/ 6 July 2004

Lekota moved by genocide skeletons

Shaking his head incredulously, South Africa’s Minister of Defence, Mosiuoa Lekota, stared at a bed of skeletons when he visited the Murambi Genocide Memorial in southern Rwanda on Tuesday.

Survivors of the 1994 genocide in which an estimated 800 000 moderate Hutus and Tutsis were massacred in 100 days claim the killings have not stopped.

Walking around with a hole in his head, genocide survivor Muramgira Emmanuel said that three weeks ago, three fellow survivors were killed because those who committed the killings feared they would testify against them at the tribunal that is seeking to prosecute perpetrators of the genocide.

“What hurts most is that many of those who did the killing are still living in our midst and are still killing,” he said.

Lekota visited the site where 45 000 Tutsis were slaughtered in Gikorpgoro province, south of the capital, Kigali, between April and November 1994. The skeletons have been preserved by the Rwandan government.

Walking around the hilltop massacre site, Lekota was accompanied by his Rwandan counterpart, General Marcel Gatsinzi, and the province’s Prefect, Nsanzurwanda Epimaque.

Epimaque described how the local Tutsis were lured to the hill with promises of water and food but instead were massacred by axe- and panga-wielding militia.

“Men, women, pregnant women and children all suffered the same fate. The militia even chucked hand grenades into groups of people for fun,” he said.

Lekota was visibly shocked and often stopped to stare silently at a pile of bleached bones.

Many of the skeletons are frozen in their final act of self-defence — their jaws stretched in a silent scream and their arms held over their heads.

“We South Africans are so lucky that we never experienced anything of this nature,” he said. — Sapa

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