Probe follows up in the foot-steps of French soldiers to Bisesero
Kigali, December 19th (RNA) – For a first-hand feel of the killing campaigns by the Interahamwes and ex-FAR supervised by French soldiers against the Bisesero Tutsis (in former Kibuye province), the probe commission investigating France's role in the 1994 Genocide was today treated to a view of the roadblock spots, militia routes, revelations, unusual drama and surprises - as it moved up the Bisesero killing grounds, RNA explains.
On a one-hour journey from Kibuye town, (from 8:30am local time), the convoy of five vehicles ferrying the 6 commissioners, journalists (including French-Jewish journalist - Serge Farnel) and some commission staff – headed for Gishyita commune (now sector) along the Cyangugu marram road.
Gishyita was where French soldiers in June 1994 had established roadblocks and a military post at a centre (Mubuga) that was used by thousands of Interahamwe militia as focal point in daily preparation of assaults against Tutsis holed up in the Bisesoro Mountains (about 20 minute climb-drive away).
Indifferent from previous sessions where former militias (all in jail) have testified before the commission in Kigali, today they were taking turns to explain as they pointed to every exact spot they had passed and whatever they were involved.
On arrival in May 1994 in that area as part of the infamous "Zone Turquoise", French soldiers found the militias killing Tutsis all around but most had managed to escape into the Bisesero region. And that is where they fought off, however unsuccessfully, the Interahamwe and ex-FAR.
At the very Gishyita centre, around the former communal office, French soldiers had a base and 3 roadblocks – A as their own cordon near the Base – B became entry point for militia "re-enforcements" brought from Cyangugu, and another roadblock on another side (became entry for "re-enforcements" from Kibuye-Ruhengeri-Gisenyi).
In previous militia witness accounts, some have narrated how they were brought in as "re-inforcements" from other distant areas around Kibuye, from Mukamira (Ruhengeri), Cyangugu and Gisenyi - after information had spread that "Tutsis in Bisesero were killing Hutus".
Under organizational command by Sikubwabo Charles (Gishyita bourgmestre), Mpambara Joseph, several local leaders and the supervision of French soldiers as they just looked on, militia and ex-FAR were ferried to a ground (around Gishyita centre) – "briefed" and dispatched for "work", according to the former militia witnesses.
After the "briefing", some militia often moved on foot up the mountains and others moved in buses, trucks and French jeeps in numbers that the former killers themselves say as simply "very many".
On the 3 roadblocks that also had French flags flying and manned by both French soldiers and militias, as a former militia narrated, Tutsis were often brought in and killed on spot as French soldiers watched.
"In fact we killed a Tutsi woman and her child just right here – they were roaming around like they did not know where to go", one militia told the strolling crowd of curiously listening visitors still at the Gishyita centre today. The former killers (5) had been brought from nearby Gisovu prison.
For about 2 hours the crowd moved from spot to another as the commissioner repeatedly grilled the witnesses to narrate exhaustively what exactly the French soldiers were doing on the very spot during the savaging days.
Apparently, French soldiers manned the roadblocks – opened up for vehicles carrying militias – trained some militia at a nearby bush – supplied guns and bombs to the marauding killers – raped girls and often "enjoyed" beers with Sikubwabo at one of the killer's bar - some few meters away.
But as the militias narrated, often chipping in to point to the direction of Bisesero hills, at a distance view from Gishyita, French soldiers used military telescopes as they "viewed" the militia "working". However, the Basesero – despite the starvation, the cold – tried to fight off them off.
After the Gishyita centre (Mubuga), the commission headed to the Bisesero region and this was the moment most of the visitors had been waiting to experience.
Apart from the daily visiting killers to Bisesero during the Genocide, on June 27 1994 – two French vehicles (jeep with up 30 soldiers and another with 3 civilians) arrived from the "Kibuye direction". French journalist Patrick de Saint-Exupéry and a "female with Camera" are said to have been among the new visitors. This connects up the testimony of the witness who "escorted" the French visitors to Bisesero as reported earlier.
By this time, the convoy visiting today was at the real spot that the two June 27 French vehicles stopped and called a Tutsi man over. He went through his ordeal at the same spot as other survivor that were present that fateful day often chipped in, however this time explaining to the commission what was said and done by the French "visitors" on that day, then around 2 and 3pm.
Like it has been reported before, French just "promised" to return days later to "transfer" the now (then) "wounded, starving and extremely worn-out" victims. It later turned out that the militia leaders were informed and "final assaults" were organized from June 27 to 29 (day and night) - as "12 buses full of hundreds of militia" were brought in to "finish all the Basesero".
Surprises and revelations
· Contrary to previous testimony by the witness that "escorted" the new French delegation to Bisesero that he said nothing on arrival at Bisesero and that the delegation "selected" him from a crowd at Gishyita because he could speak "some French", RNA has established from corroborating various information acquired - that his testimony is virtually different from what actually happened. ( to be explained in next dispatches)
· According to the Basesero survivors, they have gone back to what they called their "ancestral land" and live "alone" and "never" to live in communities with their former killers.
· As they explained, that "currently just like it has been since time in memorial", their former killers – some of who are "freely" living in distant communities around the Bisesero hills. "We have never lived with them and can never" – one survivor echoed.
· Concurrently as the militias and ex-FAR soldiers carried out their mass killings, they also "looted and destroyed" food stocks, cattle and anything edible to "starve the Basesero till" they could no longer lift the stones they were using to repel off the thousands of militias.
· According to testimony from a survivor, they managed to acquire "some" guns from the militias but "none among those still alive knew how to shot".
Like the French delegation had "promised" to return to "transfer" the Basesero to "safety" from the militias – on June 30 1994, the terribly wounded Basesero were taken to Goma in French helicopters for what later turned out to be another gruesome experience ( reported before).
This was done at the same time as the French soldiers were retreating along with militias, ex-FAR and the genocidal government - as the RPF rebels took ground. The able bodied Basesero were later to be helped to safety by the RPF. (End)
ARI-RNA/Gen./FMW/ 19. 12. 06/20:50 GMT
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