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Acts of violence and killings committed against the Tutsis in 1973 in the commune of Rutobwe in preparation for the genocide in Gitarama Prefecture

As explained by the study conducted by the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) on the history of the Genocide committed against the Tutsi in the former Gitarama Prefecture, perpetration of acts of killings and violence against the Tutsi begun in the end of February 1973.   The plot of the masterminds of these ignoble actions was to target all the Tutsi, starting from those in schools and different services. Top leaders of the PARMEHUTU party including president Kayibanda Grégoire himself incited their partisans to blaze and destroy the houses of the Tutsi as well as Killing them.

In the commune of Rutobwe, one of the witnesses recounts that in 1973, when the Tutsis were massacred and subjected to acts of violence, his neighbors found him where he was looking after his livestock, and asked him to joint them and go to loot cows from Tutsis so he could add them to his. They went and found that the cows of the Tutsis had been left alone, his colleagues took many of the cows as he took only one cow. When he had taken the cow together with theirs, a prominent PARMEHUTU partisan called Nshagayintwali came aboard a vehicle and said that peace had been restored and that they had to stop looting the cows of the Tutsis. None of those who had taken away the cows of the Tutsis was neither asked to return them back to the Tutsis nor held accountable. What the PARMEHUTU leaders did was only to call people to stop seizing the cows of the Tutsis. When the Tutsis returned, they found their cows taken away and even some of them found they houses had been burnt.

 Acts of violence and killings against the Tutsis in this commune started on February 25,1973.  In the letter no 60/73/SPS/COMO21 of April 13,1973 transmitting the monthly report of March 1973, the bourgoumestre of Rutobwe commune Hitimana Zabulon, informed the Prefect of Gitarama Prefecture that on February 25,1973 the population of Karehe (Kiremeli) and Gasovu (Cyeza) witnessed something traumatizing since there are houses set on fire during that night. He adds that those who burnt those houses came from the commune of Nyamabuye at Bwilika going to the commune Mushubati. In this report, he indicates that cows were eaten, houses burnt as well as unidentified person killed.

 Bourgoumestre Hitimana Zabulon goes ahead recounting that on March 6,1973, MP Niyonzima Maximilien held a meeting of all the citizens at the offices of the Rutobwe commune in which he convinced all the populations that they should live side by side peacefully and that those displaced should return to their homes. The bourgoumestre mentions that he asked the population to help those whose houses were burnt;they brought to them trees to rebuild their homes. However, bourgoumestre Zabulon Hitimana did not mention neither the number of houses set on fire nor the number of cows eaten.

 The minutes of the meeting of councilors of Rutobwe commune held on May5,1973, bourgoumestre Hitimana Zabulon informed the participants that councilor called Nyandwi had told him that here were some Tutsis who were selling their lands so as to flee and that a solution for that had to be found. During the meeting councilor Nyandwi explained the issue as follows “There are some of Tutsis of my neighborhood who are giving their pieces of land to Hutus by sales, and there are others who buy and do not come to the commune offices, which is often due to threats posed to some of them”.

On this issue, a certain Buzurora said “The Tutsi who are fleeing will come back fighting us. By buying their properties, we are giving them snacks and money to buy weapons that will in turn be used to kill us”. Nshagayintwali, for him said “I will write to partisan so that we hold a meeting on Sunday May 13,1973”.  

By letter no 480/C.09/03/ORG.COU, dated May 14,1973, the Prefect of Gitarama Prefecture, Tharcisse Karuta requested the bourgoumestre of Rutobwe commune Hitimana Zabulon to give him details of measures taken against this issue of the Tutsis selling their pieces of land and flee.