On arrival at Kibeho, Colonel Sam Kaka addressed the 80,000 IDPs gathered on the hill.
He said that the government had decided to close the camps, but no one would be harmed
if they decided to co-operate and go home peacefully.
He knew that there were some 'criminals' hiding in the camps.
They would be arrested, registered with the ICRC and the UN Human Rights Field Office
and given a fair trial. The innocent need have no fear.
They would be escorted to their communes in vehicles, given food, water and healthcare.
At the end of the speech, Colonel Kaka asked all those who wished to go home to raise their hands.
About 95 per cent of the people gathered raised their hands and said they would go home....


80,000 people continued to be squeezed in a tight circle by the RPA on top of the hill.
At night, the hard-core political elements (the militia and Interahamwe)
would threaten and intimidate the families who had shown an inclination to go home.
Some of these 'doubters' would be tortured and even hacked to death,
so that by morning, no one was prepared to leave voluntarily....
The Zambian UN regiment reported horrifying stories, shrieks of pain at night as
the Interahamwe set about killing and maiming those
who dared co-operate with the government, the RPF.

Rwanda Khan Rwanda Khan
by Shaharyar M. Khan, 2000
Khan's tenure as the UN Secretary-General's Special Rep (SGSR) in Rwanda
began on Liberation Day, July 4th, 1994.
Khan witnessed the evacuation of the Kibeho IDP Camp
in April 1995.

excerpts from pages 104-119
[definition of acronyms in square brackets]


The tragedy of Kibeho, where between 1500 and 1200 IDPs [internally displaced persons] were killed in a mass breakout from a hilltop siege, was a major blot on the government of Rwanda's reputation. Ironically, the operation was nearly a remarkable success for the government. The Kibeho syndrome therefore needs to be placed in perspective.

By August 1994, over a million IDPs had taken refuge in camps located in the HPZ [humanitarian protection zone], protected by Operation Turquoise [French Humanitarian Aid Mission (actually a cover to aid genocidaires-jj*]. After Turquoise's departure on 22 August, the UN-sponsored Operation Retour saw over 700,000 IDPs return voluntarily to their communities, but the number of returnees began to show a drop towards the end of February 1995. Thus, by March, the RPF [Rwanda Patriotic Front - political party leading new government] was again straining at the leash to forcibly close down the remaining IDP camps. The total number of these IDPs was approximately 250,000. They were now located in nine camps in the Gikongoro prefectures, the camps in the Cyangugu and Kibuye prefectures having melted down voluntarily.

The RPF's reasoning to forcibly close the remaining IDP camps was their contention that they consisted mainly of hard-core sympathizers of the former government. The RPF argued that the innocent had gone home and only the saboteurs and genocide sympathizers were left in the camps. The RPF also believed that the camps were harbouring militia and Interahamwe 'guerillas' who were not only spreading disinformation against the government, but were linking up with their counterparts in the refugee camps of Zaire [Congo] and Burundi. The RPF contended that it had demonstrated its bonafides by co-operating with the UN in Operation Retour, but there was no likelihood of further progress and it was now time for the RPA [Rwanda Patriotic Army - Kagame's Tutsi Army] to take more forceful action to control guerilla activity and to assert the government's full sovereignty over its territory.

Faced with this ultimatum, the UN [United Nations] agencies put together an intensified action plan to persuade the remnants of the IDPs to go home. The action plan was elaborate and impressive. It comprised an information programme, visits by ministers to camps, look-see tours by camp representatives to their communes, briefings by those who had left the camps and settled in their communes and assurances of healthcare, transport and basic requirements, all aimed at inducing what were obviously the most recalcitrant IDPs to return home.

Basically, the UN's effort was aimed at convincing the Rwandan government to agree to one last effort to persuade the IDPs to return voluntarily rather than resort to a forcible closure. The action plan was discussed with various ministers, notably the Minister of Rehabilitation, Dr Jacques Bihozagara, and the Minister of the Interior, Seth Sendashonga. Both ministers showed an interest and even made proposals to refine the plan. The elements of the plan that were acceptable to the government were the information campaign and the preparations in the 13 communes to which the majority of the IDPs were expected to return. Special arrangements for food, shelter, healthcare and transport were to be made in these communes through co-operation between the UN, the NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and the Rwandan authorities. Milobs [military observers] and human rights observers were to be posted to the communes to ensure fair and humane treatment. The main point that had not been agreed was the arrest procedure for the 'criminals' in the camps. The UN and its agencies proposed that arrests should only be made after due process of law and after registration with the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] and human rights observers. This was not entirely acceptable to the RPA. The arrest procedure, and also the timing of the joint operation were therefore the subject of continued discussion. On 23 March, I met President Bizimungu and requested him not to proceed with the forcible closure of the camps and to support the action plan that we had almost finalized. He agreed to consider the plan.

These discussions on the action plan continued during the first half of April with the finalized version being formally conveyed to the government in a letter addressed by me to the President on 6 April. I expected a response before the government took a final decision on the issue of the camps. However, on the morning of Tuesday 18 April, General Tousignant reported that the RPA had encircled all nine camps near Gikongoro and had fired in the air to demonstrate that the camps were being closed. Of the nine camps, the following four were significant: Kibeho (100,000), Ndaza (50,000), Kamana (25,000) and Munini (10,000). The remaining five camps were small with populations of less than 6,000 each. At 5.00 am, a brigade-strength contingent of the RPA surrounded the nine camps and, at first light, fired shots in the air and announced on megaphones the government's decision to close them. Seemingly, the RPA's patience had run out.

The first setback to the RPA manoeuvre took place at Kibeho, which was the largest camp and spread over five hillocks. In the panic to run for safety to the main hillock, where there was a church, a medical centre and a structure in which the Zambian regiment was stationed, a stampede took place and ten small children were trampled to death. Thus, within half an hour of the RPA's action, the hillocks at Kibeho had emptied and around 80,000 IDPs had collected on the main hill, encircled by the RPA. The remainder had made a run for it and scattered towards the nearby forest.

At 9.00am, the RPA Chief of Staff, Colonel Sam Kaka, telephoned General Tousignant and informed him that the IDP camps in the Kikongoro prefecture were being closed down. He said that the RPA had fired in the air only to demonstrate that they meant business. No force had actually been used against the IDPs. Colonel Kaka requested UNAMIR's [Assistance Mission in Rwanda] assistance in transporting them back to their communes and in providing humanitarian relief. Colonel Kaka then invited a UNAMIR representative to join him on a visit to Kibeho to see the situation at first hand, and requested a helicopter. The visit was quickly arranged and by 10.00am, Colonel Sam Kaka, accompanied by the Deputy Force Commander, Brigadier-General Anyidoho, were on their wy to the Kibeho hilltop where the milling crowd of about 80,000 was tightly encircled by the RPA. The Zambian company [UN forces] consisting of about 135 personnel was also inside the circle, occupyng one of the small buildings adjacent to the church.

Meanwhile, news of the RPA's action had spread like wildfire and we were already being questioned by CNN, the BBC and others about the Rwandan government's action in forcibly closing the IDP camps. 'Were you consulted?', 'How many casualties?', 'Will the UN condone this action by the government?' they asked. The embassies, the UN agencies and the NGOs were equally taken by surprise, especially as they knew that the latest action plan had been conveyed to the Rwandan government and was under active discussion. Understandably, there was consternation all round at the RPA's precipitate action.

By 2.00pm, Brigadier-General Anyidoho was back at UNAMIR headquarters and reported the following account of his helicopter trip to Kibeho. He confirmed that, at first light, the RPA had surrounded the Kibeho camps and fired shots in the air. The same action had been synchronized in the other eight IDP camps. Only in Kibeho had there been panic and a stampede. In the remaining camps the IDPs had agreed to fold their tents and to return home as soon as transport and escort was provided. In Kibeho, however, everyone had run towards the church situated on the main hill where the Zambian company was billeted. Probably the Kibeho IDPs felt they would be more secure near the building. In the stampede, some women had been injured and ten children trampled to death. Anyidoho reported that there had been no injuries due to the firing and the IDPs had been alowed to take essential items, e.g. clothes, pots and pans with them. The few tents that were burnt caught fire due to overturned stoves.

On arrival at Kibeho, Colonel Sam Kaka addressed the 80,000 IDPs gathered on the hill. He said that the government had decided to close the camps, but no one would be harmed if they decided to co-operate and go home peacefully. He knew that there were some 'criminals' hiding in the camps. They would be arrested, registered with the ICRC and the UN Human Rights Field Office and given a fair trial. The innocent need have no fear. They would be escorted to their communes in vehicles, given food, water and healthcare. As soon as arrangements had been worked out with the UN, the IDPs would be able to go home. For the present, everyone should stay calm and cooperate. At the end of the speech, Colonel Kaka asked all those who wished to go home to raise their hands. Brigadier-General Anyidoho related that about 95 per cent of the people gathered raised their hands and said they would go home. As a result of Colonel Kaka's speech, there was a visible easing of tension.

Anyidoho had returned to Kigali with a request from the Rwandan government for UN support to assist the IDPs to return home. This request placed me in a dilemma. First, the government had betrayed our trust by acting unilaterally to close the camps when we were actively engaged in negotiations with it to launch the revised action plan. Secondly, the very act of forcibly closing the camps was against international humanitarian norms and its perpetrators did not deserve our co-operation. The humanitarian agencies felt particularly aggrieved at the Rwandan government's action.

On the other hand, we were faced with a real humanitarian problem on the ground. Rightly or wrongly, the government had decided to close the camps. So far, it had used force only to convey a message and had taken care not to point a gun at human beings. The government had co-operated with the UN for the past nine months, but had probably come to the conclusion that the residue of the IDPs were hard-core and would therefore not voluntarily leave the camps. Its decision was aimed at ending the anomaly. The RPA, in order to retain an element of surpirse, could not have held prior consultations with UNAMIR or UNHCR [High Commission for Refugees] for fear of leaks. In fact, I found out that most members of the Cabinet, including the Prime Minister, were not aware of the timing of the RPA action. My dilemma now was that 80,000 desperate IDPs needed to be transported home from the top of that hill in Kibeho. Only UNAMIR and the agencies had the capability of providing the transport and the humanitarian care to assist in this operation.

After consultations with Tousignant and Anyidoho and after weighing both sets of arguements, I ceded that UNAMIR and the agencies should make the best of a bad job by giving their full cooperation to resolving the humanitarian problem that we were now facing. Accordingly, Anyidoho was sent back to Kibeho and then to Butare to convey this decision and to seek agency and NGO cooperation in the evacuation of the IDPs from the hilltop. UNAMIR decided to send all its spare vehicles, 24 in number, and also its engineers and logistic support to Kibeho in order to start the evacuation. However, by far the largest number of vehicles (buses, trucks, etc) were available with UNHCR and the IOM [International Organization for Migration].

In the afternoon, I was informed by Randolph Kent, head of UNREA [Rwanda Emergency Office], that the agencies were reluctant to go along with my decision to co-operate with the government. In Butare, where he met the heads of the UN agencies and NGOs, Brigadier-General Anyidoho argued our case for over six hours but was unsuccessful in persuading the agencies to co-operate with UNAMIR. In fact, this was the first important occasion where the agencies had declined to fall in line with a decision made by the SRSG [Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General]. The agencies, particularly UNHCR, stated that they needed instructions from their headquarters.

That evening, on learning that the agencies were not inclined to follow my decision, I telephoned UNHCR [High Commission for Refugees] headquarters in Geneva and spoke to Deputy High Commissioner Walzer, whom I had known as the UNHCR representtive in Islambad. I gave Walzer my reasons for co-operating with the evacuation and sought his organization's support. Walzer said he would call me back the following morning. He did so and said that UNHCR would follow my lead, provided I conveyed in writing that I was responsible for the decision on political grounds. I faxed the certificate immediately and Walzer, in turn, sent instructions to his local representative. This process delayed UNHCR/IOM support by a critical 48 hours and it was our bad luck that for the next two days it also poured with rain, a deluge the like of which I did not see again in my two years in Rwanda. The result was that our vehicles got bogged down in the mud and could not proceed on the dirt-track roads to Kibeho.

By the evening of Thursday 20 April, three days had passed since the stampede on the top of the hill in Kibeho where the situation had deteriorated sharply, turning the open-air camp into a cauldron of appalling misery. Our Zambian unit had been augmented by another Zambian company and an Australian medical unit and they reported that 80,000 people continued to be squeezed in a tight circle by the RPA on top of the hill. At night, the hard-core political elements (the militia and Interahamwe) would threaten and intimidate the families who had shown an inclination to go home. Some of these 'doubters' would be tortured and even hacked to death, so that by morning, no one was prepared to leave voluntarily. The result was that 80,000 human beings stood shoulder to shoulder, with barely any food and water, as the local RPA commander only allowed pre-cooked food (biscuits) and a limited ration of water to pass through into the circle. The RPA also prevented the humanitarian agencies from entering the circle. The appalling consequence of this siege was that the IDPs were hungry, thirsty and exhausted. They urninated and defecated where they stood as there was no room to move. At night, they were subject to murderous intimadation by the Interahamwe. To make their misery totally intolerable heavy rains came, preventing all vehicular traffic from approaching the camp. The RPA also insisted that cooked food and humanitarian aid should be available at the exit point and in the 13 communes to which the IDPs were expected to return, but not inside the camp. The RPA allowed exit only in escorted vehicles and only after careful screening. The net result was that the outflow of the IDPs from the Kibeho hilltop was slow and desultory.

Our Zambian and Australian units reported that a humanitarian crisis was imminent due to the appalling hygiene conditions on top of the hill, and to the savage intimidation at night. What made the situation unbearable was that even though some IDPs - about 20,000 - had been evacuated, the RPA had not allowed the resultant space to be used by those who remained, but had, instead, closed and tightened the circle so that a sense of suffocating hubris was being felt by the people left on the hill. The Rwandan people are perhaps the most long-suffering of all, accepting the most horrendous hardships without showing any sign of protest, but even for them the conditions in Kibeho were reaching breaking-point as dysentry, hunger, thirst and the stench of human waste surrounded them for the fourth day, while they stood under pouring rain. The Zambian regiment reported horrifying stories, shrieks of pain at night as the Interahamwe set about killing and maiming those who dared co-operate with the government.

There is a videotape taken by Lieutenant Kent Page, a young Canadian public relations officer, from inside this cauldron of despair. He had gone into the Zambian/Australian field HQ in his four-wheeler to conduct some journalists. No sooner had his car arrived inside the camp than it was surrounded by a pleading, beseeching, crazed mass of humanity, who wanted food, water or simply sanctuary because they could not get out of the hilltop prison. Indeed, they were being killed and tortured by the Interahamwe. The tapes showed a boy of about 16 with a machete gash across his forehead, desperately trying to enter the vehicle. Kent Page and his companions were trapped for four hours in their jeep, unable even to open their window-panes except for an inch to be able to breathe. Eventually, the Zambian regiment saved them by clearing a path for the four-wheeler to exit. It is to the immense credit of the Zambian regiment that in the lion's den, they conducted themselves with great restraint and responsibility, arresting 17 murdering intimidators and handing them over to the civilian prefect of Gikongoro.

The RPA's justification for tightening the circle round the 60,000 people in the Kibeho camp was that they said they contained a large element of criminals who had participated in the genocide. These criminals had to be plucked out of the cauldron and arrested. Accordingly, the egress from the camp could only take place after a careful screening process had been carried out. Meanwhile, the IDPs had to be fed and provided with healthcare by the agencies and NGOs who, after their initial stand-off with UNAMIR, had come on board after two crucial days of hesitation.

Inside the camp, the Zambian contingent and the Australian medical unit were performing a heroic task. First, they maintained an equable relationship with the RPA, enabling the UN agencies and NGOs to eventually enter the camp with food, relief and medical facilities. They also took on the responsibility of preventing the RPA from forcibly arresting people inside the camp which would have created a violent blow-out. They then took into their building the small children who had either been separated from their parents or had been handed over in order to prevent their being intimidated by the Interahamwe. These children were cared for throughout by the Zambian regiment. The Australians, the ICRC, MSF [Medecins Sans Frontiers, ie Doctors Without Borders], WHO [World Health Organization] and UNICEF [International Children's Emergency Fund] were also performing a superb role in bringing medical care to the IDPs.

By the fourth day, Friday 12 April, I decided to meet Vice-President Kagame who received me in his new spacious Defence Ministry office. It is significant that Kagame had just returned from a week's visit to Germany where he had been receiving medical treament for an injury sustained while driving his own car. I related to him the reports of an imminent crisis and told him that I would go to Kibeho after my meeting with him. He instructed a senior official in the Refugee Ministry, Christine Umutoni, to accompany me, along with our Liaison Officer, Major Frank Kamanze.

At 10.00am, I took a helicopter for Kibeho accompanied by General Tusignant, Ms Umutoni and Major Kamanze. During a three-hour visit, I became convinced that a crisis was imminent. For four days 80,000 people had been tightly encircled in the open, with little food, no sanitation, no space and pouring rain, while suffering the brutal assaults of the Interahamwe from within and certain to be shot by the RPA if they broke out. Already dysentery had broken out leading leading to 13 deaths and I was informed by the WHO and MSF that unless conditions improved, cholera was certain to follow. As we toured this awful, horrendous camp, we came across the 13 dead bodies of the dysentery victims lying in a heap. The RPA had refused to bury them and it took some hard bargaining before the Zambians were allowed to do so. I was convinced that unless the government acted immediately to ease and redress the situation, a crisis would take place in the next 24 hours.

Back at headquarters, I sent an urgent message to General Kagame as I could not reach him on the telephone, informing him of an impending catastrophe played out in full view of the media. I gave him a description of the conditions and made the following suggestions. First, that the tight cordon by the RPA should be loosened to allow space. Secondly, that instead of insisting on screening and transportation by vehicle under RPA escort, people should be allowed to walk home after peremptory screening, as vehicles were not able to reach Kibeho due to the rain. This was necessary to ease the tension on top of the hill. A quick melt-down on the hill would give the remainder hope. Thirdly, I requested greater access by humanitarian organizations to prevent cholera and disease spreading. Fourthly, I pleaded for greater restraint by the RPA in arresting criminals. Since they knew the identify of most of the criminals they could be arrested later even if they decided to walk away. I made it clear that unless these measures were taken, a disaster was certain to take place.

My message clearly had an impact because the following morning, General Kagame rang me at home, before breakfast, to inform me that he agreed in principle with my suggestions. He said he would be sending Colonel Sam Kaka to discuss implementation in detail. I welcomed the Vice-President's support and on reaching the office, I was informed that the Chief of Staff would arrive at 10.00am. I waited till 10.40am and then, as I had an appointment at the Integrated Operation Centre to brief the agencies, NGOs, etc on my visit to Kibeho, I left. I was informed at the Centre that Colonel Kaka had been unavoidably delayed and had arrived five minutes after I left. He apologized and said he would return at noon. I arrived back at my office to receive Colonel Kaka who informed me that he had instructions from the Vice-President to co-ordinate the measures that I had proposed. At the meeting, I was accompanied by General Tousignant and we began to work out detailed, co-operative action for the evacuation of Kibeho.

It was evident to me that General Kagame and the military headquarters had not been given an accurate picture of the conditions in Kibeho by the local RPA comander. As soon as the general learnt of the real situation and of the imminent crisis, he had decided to take corrective action. Possibly Christine Umutoni may also have given her independent report. Kaka's visit to my office was clearly an attempt to change course from the direction that the RPA's local commander had taken and to retrieve a fast-deteriorating situation.

While Kaka, Tousignant and I were discussing the action to be taken in my office, we were interrupted by General Tousignant's staff officer, the excellent Colonel Arp, who informed us that there had been an attempted break-out from the camp. Shots had been fired and people had died. There were reports of firing from all around the camp and the Zambians were reporting panic and mayhem. On learning this news, Sam Kaka understandably excused himself and rushed back to his headquarters. The corrective measures were too late.

At 2.30pm we were informed that the RPA had succeeded in establishing order and that the circle had been repaired, but many casualties had taken place, some in front of journalists who happend to be visiting Kibeho.

The lull did not last long. By 5.00pm another breach in the circle was reported, followed by several others all around the camp. The dam had burst and a swarm of IDPs was now running helter-skelter from the hill with the RPA firing on the fleeing mass with rifles and machine guns. The worst possible scenario had taken place.

At headquarters, we were inundated with telephone calls from the media, asking for our comments on casualties. We were receiving regular reports in the operations room where General Tousignant and I gathered till late in the night. At 10.00pm the journalists' party returned from Kibeho, shaken and distraught. One of our radio journalists was crying hysterically, repeating simply 'They killed them in cold blood' over and over again. By nightfall the guns were silent. About 2,000 IDPs had stayed back in the medical compound in Kibeho, the rest had fled - some to the communes, some for the refugee camps in Zaire [Congo] and Burundi, while others, probably the hard-core militia, scattered to hide in the forests, aiming to reach sanctuary with known sympathizers.

By evening, reports from Kibeho conveyed by the NGOs and our own units indicated a death list ranging between 4,000 and 8,000. The RPA had closed off half the camp and the preliminary estimates were about 4,000 dead on the side of the camp to which UNAMIR, the agencies and NGOs were restricted. There was an assumption that an equivalent number had died on the other half. At nightfall, one of the Australian senior officers, accompanied by the British Provost-Marshal, Colonel Cuthbert Brown, walked through the debris on the hill and reported an estimate of around 4,000 killed. This estimate was the preliminary figure that circulated among the journalists gathered at Amahoro headquarters.

By nightfall, it was evident that Kibeho had been a disaster. The world media, the international community and the NGOs were up in arms and I felt in my bones that the achievements of the new government - and there were many - would be washed away by this single incident. Early next morning, General Tousignant took a helicopter flight to Kibeho. There, he went over the same ground with the Provost-Marshal that was covered the night before and as a result of a carefully taken count, in broad daylight, he revised the estimate of the dead to 'between 1500 and 200'. At night, the figure had seemed higher because the debris had included mangled clothes and abandoned sacks, pots and pans, which appeared in the dark like dead bodies. Moreover, many IDPs had obviously feigned death at night, but had later skulked away when the firing stopped. The Provost-Marhsal and the Zambians agreed that the revised figure was nearest to reality and we issued it as our formal estimate and did not change it thereafter.

Some of the press who had, the night before, sent out estimates of the dead at over 8,000, were angry with UNAMIR's figures, mainly because they were so much lower than theirs. These journalists criticized UNAMIR for trying to appease the government by reducing the count. In fact, the government was furious witn UNAMIR for giving its figure and the grating relationship that had developed between UNAMIR and the RPA in March/April, was now heading towards rock bottom.

Clearly, the final break-out was due to human endurance having been pushed to extreme limits. The first signs had occurred the day before when some IDPs attempted to snatch a rifle from one of the RPA soldiers. There was shooting and three IDPs were killed. The precise chronology of the break-out on 22 April was as follows: a first attempt occurred at 12.10pm. Casualties had taken place and there was a tension-filled lull inside the circle. Then at 5.45pm the mass break-out took place. It caused consternation and panic among the RPA, many of whom were young, untrained and inexperienced. Eye witnesses stated - and some of these scenes were caught on video - that RPA soldiers began firing indiscriminately. They trained their guns on the fleeing IDPs. The Zambians reported some firing from within the camp, obviously from militia who had guns hidden in the camps. The RPA claimed the snipers had taken up position on the roof of the Zambian unit's barracks and that machine-gun fire was aimed at them. As a result, they retaliated with more machine-gun fire. Clearly not only had the panic and crisis led to the RPA losing their nerve but, probably, memories of the recent genocide had also led to some of the younger elements losing all reserve and discipline. One eye witness told me how a middle-aged woman sought shelter in a latrine and an RPA soldier followed her in and shot her in the back.

That night, our Zambian and Australian units who had been ordered by the RPA to remain in their quarters, were aware of hectic activity all around the camp. Floodlights were switched on, a number of heavy vehicles had driven up and there were signs of digging throughout the night. Some of our soldiers managed to peep across into the forbidden zone. It was evident that the RPA was engaged in a clean-up operation. Dead bodies were being collected and driven away. Shallow graves were being dug and a general damage limitation operation was taking place.

Next day, President Bizimungu visited the camp. He was evidently briefed by the local RPA commander (who was later punished for his role in the Kibeho tragedy) and his colleagues. They first informed the President that there had only been about 300 casualties, most of them in the stampede and at the hands of the Interahamwe! They also indicated that UNAMIR (meaning the Zambians) had given wrong advice to the people in the camps and had even fired at the RPA. All these false accusations fitted neatly into the 'smear UNAMIR' campaign that had been waged since February. As a result, the President was in a fury when he met the local UNAMIR officer - a Zambian captain - and publicly demanded why they had lied to the media by giving such a high death-count when only 300 people had been killed, mostly in the stampede and by the intimidators. The Zambian captain stood his ground, at the graveside, and politely but firmly told the President that he had personally counted 1500 dead bodies on 22 April. The Zambian officer was jostled by the RPA officers for his impudence while the President moved on in high dudgeon.

Because the accusation had been made, we checked with the Zambians if, in fact, they had fired shots in self-defence. UN regulations require the meticulous recording and accounting for of every round of ammunition that is fired. The registers were checked and matched with the ammunition available and it was confirmed, without the shadow of a doubt, that not a single bullet was fired by the Zambians. The Zambians also became unpopular with the RAP because some Zambian soldiers spoke a dialect which made it relatively easy for them to understand Kinyarwanda. Two Zambian officers were therefore able to talk freely to the IDPs in their own language! The RPA took this as some form of conspiracy by UNAMIR against the Rwandan government. In fact, when UNAMIR's phase-down was agreed, the Rwandan government requested that the Zambian regiment should be one of the first to be phased out.

Over the next two days, the Kibeho cloud mushroomed across the globe and cast a negative shadow over the Rwandan establishment's reputation as a civilized, humane government. The Secretary-General made a statement and decided to send a Special Envoy, Mr Aldo Ajello, to Rwanda. Donor countries suspended aid programmes and a shudder could be felt going down the collective spine of the UN, its agencies and the NGOs operating in Rwanda. In my meetings with Rwandan leaders, I counselled an immediate damage limitation exercise. Afterall, the RPF's strongest public relations card was that it admitted errors. I advised that an international inquiry commission be appointed immediately.

The President and the hard-line RPF leaders were, however, on a xenophobic, anti-UN warpath. On 25 April, the entire diplomatic corps was summoned to Kibeho by order of the President and an extraordinary drama was played out on the hilltop in front of the entire Cabinet, the diplomatic corps, the NGOs and the RPA High Command. It started with a 7.00am telephone call to me from Major Kamanze stating that the President desired the diplomatic corps, the UN agencies, the NGOs, the international press and the entire Cabinet to be present at Kibeho camp at 9.30am. I anticipated an awkward encounter, as Major Kamanze told me that the President demanded the presence of the Zambian captain with whom he had publicly contested figures of the death toll last Sunday. Radio Rwanda had also announced that bodies would be exhumed to prove that media and UN figures were highly exaggerated and to confirm the government estimate of 300. I expected the President to use the diplomatic corps as witnesses supporting the government's contention.

At Kibeho hilltop, addressing all of us, the President made the foolowing announcement:

a) An independent international inquiry commission would be set up on the Kibeho tragedy. He requested the following to participate in the Commission: the USA, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, the OAU [Organization of African Unity] and the UN (UNAMIR). He added that Rwandan government representatives would also participate.

b) The commission should start work within one week (i.e. from 3 May). He requested financial and administrative support for the commission and requested that each member should sponsor its own delegate.

c) The terms of reference for the commission would be the examination of the following:

--- the reasons which had led the government to decide the closure of the IDP camps

--- whether prior consultations with UNAMIR had taken place

--- whether actions had been taken on the basis of ethnicity

--- the reasons for the Kibeho tragedy, apportioning responsibility to the Rwandan army (RPF), UNAMIR, the agencies or the Interahamwe supporters

--- the numbers of deaths and their causes.

Having publicly announced the government's decision, the President stated that he was ready to verify the death toll, 'on the spot', through personal visits to the mass graves to count the actual number of dead bodies. He then publicly demanded the presence of the Zambian captain. In response, I was obliged to state that he had been rotated. I added that the UNAMIR Provost-Marshal, Colonel Cuthbert Brown, who was present throughout the tragedy, would be able to point out the shallow graves to exhume the bodies. This process took about three hours with gruesome scenes of the graves being opened in full view. Eventually, we returned to the press tent where the President requested the Foreign Minister to provide the 'results of the investigation'. The Foreign Minister then announced that the graves had been opened and that a total of 338 bodies had been counted! The President then handed the microphone to me.

This was an extremely awkward and embarassing moment as the President was virtually expecting an endorsement of his figures through the implied acquiescence of the SRSG and the diplomatic community. I first welcomed the President's announcement of an independent interntional inquiry commission. I said the commission would help to establish the objective reality. I expressed the UN and the international community's readiness to co-operate with the commission.

I then stated that the commisson's terms of reference to calculate the number of deaths and the manner in which people had been killed would require forensic expertise, and also recourse to eye-witness accounts of those present, including journalists. On the critical issue of the death count, I stated that the commission should also take note of why UNAMIR and the agencies had been blocked off from part of the hill. As the commission was specifically charged with pronouncing on this important issue it would be inappropriate to pre-judge its decision by establishing figures based on a casual count from the graves. I therefore urged that the issue of the death count be left to the commission.

The critical moment passed, the issue was diffused and all eyes focused on the deliberations of the International Commission of Inquiry on Kibeho. It was quicky appointed....

The Commission met over a period of two months. The following are the summary conclusions of the Commission's report:

1) ...The tragedy of Kibeho neither resulted from a planned action by Rwandan authorities to kill a certain group of people, nor was it an accident that could not have been prevented.

2) ...There were legitimate interests of the Rwandan government and the international community to have the displaced persons camps closed as quickly as possible, both for reasons of national security and in order to remove an important obstacle to the country's efforts to recover from the devastating effects of last year's genocide.

3) ...Efforts were made by the UN Special Representative, UNAMIR, the government of Rwanda and other organizations to keep the situation at Kibeho under control.

4) ...The Commission regrets that the UN agencies and NGOs were not able to contribute more efficiently to the speedy evacuation of the IDPs from the camp.

5) ...During the events at Kibeho camp between the 18th and 23rd April 1995, unarmed IDPs were subjected to arbitrary deprivation of life and serious bodly harm in violation of human rights and humanitarian law committed by RPA military personnel.

6) ...During the events at Kibeho camp between the 18th and the 23rd of April 1995, unarmed IDPs were subjected to serious human rights abuses, including arbitrary deprivation of life and serious bodily harm, committed by armed elements among the IDPs themselves.

Even after the immediate crisis had passed, a bizarre sequel to the Kibeho break-out took place in the medical centre compound on top of the hill. Here, in a large courtyard with about ten rooms on its periphery, around 1,500 IDPs stubbornly refused to leave the hilltop building. The RPA surrounded this group and initial attempts by the UN agencies, NGOs and the Rwandan government itself to persuade these people to go home were unsuccessful. They all seemed brainwashed into believing that they would be killed by the RPA the moment they left the compound.

Conditions inside the medical compound were ghastly. Amidst the milling crowd of 1,500 IDPs, people were dying either of disease or from machete wounds inflicted by the murderous intimidators. In a week, UNHCR counted 42 dead, their bodies gradually decaying in the compound. There was no sanitation and human excrement lay everywhere. Within the courtyard, women cooked for their families on makeshift wood-stoves. Several days after the crisis, and in order to allay fears, the RPA encirclement was withdrawn to a safe distance so that only UN blue berets could be seen around the medical centre. The inmates were promised food, water, escort by UNAMIR, UNHCR, the ICRC and MSF, but to no avail. They adamantly refused to budge from their horrendous conditions in the compound.

On 28 April, the heads of the diplomatic mission, UNAMIR and the agencies, in full co-operation with the Rwandan government, decided to make a supreme effort to persuade the inmates to leave the compound. About nine ambassadors gathered at the medical centre and spoke to the crowd through megaphones, urging them to relent. I also lent my voice on the megaphone, assuring inmates of fair treatment. The distinguished German Ambassador, Mr August Hummell, was prominent in imploring the women and children to leave, but though one could see doubt in the eyes of the women, they seemed to be under the hypnotic, intimidatory vice of their leaders.

When we went inside the rooms, we saw the horrendous sight of many women and children lying lifeless against the walls, hungry and dehydrated. Some men were using dead bodies as their pillows to lean against. In the courtyard full of debris, I nearly stumbled over the dead body of a child. Further on, the corpse of an old woman lay rotting amongst the rubble. In a final effort to reassure the inmates, the Belgian, German and French Ambassadors along with the Deputy Force Commander Brigadier-General Anyidoho and the Provost-Marshal, Colonel Cuthbert Brown, accompanied inmate representatives to a nearby commune where they saw for themselves that former Kibeho IDPs had not been slaughtered, but were resettled and making a new life for themselves. Although on that day only a few inmates left, over the following week the medical centre emptied voluntarily with, of course, a large number of arrests of alleged criminals and saboteurs from among them.

Looking back on Kibeho, it seems to mirror the Rwandan tragedy in a microcosm. In my mind, the initial decision to close the camps was the result of frustration with the international community for not comprehending that the hard-core that was left in the IDP camps was not willing to leave voluntarily. No amount of inducements or incentives that the UN was working on could, in the Rwandan government's view, resolve this problem. It was not only a no-go area within its own territory but a hotbed of saboteurs and guerrillas which the Rwandan government needed to control. The eventual decision to move in was the first time that the Rwandan government had acted without consulting UNAMIR. It showed a desire to 'go it alone' and a lack of confidence in the UN and the international community.

I share the conclusion of the Commission that the operation was conceived to be implemented with as little violence as possible. This was evident from the initial command decision not to fire at the IDPs and to protect life and property as best as possible. The address by Chief of Staff Sam Kaka on the Kibeho hilltop reflected government policy. Finally, the manner in which Vice-President Kagame reacted to my red-light concern over the Kibeho camp reflected a policy from the top that aimed at avoiding violence.

Where Kibeho spiralled out of control was in the local RPA commander's decision to keep a tight circle around the IDPs, to deny them food, proper sanitation and medical care and not to allow a liberal walk-home policy that would have led to a thinning-out of the crowd on the hilltop and a progressive easing of the appalling conditions. The IDPs were therefore pushed to the extremes of human endurance. Eventually, when the dam burst on the fifth day, some RPA soldiers lost control and went berserk. Thereafter, the RPA tried a cover-up and the damage limitation exercise under the glare of media publicity was neither effective nor plausible.

The irony is that the remaining eight IDP camps were closed down without tension or any adverse fall-out. If Kibeho had been handled with greater sensitivity, the government could have been vindicated in taking the step for a forcible closure. The difference was that Kagame's corrective measures came too late....[end of quoting from Shallow Graves]


Malicious attack on Rwandan UN-General baseless. New Times, Aug 17, 2007
The United Democratic Force-Inkingi (UDF-Inkingi), an amalgamation of extremist genocidaires, made wild and unfounded allegations against Major General Karenzi Karake and indeed against the Government of Rwanda. The allegations were made soon after the appointment of Major General Karenzi by the African Union and the United Nations to the post of Deputy Joint Force Commander of the AU-UN Hybrid force (UNAMID) to be deployed in the Darfur region of the Sudan. The UDF-Inkingi alleged that Major General Karenzi was involved in Kibeho incident in 1995 during which time 8000 people are said to have been killed. This allegation is baseless as is clearly documented in the report by the International commission of inquiry of 3rd May 1995 on the incident. The name of Major General Karenzi does not feature anywhere in the report. The findings of the report on the other hand clearly absolve the RDF, then RPA....

Rwanda: UN Appointee for Darfur Force is War Criminal - Opposition. RwandaNewsAgency, AllAfrica, Aug 14, 2007
Last week, the UN and the African Union endorsed the nomination of Rwandan Maj. Gen. Karenzi Karake to deputise the head of the Darfur hybrid force. Opposition groups say the General does not have clean hands to manage a peace keeping mission, RNA reports. According to United Democratic Forces - UDF Inkingi, Gen. Karake supervised several extra judiciary executions targeting politicians and civilians in Rwanda. The group points to the period before the Genocide and after the Rwanda Patriotic front RPF rebels took over Rwanda. "His nomination as Deputy Commander of the UN-AU force to be sent to Darfur is an insult to Africa, to Sudan as a State and to the suffering Sudanese as well as to the memory of Rwandan victims of his crimes", Inkingi said in a statement. On the list of accusations that have been rejected by officials in Kigali includes assassinations and mass killings. "Karenzi Karake directed the military assault conducted against Kibeho IDP (internally displaced people) camps that killed 8,000 displaced persons on April 22, 1995", Inkingi claims. Kibeho camp was located in Gikongoro province - southern Rwanda - where several civilians gathered as the country was just recovering from the Genocide. Aid groups on the ground claimed hundreds of civilians were attacked by soldiers but have not identified which group exactly....Rwanda has about 3,000 soldiers and police in Sudan and all are planned to be incorporated into the newly agreed hybrid force of 22,000. But the police officers are in Khartoum. Rwanda also recently promised AU chief Omar Konare that it would increase its force numbers in the troubled Darfur region.




17.Falsification of Past

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com