In the first three months of 1994, many Rwandans felt a storm gathering. Hutu extremist political parties had established militia groups that were openly arming themselves and preparing for a fight. The best known was a youth movement called the "Interahamwe," which means "those who work together." The Interahamwe established committees in each of Rwanda's 146 communes, according to author Linda Melvern. In each commune there were 200 militia members - one man for ten families.
On the evening of April 6, 1994, President Habyarimana was killed when two missiles struck his presidential jet as it approached Kigali airport. Hutu extremists blamed Tutsi rebels. Troops and Hutu militias went on the offensive, setting up barricades and attacking the homes in Kigali of prominent Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Within 24 hours, scores of Tutsis and prominent Hutu politicians who supported the power-sharing agreement with the rebels were dead. The extremists seized control of Rwanda's government.
The violence sparked a massive flight of Westerners from Rwanda. Embassies closed and diplomats, aid workers and the U.N.'s international staff were evacuated.
As Hutu militias went house-to-house searching for Tutsis to kill, government-controlled radio called on "good Hutus" to do their duty and wipe out the Tutsi "cockroaches." With the international staff gone, and Tutsi U.N. workers dead or in hiding, control of the UNDP compound fell to Callixte Mbarushimana. According to a statement by Mbarushimana, he coordinated relief efforts for UNDP staff, including relocating some workers to safer locations outside Kigali.
photo by Stephen Smith
But soon, stories began circulating among Tutsi U.N. workers that Mbarushimana was not trying to help. They said he was working with the militia to locate and kill Tutsis.
Gregory Alex, is a veteran American aid worker who had worked for the UNDP alongside Mbarushimana. Alex evacuated with the U.N.'s international staff, but returned two weeks into the genocide to run a small U.N. emergency response unit. Alex says one of Mbarushimana's responsibilities was to deliver food and money to Rwandan staff. But while Alex never saw Mbarushimana working directly with the militia, he says many U.N. staffers tried to steer clear of the man.
"They would always caution me about Callixte," says Alex of the Tutsis he met either in hiding or at the U.N.-protected Milles Collines hotel. "They said to me, 'Don't even give him any information, any indication that we're alive.' They were scared to death. They firmly believed that he was the one behind the hunt of getting them and eliminating them."
A former U.N. war crimes investigator gave American RadioWorks and FRONTLINE copies of signed witness statements from several UNDP employees who say they saw Mbarushimana armed and in the company of militia who were searching for Tutsis.
Alex says he, too, recognized Mbarushimana as a real threat after an encounter two weeks into the genocide. That's when Alex says he visited the UNDP compound and found the man he had known as a reserved computer technician transformed into a soldier of the genocide.
"I was in my office and he came over with this angry look on his face," Alex recalls. "He had a paper in his hand and he slammed his fist into his other hand. He said, 'We will eliminate them all.' He was referring to the Tutsis."
Alex believes the piece of paper in Mbarushimana's hands listed the names and locations of U.N. staff members being targeted.