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Tribute to Courage

"The intensity of the violence that exploded in Rwanda in April 1994 was overwhelming. Many Rwandese who did not condone the genocide may have either felt there was nothing they could do to prevent it or have simply been paralysed by fear. There were those, however, who were armed with unfailing courage and humanity and did everything they could to save lives. This book tells the stories of some of the men and women who fought to protect others. Survivors describe their experiences and speak of their feelings for the people who saved them. These are moving records of fear and gratitude, of human triumphs in the face of catastrophe."

This 299 page book is also available in French. For details contact African Rights in Kigali: Tel. (250)501007; Fax:(250)501008
Web site:

African Rights

African Rights is a human rights organisation that has researched and published books, reports and articles on abuses suffered by men, women and children in Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, Somaliland, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

In Rwanda, African Rights has been documenting the genocide since 1994 and has gathered rich testimony from survivors, witnesses and perpetrators. This research has been of value to both the Rwandese and the international initiatives aimed at justice. In the process of collecting these testimonies, the stories of those who stood firm against a tide of unprecedented atrocities came to light. They cast glimmers of light over a nation still in the shadow of its horrific past.


Acts of individual heroism in the face of genocide are the subject of African Rights' latest book, Rwanda: Tribute to Courage, a collection of remembrances from survivors and witnesses of the genocide, told publicly for the first time. The book, available from October, names men and women from all walks of life who risked their lives to save others and tells the compelling stories of their achievements. Many of them became martyrs, killed with the people they sought to defend. Their deaths are deeply mourned. They are moving accounts of fear and gratitude, of human triumphs in the face of catastrophe.

The Individuals: From All Walks of Life

The struggle against the genocide-and the attitudes which led to the killings-was lonely and extremely dangerous. But courage surfaced in unexpected places during the genocide and many ordinary peasants or villagers used their limited resources to help others while the educated or the wealthy turned refugees away. The women mentioned in the book are among the most astonishing heroes. The story of how an elderly, poverty-stricken traditional healer shielded a group of Tutsis with nothing but the strength of her own character might seem like fiction, if those she protected had not lived to tell it.
Frodouald Karuhije, Builder Frodouald Karuhije, Builder
In some households there are generations of heroes. Frodouald's father saved the life of a Tutsi in Gitarama in 1973, and Karuhije himself saved this man's daughter in 1994. He did so by digging deep, cleverly constructed and well camouflaged trenches on his land where he hid 14 Tutsis, most of whom were strangers.

Sula Karuhimbi, Traditional Healer Sula Karuhimbi, Traditional Healer
Elderly and poverty-stricken, Sula hid a group of Tutsis with nothing but the strength of her own character. She fed them with the produce of her own fields, housed them in a shelter she had made for her animals and used her reputation as a healer to scare off the militia with the threat of bringing down evil spirits.

Wolfgang Blam, Doctor Wolfgang Blam, Doctor
Dr Blam, a German doctor, was one of the foreigners who remained behind to help. He lived through the terror unleashed upon the people of Kibuye and was a source of strength and support for those he met. He sought to protect as well as treat the sick and wounded who found refuge at Kibuye hospital, brought casualties in from outside and extended a helping hand to the refugees at Gatwaro stadium.

Paul Kamanzi, Shopkeeper Paul Kamanzi, Shopkeeper
Deeply horrified about the carnage, Paul severed his ties to his community and to his family during the genocide, and fought his own brothers to defend his Tutsi friends in Muhazi, Kibungo. His sense of compassion and empathy were so profound that he stayed with them at the commune office despite the risk of danger, a decision that eventually cost him his life.

Gabriel Mvunganyi, Farmer

Gabriel Mvunganyi's Grave

Gabriel had faced hostility for a long time for his refusal to support the politics of ethnic division. In 1994, he was seen as a threat to collective support for the killings, especially after the news spread that he had hidden two young girls. He was shot to death in May 1994.

Thérèse Nyirabayovu, Mid-wife

An elderly woman, Thérèse had only her own moral stature to rely on. With the help of her daughters, she provided for the needs of those she was hiding with a steely determination and in a spirit of generosity despite the material difficulties. The militia beat one of her daughters, threw a grenade at the house and eventually raided it. But they withstood the threats and there are those alive today who are grateful for their fortitude.

The Clergy

Members of the clergy were most likely to have the means and opportunity to assist the refugees who made their way to parishes all over the country, and several who showed selflessness and devotion to this task are mentioned in this book. Some were murdered alongside their parishioners. They acted according to their faith and Christian values. At the same time, these were unique choices and struggles undertaken in a hostile context. Clergy who hid or helped Tutsis often did so without the support of their superiors in the Church or even in direct opposition to them. The bravery of some priests and nuns was so exceptional that survivors believe they should be recognised as martyrs or canonised.

Father Joseph Boneza

Father Joseph Boneza

Father Ignace Kabera

Father Ignace Kabera
Father Dieudonné Rwakabayiza

Father Dieudonné Rwakabayiza

These three young priests helped the refuges at the Parish of Mibilizi in Cyangugu to stay alive and to challenge the militia, even joining in the stone-throwing. They kept up the spirits of the refugees and helped some of them to reach Zaire. Together, they showed a unity of spirit and purpose which defied the ideology of ethnic hatred. Fr. Boneza was murdered in May 1994.
Father Baudouin Busunyu Father Baudouin Busunyu
Working against the wishes of his parish priest and his father who was an interahamwe leader, Father Busunyu offered sympathy, understanding and practical assistance to those sheltering at the Parish of Nkanka in Cyangugu. He bravely guided refugees to safety in person as far as Zaire, enduring a beating by a militia patrol on one occasion.

Father Vieko Curic Father Vieko Curic
When most expatriates were evacuated, Father Vieko, a priest from the former Yugoslavia who had lived in Nyamabuye, Gitarama for over ten years, stood by the people of Kivumu during the worst experiences of their lives. He made food and medical assistance available to the displaced at the parish, kept them hopeful and drove some people to Burundi, hidden in sacks or by passing them off as corpses and wounded patients.

Father Célestin Hakizimana Father Célestin Hakizimana
Determined to safeguard those the refuges at St. Paul's Pastoral Centre in Kigali, Father Hakizimana kept them alive largely without external support. He argued face-to-face with some of the leading perpetrators in Kigali, insisting that the people in his church were not guilty of any crime and did not deserve any punishment. Most of them lived to tell the tale. His will to do everything in his power to look after 2000 people has left those he saved inspired by this extraordinary man.

Father Jean-Bosco Munyaneza Father Jean-Bosco Munyaneza
In Fr. Jean-Bosco Munyaneza, the refugees at the Parish of Mukarange in Muhazi, Kibungo, found a leader who organised their struggle to survive and a man of God who gave them the courage to face their deaths. When there was nothing more he could do to keep the killers at bay, he fought by their side and laid down his life for them.

Father Jean-Pierre Ngoga Father Jean-Pierre Ngoga
As a defiant individual who did not flinch from challenging powerful local officials and genocide leaders directly, Father Ngoga was under constant threat. His strength and resilience in fighting off the forces of genocide gave the refugees at the Parish of Kibeho in Gikongoro the strength to engage in a battle for their lives.

Sister Félicitée Niyitegeka Sister Félicitée Niyitegeka
Despite the pleas of her brother, a senior army officer, and his offer of help, Sister Félicitée would not desert the frightened people who flooded to the St Pierre Centre in Nyundo, Gisenyi which she had helped establish. She gave them food, medical care and advice and evacuated the most vulnerable to Zaire. When the militia abducted them, she accompanied them. Then she too was murdered.

Father Oscar Nkundayezu Father Oscar Nkundayezu
Father Oscar's determination and practicality helped in the establishment of an escape network in Cyangugu which smuggled Tutsis into Zaire, taking some of them to the lakeshore himself. Despite ill-health, he went to great lengths to find food, water and medical treatment for the refugees at the Parish of Cyangugu in Kamembe and at Kamarampaka stadium, even learning to drive in a climate of urgency in order to deliver supplies.

Local Officials

Local officials were expected to show wholehearted support for the killings. The genocide depended on their participation and those who held back were immediately under scrutiny. Yet some fervently defended the Tutsis in their community, sometimes paying with their lives.
Jean-Marie Vianney Gisagara, Mayor Jean-Marie Vianney Gisagara, Mayor
Gisagara had been a target of threats and suspicion for his opposition to the genocide ideology. He instructed local councillors in Nyabisindu, Butare, to thwart the génocidaires and appealed for calm, mobilising the communal police and even making some arrests. He was assassinated along with 11 members of his family, including his parents, siblings and wife both as a punishment and a warning to others.

Callixte Ndagijimana, Mayor Callixte Ndagijimana, Mayor
Refugees from the surrounding regions headed for Mugina, lured by the news that Callixte had made exceptional efforts to avoid killings in his commune. He organised the communal police force to protect people, making daily tours to reassure them while spreading messages of peace. He was killed because of his sense of duty and brotherhood.

Ladislas Uzabakiriho, Councillor Ladislas Uzabakiriho, Councillor
The Family of the Late Ladislas Uzabakiriho
Despite extreme pressure, Ladislas refused to collaborate with the other local officials and encouraged the Hutus of Kinzuzi to fight on behalf of their Tutsi neighbours, most of whom were escorted to safety. Today, both the genocide survivors, and the Hutus from Kinzuzi who saved them, are deeply grateful to him for the sense of solidarity that he lived by and brought out in others.

In Remembrance
The heroes of the genocide should be remembered in Rwanda and abroad as defenders of human rights and advocates for humanity. They defied the propaganda and pressure that overwhelmed a nation, keeping hope alive through one of the most brutal episodes of recent history. They showed love, compassion and integrity, preserving humane values as well as lives against the destruction of the genocide.

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