosalie Gicanda … About eighty years old, she lived a quiet life as a devout Catholic, sharing her home with her bed-ridden mother and several women and girls who cared for them both. Because she eschewed any involvement in politics and behaved with discreet dignity, even the most anti-Tutsi politicians had left her largely undisturbed throughout the thirty years of Hutu rule…. The soldiers passed through the wooded enclosure that protected the house from the main street and entered the little house with its air of faded respectability. They seized the former queen and six others, leaving her bed-ridden mother and one girl to care for her. The soldiers passed by the ESO and then took Gicanda and the others to a place behind the national museum where they shot them. One teenaged girl, left for dead, survived to recount the murders. The soldiers returned to pillage Gicanda‚Äôs home in the afternoon and, two days later, they killed her mother. …

The news that this gracious lady and others from her household had been taken away by soldiers in the back of a pickup truck spread rapidly and alarmed Tutsi and all others who opposed the genocide. They concluded that if soldiers dared to seize even this revered person, then no one was safe.

That conclusion, of course, was well-founded. Over 200,000 Butare Tutsis are thought to have suffered Gicanda’s fate (or worse) in the ensuing months, making it the Rwandan genocide’s bloodiest province.

Pierre Bizimana was sentenced to death for Gicanda’s killing in 1998; I have been unable to document whether that sentence was ever carried out. His commanding officer, Idelphonse Nizeyimana, was arrested in October 2009.

On this day..

7 thoughts on “1994: Rwandan Queen Dowager Rosalie Gicanda, and six attendants

  1. Ubupfura bwakuranze buguheshe iicyicaro kigukwiriye ku waguhanze Mwami Musumbabyose. Tuzahora nkwibuka Mama.

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  3. Idelphonse Nizeyimana was convicted last June of ordering the Queen Dowager’s murder, and other crimes. He got sentenced to life in prison.

  4. uyu mwamikazi yari icyuma kabisa gusa birababaje kubona yarishwe ubu tuba tukimufite tumusura kabisa birababaje gose

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