By Leonard Nshimiyimana
Father Chrysologue Mahame, a Jesuit Father was renowned human rights activism who fought against all forms of injustice and strongly criticized a genocide plan that was in the pipeline before the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
On the early morning of April 7th, in, Father Mahame along with other six priests and eight nuns stationed at religious center ‘Centre Christus’ in Kigali City were attacked by presidential guards soon after President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane was downed.
Shortly after the crash of Habyarimana’s plane, prominent opposition politicians like Agatha Uwilingiyimana, Prime Minister who planned to go on National radio broadcast to call for calm were assassinated on April 7th by Presidential guards.
“All of them were in this room and presidential guards shot each and every one of them dead that morning,” Father Martin Mudenderi softly speaks of the event while pointing a finger downward, adding that among the religious leaders killed, some lived at the center and others were visitors.
In all, 17 people including two lay persons were killed at the same time at Centre Christus, located close to United Nations Peacekeeping forces in Rwanda (UNAMIR) headquarters in Remera, in Kigali.
The enigma untangled after 23 years Genocide was halted, that regularly springs to mind for many is why simple people like priests and nuns were killed at dawn of Genocide?
“Up to now, we wonder why they started to kill on those people (religious people) who weren’t prominent. To pass here in that morning until now it’s still understandable,” Father Mudenderi, the head of Centre Christus said in a great shock.
The memory of these victims is in a tiny room decked with victims ‘pictures hung on four walls and one small table accompanied with consolatory messages is located few meters away from the memorial site where their remains were decently buried.
Hundreds of Remera residents in Gasabo District and government officials gathered at Centre Christus on April 12th to pay tribute to 17 Genocide victims, who included Father Mahame.
Tom Ndahiro, a Genocide researcher said all of them were locked in the room before being killed. “They weren’t gunned downed by the door, they were locked in and fired through that window,” clarified Ndahiro pointing his finger at the window.
For Ndahiro, the motive of being prime targets of killers is related to the human rights activism and relationship with Rwanda Patriotic Army rebels living in the parliamentary building.
“Some fathers used to pay a visit to Inkotanyi soldiers at CND building, said Ndahiro,”stressing that the killing of human rights activist like father Mahame was meant to silence every voice that might be raised against the ongoing killing plan.
Marie Mukankuranga, a survivor witnessed the death of Father Mahame said that the priest was killed the guards removed his brains and spilled them on stones as a way of mocking his intellect.
The Minister for Sports and Culture, Julienne Uwacu, who officiated the commemoration said that at this moment Rwandans crossed the red line by killing and religious people that were living few meters away from the UN offices- and wondered why they didn’t intervene to save lives.
“This is an indication that the fate of the country lies in the hands of its children of Rwanda, let’s build our country,” added Minister Uwacu.