Architects of genocide are also returning to Rwanda Some Tutsi survivors fear killers will come for them

November 21, 1996|By BOSTON GLOBE

NYUNDO, Rwanda -- The killers have come back, and Suzanne Nyirantagorama, one of the few Tutsis to survive the 1994 genocide by Hutu soldiers in this hilltop parish, fears they could be coming for her.

She knows all too well who killed her friends, her neighbors and her extended family, practically wiping out the Tutsi population of her village. If the killers are ever brought to trial, she would be an important witness.

For two years she has seen their faces only in her nightmares. But last weekend, the 51-year-old mother was stunned to see the machete-wielders strolling down the street, having returned home with their families after two years as refugees in Zaire.

"I am frightened," said Nyirantagorama, seated on the steps of the Nyundo Cathedral, where about 500 Tutsis and others were killed inside the sanctuary two years ago. "I don't know if they came back with a good heart or if they will continue their killing."

Few in Rwanda expect the top architects of the country's genocide to return, like Col. Anatole Nsengiyumca, the local army commander believed responsible for the Nyundo massacres.

But as Nyirantagorama's experience indicates, some among the interahamwe militia members believe they can return without worry, though they are accused of war crimes.

So far, justice has been elusive. The 1994 genocide claimed many among the country's judges and lawyers, leaving Rwanda with virtually no judiciary. Few trials have taken place, and most of the top war crimes suspects have found sanctuary abroad.

A frenzy of arrests on war crimes charges has filled the country's prisons with less important suspects. Human rights groups have criticized Rwanda's Tutsi-led government for its prisons, which are so overcrowded, prisoners have to take turns lying down, and death by disease is common.

Even the international war crimes tribunal at The Hague has yet to bring a sense of law and order to Rwanda. Its first war crimes trial has not even begun in its court in Arusha, Tanzania.

Some survivors, like Nyirantagorama, are so cynical they have no faith that the guilty will ever be punished. "There were women who killed, children who killed," she said, shrugging her shoulders. "What can you do, put everyone in prison?"

And few among the Hutus will even admit that mass killings occurred in Rwanda. "In the refugee camps, there was total denial of genocide," said Rakiya Omaar, co-director of African Rights.

There are hardly any Tutsis left in this parish today. Survivors say that the village that was once dominated by Tutsis now has fewer than 10 left.

Pub Date: 11/21/96

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