Posts filed under 'Rwanda'

1998: 22 for the Rwanda genocide

Add comment April 24th, 2013 Headsman

On this date in 1998, 22 people were tied to wooden stakes in five different cities around Rwanda, then shot dead for their participation in the horrific 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Rwanda had, only shortly before, reversed a ban on public executions — clearly with this date’s spectacle in mind.

A Washington Post reporter described the scene in the capital city of Kigali, where 7,000 to 10,000 witnesses saw the three men and a woman put to death on Nyamirambo Stadium‘s red clay football pitch.

dressed in pale pink uniforms, under a sun that had just driven away a covering of gray clouds.

Four masked police officers leaped from a truck and sprinted to within feet of the black-square targets on the criminals’ chests.

As bullets from AK-47s shredded the prisoners, a sudden sharp silence descended on the crowd. Then a fifth marksman shot each prisoner in the head at point-blank range. Twice.

One man sprinted and danced when the shooting stopped. Women ululated.

A man named Andrew, 45, clapped lustily. “God is great!” he cried.

(Here’s another first-person account of the same execution.)

Among those dying before their eyes that day was the politician Froduald Karamira, once the vice president of the Rwandan Republican Democratic Movement and a prime mover in the 1994 genocide.

Although Karamira was actually born a Tutsi, he “converted” into a Hutu* and how. He established himself as a leading exponent of “Hutu Power” — the chilling banner under which upwards of a million Rwandans were slaughtered — and had control of two of the radio stations inciting Hutu death squads to their bloody work.

According to Hands Off Cain, these are the last executions ever carried out in Rwanda before it abolished the death penalty in 2007.

“Our experience in Rwanda has demonstrated that abolishing the death penalty gave new lease on life and this has contributed to the healing of our society,” said long-serving Rwanda President Paul Kagame, a Tutsi. “Rwandans have achieved a degree of unity and reconciliation, unimagina­ble just a decade and a half ago because a culture of forgiveness — not vengeance — has taken root.”

* Rwanda’s ethnic categories are notoriously artificial.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Crimes Against Humanity,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Mass Executions,Murder,Politicians,Public Executions,Rwanda,Shot

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1994: Rwandan Queen Dowager Rosalie Gicanda, and six attendants

8 comments April 20th, 2009 Headsman

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’s 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..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Famous,History,Innocent Bystanders,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Power,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Ripped from the Headlines,Royalty,Rwanda,Shot,Summary Executions,Women

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