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Ex-Tanzania President, Mwinyi’s Testimony On Rwanda Genocide

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The 1994 genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda that left nearly a million people dead, is one of the events that Tanzania’s former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi (pictured above) will never forget, reports the Citizen newspaper.

The retired leader, 96, popularly known as Mzee Rukhsa, made efforts to find a lasting solution between the warring factions, but the situation continued to worsen when the Rwandan and Burundian presidents were assassinated few hours after attending a reconciliation session in Arusha.

In his memoir: ‘Mzee Rukhsa: Safari ya Maisha Yangu’, Kiswahili for ‘Mzee Rukhsa: The Journey of My Life’, he says he will never forget Wednesday April 6, 1994, a day on which he led the meeting of regional leaders to discuss peace and security amid tensions in Burundi and Rwanda.

“The meeting was a continuation of our efforts to reconcile Rwandans, especially the government led by President Juvenal Habyarimana on the one hand and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) on the other,” he said.

The memoir states that among the leaders who attended the meeting were President Habyarimana of Rwanda and President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi who each flew to Arusha with Habyarimana offering a lift to Tanzania’s ambassador to Rwanda Saleh Tambwe.

On their way back home after the meeting, Mwinyi writes, President Habyarimana, whose flight was of high-speed decided to offer a lift to the President of Burundi, Ntaryamira, whose plane was slow, in a situation that they could not accommodate Ambassador Tambwe back to Kigali.

“This was the luckiest day for our ambassador to Rwanda, as the plane carrying the two presidents was shot down and exploded when it was about to land at Kigali airport. Everyone on board died,” Mzee Rukhsa writes.

Mwinyi says, at the meeting aimed at resolving the issue, President Habyarimana assured them that he would go to implement the Arusha agreement, including the swearing-in of the transitional government, but little did he know that his days were drawing to a close.

“The deaths of these presidents shocked me personally, as well as the entire government and Tanzanians. We were traumatized, saddened and deeply distressed. I announced three days of national mourning for the presidents and sent condolences to the families of the deceased as well as the governments and the peoples of those two countries,” explains Mwinyi.

He says deaths occur, including accidental or intentional deaths, but it is uncommon to hear of two presidents, neighbours, dying together and for Tanzania, it was the first time for guests at the presidential level, friends and neighbours to die after leaving Tanzania.

“The saddest thing is that both presidents were in our country looking for a solution to end the killings that were going on in their countries and bring peace, harmony, and cooperation among all citizens…,” he explains.

He goes on to say that although induced genocide had begun slowly in the past, the death of President Habyarimana was a source of the genocide in Rwanda.

“In a blink of an eye, a wave of refugees from Rwanda to Tanzania, some with serious injuries started. I went to Ngara where I witnessed hundreds of bodies floating in River Kagera, some with shocking injuries caused by swords, spears,” recalls Mzee Mwinyi.

Also, he narrates witnessing the bodies of wives and husbands married to Tutsis and Hutu who were seen as traitors and killed by being stabbed with a spear together.

“It was dreadful. At the Rusumo Bridge on the Tanzania-Rwanda border, I witnessed an estimated 10,000 refugees crossing the border into Tanzania every one hour. The United Nations acknowledged that this was the largest and fastest growing number of refugees from one country to another in Africa,” reads the memoir.

According to the UN figures, he says, on April 28, 1994 alone, 280,000 refugees entered Tanzania from Rwanda where most of them reached Ngara District which had a population of about 170,000, meaning, for every single citizen there were two refugees.

All the visitors, according to Mwinyi, needed food, water, shelter, toilets and so on.

However, he says, suddenly the forest area turned into a desert because the refugees fell all the trees to get temporary housing materials, people’s farms were invaded, and they were harvested by starving refugees.

“I do not blame the refugees in such an environment, but the loss to the nation and our people was so huge,” he says.

He reveals that by May 1994, the Beneko Refugee Camp in Ngara had broken the record of being the largest refugee camp in the world and a daunting task for a poor country like Tanzania at the time.

“I’m not sure if a rich country would have suddenly accepted the burden of that level of refugees. But in Tanzania, especially in the time of Mwalimu Nyerere, we built a reputation for hospitality for refugees, and it is in fact our habit to be hospitable to foreigners,” notes Mzee Mwinyi.

President Habyarimana and President Ntaryamira were both Hutu, he says, their deaths were celebrated by a group of about 70 Rwandans and Burundians at the New Mwanza Hotel, they were celebrating the deaths, again at a time when the nation was still in national mourning.

In this regard, then Prime Minister John Malecela ordered their arrest, but they were later released after the Attorney General said there was no law prohibiting people from celebrating the death of another. The act gave people the impression that Tanzania was involved in the civil war in Rwanda, explains Mwinyi.

“The truth is that my government was neutral and we tried to remain silent not because we supported the killing of Tutsis and Hutu who were seen as traitors, but because I was the mediator of their disputes.”

He notes that some of the statements made by individuals, not on behalf of the government, and the government’s silence angered the Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Nyerere, who apparently believed the government had a side.

“On Tuesday, July 1, 1994, Mwalimu Nyerere convened a press conference and strongly condemned us in government that we were undermining Tanzania’s reputation as a defender of freedom and human rights.

He said the Rwandan genocide was planned and carried out deliberately and that there was documentary evidence and he wanted us to strongly stand against the genocide,” he disclo Mwinyi says the statement from Mwalimu Nyerere hurt him a lot because he personally was not and would never defend killers and that was why when the killings worsened he went to Rusumo Bridge and witnessed hundreds of floating corpses.

“If you have seen with your own eyes the consequences of such atrocities, how will you dare to defend the perpetrators of such killings? I could not do that…,” he writes.

Mwinyi says, “He must tell the truth.” To him, who was deeply troubled by the Rwandan mediation as well as witnessing the effects of the genocide, was deeply hurt by the level of accusations levelled against him by some of his fellow countrymen.

“After the Father of the Nation criticized our government on the issue of Rwanda and the explanation we gave, I thought this was over, but it was not. I finally had to convene a meeting with the elders of Dar es Salaam on August 4, 1994 to try again to put this matter right, alongside other issues,” he explains.

At the meeting, he says, he had to strictly remind people that the relations between Tanzania and Rwanda did not start with the second phase government, but existed before, during and after the late Habyarimana seized power in 1973.

The Citizen Tanzania

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Politics

Kenya’s Deputy President Ruto Leaves Ruling Party

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Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto has dumped the ruling Jubillee Party and joined the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), a new political party.

Local media reports indicate that Ruto has publicly embraced the UDA party, calling it an ‘alternative national party’.

UDA Chairman, Johnson Muthama, said the party is a chosen bus to help drive Ruto to win the top seat in 2022.

Ruto has been at loggerheads with his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, after they differed on the Building Bridges Initiative project that aims to amend the constitution.

The former Senate majority leader, Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, and close ally to Ruto, says the new party provides enough room for anyone who is unhappy with the ruling Jubilee party.

Since September 2020, Kenya has 71 fully registered political parties, and these numbers are expected to increase as elections get closer.

The constitution of Kenya allows the formation of political parties, to promote democracy considering that the East African nation is a multiparty democracy, so long as the party does not promote tribal, regional and religious hate.

However, with the UDA in the political ring, many ordinary Kenyans feel that political parties across the country are becoming tribal, and are merely a vehicle to help politicians achieve their immediate interests during elections only to later move on to another party.

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Ivory Coast Election Violence Victims Demand For Bagbo’s Arrest

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Former President Laurent Gbagbo is expected to return to Ivory Coast on Friday but there is an atmosphere of confusion on ground.

Laurent Gbagbo is expected on June 17, 2021 in Abidjan. As his supporters prepare for his return, victims of the 2010-2011 post-election crisis are calling for his arrest when he gets off the plane.

“I was out to go to work, but in the face of escalating violence between law enforcement and young people, I decided to come home. It was on the way home that I was hit in the foot by gunfire from soldiers. Since then, I have been disabled and I can no longer practice my profession ”.

Former driver of tankers and trailers, Karim Coulibaly had to be amputated. He has no income since.

Like him, nearly a thousand people were injured during the post-election crisis of 2010-2011 and around 3,000 others were killed.

For these victims and their loved ones, the announced return of former President Laurent Gbagbo on June 17, 2021, revives old pains.

On 31 March, the ICC Appeal Chamber confirmed his acquittal and that of Charles Blé Goudé, earlier pronounced on 15 January 2019.

The two men were accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 2010-2011 post-election crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, which had left more than 3,000 dead.

For Laurent Gbagbo, it was over. After a decade-long trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC), he is a free man.

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Politics

Burundi Debates Removing Ethnic Quotas From Constitution in 2025

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Burundi constitution provides for ethnic quotas (60% Hutu, 40% Tutsi) which authorities in the country argue is a measure against possibilities for discrimination.  Ethnic groups in Burundi include the three main indigenous groups of Hutu, Tutsi and Twa.

The quota system must be respected in certain government institutions, including the military. Three seats in each house of the Burundian government are allocated to the Twa.

Meanwhile, since January 2017, foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) active in Burundi are required to respect ethnic quotas when employing local staff.

However, there is no satisfactory proof worth considering that this quota system has created any form of social and ethnic cohesion. Therefore there is an ongoing debate on whether to scrap this quota arrangement. 

The ethnic quota requirement was adopted amidst fears of re-ethnicisation of politics and society, enhanced control on civil society and tense relations between the Burundi government and its aid partners. 

While authorities justify the measure as a remedy for decades of discrimination along ethnic lines, an analysis of the legal reform shows that a variety of other motivations and dominant party interests account for its adoption and enforcement. 

While the reform mirrors a wider international trend of shrinking civic space, the Burundi case study also shows how a clever discursive strategy may skillfuly divide NGOs and their funding agencies.

Furthermore, the case study reveals the instrumental use of obscurity and ambiguity in terms of the legal wording and enforcement of the ethnic quota requirement.

Emmanuel Sinzohagera, President of the Senate is currently presiding over a process of information gathering on the country’s past with the aim of helping make informed decisions on the future.

For example, controversy still clouds the events of 1972 with no clear or agreed or unanimous position on what to call or define them.

Within the framework of the conferences on the bloody events of 1972, organized by the Senate, its president maintains that the qualification of the large-scale killings perpetrated in the country is up to the Burundians themselves. According to him, this is not the responsibility of the United Nations.

Unlike some intellectuals and other personalities who proclaim that it is the United Nations that must qualify the large-scale killings that have plagued this country, Sinzohagera, President of the Senate believes that it is rather the responsibility of the Burundians themselves. – even to qualify these crimes.

According to him, it is not Germany, Belgium, as colonial powers or even less the international community that have this latitude. “This is primarily the responsibility of the Burundians. The fate of our motherland is ours. It is our duty to qualify what happened in 1972 “, insists Sinzohagera.

“The children and grandchildren of President Michel Micombero must not be victims of his actions or the bloody events of 1972. They are innocent just like the descendants of those who were victims of the killings of 1972 called ‘Abamenja’ ‘, the rebels. This ignominy must not stick to their skin like a curse when they have nothing to do with it “, He said.

“We need to know the truth in order to be reconciled and the objective is not to unearth the bloody past and sow discord, but the ultimate goal is to heal the wounded Burundians so that our children do not inherit these evils. that our dear homeland has known, ”he said.

“Any testimony on our dark past is welcome”

“That the skeptics are reassured, all the cyclical crises which mourned our country will be explored and conferences and debates will be organized so that the truth is known”, says the Senate President.

The basis of all reconciliation, he insists, is the truth, the whole truth. Sinzohagera, calls on all personalities, all witnesses of all ethnicities to give their versions of the facts, without passion.

“It is not the only ex-president Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, a Hutu, who has just given lectures on the events of 1972 under the aegis of the Senate who can shed all the light, that there are Tutsi also for presentations, they are welcome. Besides, former President Ntibantunganya does not tell us what he reads, “he called.

According to him, the Senate must not be misunderstood or misinterpreted on its objectives with these conferences. “The media must deliver the real message on the bloody events that have grieved this country.”

The Senate President Sinzohagera insists on clarifying the framework of his proceedings. It is under the terms of article 289 of the Constitution of the Republic of Burundi requiring the Senate to give its assessment of ethnic quotas and to see to what extent to remove them or not from 2025, that this institution intends to explore all the contours of the ethnic question and the inter-ethnic violence that has plagued this country.

“It is difficult, if not impossible, to forget, to put a cross on our ” so-called ethnic groups ” without knowing the truth about the cyclical violence that our country has known and which has brought mourning to our country on the basis of these same ethnicities. It would be difficult to move forward and walk towards reconciliation,” noted Sinzohagera.

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