It is Kibilizi Sector, a village 40 kilometers away from the main road of Nyanza district, South of Rwanda.
The blend of tall eucalyptus trees, almost kissing the blue skies, evenly spread over the green rolling hills, is a breathtaking welcome to the beautiful village.
Although it’s not a fun ride on the bumpy meandering feeder road, but worth an adventure to try in a lifetime. Deep inside the village, worshiping is a common activity. It is, by all standards, a largely Christian community.
But the noise from born again worshipers of the ADPR church echo a gruesome reminder to Judith Uwingabire, 57, a survivor of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
At this very spot, she narrates, over 445 women, rounded up from neighbouring villages, were brought here and brutally murdered in cold blood. Only five, including Uwingabire, narrowly survived.
The atrocity won the place a new name, “Ibambiro” loosely translated as “crucifixion ground”.
It all started on April 20, 1994, when massacres against the Tutsi begun in commune Ntyazo, now Kibilizi sector. A group of Interahamwe militias, some from the neighbouring district of Bugesera, were on a killing spree, targeting only Tutsi men. And then, with a separate secret plan, kill their wives and children later.
Uwingabire recalls the day the Interahamwe came to her father’s house, where she was hiding with her husband and five children, to lay plans for the killings.
Then on the 21st, the Interahamwe went door-to-door, killing all men and rounded up all women and took them to a nearby church, or at Ibambiro. Two days later, the church was filled to capacity, with over 445 women, elderly and young women, from the surrounding villages of Kumuyira, Mbuye, Murinja and Nyakibungo.
The place was tightly guarded. Food and water was provided, and the militias reassured the women of safety.
They were told that only men, who were being killed, were the Inyenzi (cockroaches) and had to be killed. And all men in the villages had been massacred in about ten days.
On the night of May 3, recalls Uwingabire, who was then 36, a group of about 50 men, with machetes and other crude weapons surrounded the locked church. The plan was to finish them right away.
Suddenly, the killing was called off. The terrified women and girls sighed with relief. But it was not ye over. In the wee hours, the killers came back.
“I can never erase the mockery in their eyes when they returned in the morning, bruising an elderly Tutsi man on the ground,” recalls 58 year old Florida Mukaremera, another survivor among the five.
“They were saying he was the missing part of the puzzle,” she told KTPress.
After undressing and raping hundreds of them, the militias said that they wanted to kill the old man together with the women so that he could satisfy their “sexual desires” in another life.
They killed him first. And then proceeded with slaughtering all the women. They were bundled up in tens, young girls different from elderly women, smashing their heads with clubs and chopping them with machetes, before throwing them into an eight meter-deep pit latrine near the church. Some victims did not die right away. They died later in the latrine.
“I was among the young women then, and it’s us they killed last and dumped us somehow on the surface of the filled pit,” she recalls.
The following day, Uwingabire was still breathing, together with four other women, but all fatally wounded.
After executing the brutal mission, “They were told that they would be rewarded with cattle,” says Dieudonne Mizero, then a young boy of 13 years, who witnessed the killings. His home is just a few meters away from Ibambiro.
Mizero’s father, whose wife had died earlier of a disease, was also on a killing spree, is now serving 15 year prison sentence, which he began in 2007. The day of killing the women, he had been deployed at a different village.
According to official figures, almost every living Tutsi in the area, over 6000, had been wiped out in this serene village of Kibilizi, and will all be remembered this Saturday, May 2.
What transpired at Ibambiro was done with maximum precision, and was planned well to leave no survivor to tell this horrific story.
Fortunately, the five survivors, Justine Ngutete, Judith Uwingabire, Florida Mukaremera, Clarisse Mukamugenzi, and Immaculate Mukandutiye have lived to tell the world this painful tragedy.