Prisoners in the Butare prison. Photo: Internews
Butare   Kigali   Kibuye   Bisesero

Targeting Displaced Persons
April 21, 1994

Located on the southern border Rwanda shares with with Burundi, the Butare Prefecture was an exit point for many of those trying to escape the 1994 genocide. For this reason, the region was a focal point for leaders of the genocide as they sought to catch Tutsis and Tutsi supporters before they fled to safety. At the time, there were approximately 140,000 Tutsi living Butare. There were also tens of thousands of displaced people (Tutsi and moderate Hutu) who had come to Butare when the genocide began in early April.

For the first two weeks in April, the local government, led by Prefect Habyalimana, was able to fend off the national government's call for the extermination of the Tutsis. Prefect Habyalimana called for calm and urged people to "listen with a very critical ear" to everything said on the radio.

On April 15, a large-scale massacre began in Butare, in a church in Nyakizu, where 20,000 displaced people had gathered. The attackers were not only militia from other parts of Rwanda, but also local Hutus.

On April 16, Prefect Habyalimana was removed from office, while administrators in favor of genocide remained in power. Systematic massacres of Tutsis and others began.

As in other parts of the country, many of the killings in Butare occurred at churches and other public buildings where large groups of refugees gathered with a false sense of safety or were told to congregate by genocide leaders.

One of the most horrific events in Butare was the murder of orphans and displaced people in at the Groupe Scolaire in Kigali. Authorities directed several hundred displaced people to the school, where they joined 600-700 orphans. On April 21, Nationale Gendarmie soldiers and Interahamwe fighters pulled the children and displaced people from their lunch, and brought them to a courtyard. After showing their identity cards, the Tutsi children were separated from the Hutu. Soldiers, Interahamwe fighters and local residents then killed the Tutsi children and the displaced people with machetes and clubs.

Human Rights Watch Report, Leave None to Tell the Story, sections "Let Them Stand Aside for Us and Let Us Work" and "This is an Extermination," March 1999.
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