Skulls of genocide victims at the church





Nyarubuye

The Catholic church at Nyarubuye was where Fergal Keane first encountered the full horrors of the genocide.

It was because of his experience at this terrible place that Fergal suggested Msaada assist the people of Eastern Rwanda.

It is impossible to determine how many men, women and children were butchered at Nyarubuye. Estimates vary from 26,000 to 37,000, but more bodies are being discovered in hidden mass graves every year so a final total cannot be estimated.

To read an interview with Fergal on his experiences in Rwanda during the genocide, as well as getting links to various aspects of the horror, click below.

Rwandan Genocide 1994


The 1994 genocide in Rwanda resulted in the systematic massacre of 1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in less than 100 days. The unimaginable nightmare occurred while the international community withdrew is citizens and soldiers and turned its back on the terrified people.

Most of the dead were Tutsis - and those who perpetrated the violence were Hutus.

The scale and speed of the slaughter, the fastest rate of killing on record, left its people reeling.

The genocide was sparked by the death of the Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport on 6 April 1994.

Acting on the orders of political leaders bent on exploiting ethnicity as a way of hanging on to power, militias went out to every part of the country and systematically massacred defenceless people, both Tutsis and moderate Hutu political opponents of the regime. Even though the appalling scale of the killing was evident, the UN and the international community did nothing.

Once the killing had started, it spread through the country like an evil fire. Within three months, a million people had been killed. The statistic is cold: behind it lies death upon death, of a wife, a mother, a father, a husband, a sister, a brother, a daughter, a son, an aunt, an uncle, a grandmother, a grandfather.

The genocide had been carefully planned. For months, a death list of prominent Tutsis, members of the political opposition and moderate Hutus who refused to back extremist Hutu power ideology was circulating freely in the capital, Kigali.

First they killed the men and boys, then they moved on to the women. Educated Tutsi men and women were particularly targeted. Many families witnessed the murder of their loved ones.

The killing was done with maximum cruelty: the gangs burned people alive, threw dead and living people alike into pit latrines or mass graves, and compelled people to kill their own family members and relatives. In some instances those who wanted to escape a slow and painful death by machetes had to pay the killers for the privilege of being shot with a gun.

Survivors ran from the hills to the swamps, where they were also hunted and killed. In the ensuing chaos of murder and flight, many people were separated from their loved ones and to this day do not know where they were killed or are buried.

Many Tutsis who survived owe their lives to Hutu friends, neighbours and even strangers who took great risks to protect them. Some local Hutus tried to conceal and protect Tutsis, but they were too few and too exposed and risked their lives if caught. Chillingly, there were some who saved people they knew, but were involved in killing those they didn't know.

    Nyarubuye Church, where Fergal Keane first encountered the monstrous truth about the genocide