Disobeying to save lives despite risks for his own life

On the 18th of April 1994, the interim government, which had taken refuge in Gitarama since the 12th of April, summoned a meeting of all the burgomasters of that prefecture and intensified the pressure on them to start the genocide in their respective communes. Instructions were given in that sense. The Prime Minister, Jean Kambanda1, asked them to draw up a list of the accomplices of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Callixte outlined that no inquiry was made to identify them. The First Minister laughed at him, he asked him if there were any Tutsi intellectuals in his commune. Some burgomasters started writing and filled in one or more sheets of paper with names. Callixte wrote on his: “list to be drawn after an inquiry”. The burgomaster of Nyakabanda, sitting next to him, wrote the same thing. The same night, the genocide officially started in some communes of Gitarama.

Upon his return to Mugina, Callixte realized that some of his inhabitants as well as some policemen had broken away. The Interahamwe had indeed managed to divide the population of Mugina and turn some Hutu against Tutsi. But, the burgomaster didn’t give up his fight to resist the genocide and continued his fight with the help of some policemen from his commune and refugees, encouraging them to resist for survival. They managed thus to neutralize the attacks of the Interahamwe from the neighboring communes, especially Hutu Burundian refugees settled in Ntongwe and the Interahamwe of Runda.

Callixte looked to see if it was possible to take refuge in Burundi, but noticed that roadblocks had been built everywhere. Yet, he managed to organize the evacuation of some Tutsi wanted by the Interahamwe to Kabgayi (Gitarama), a capital of the Catholic Church where thousands of people looking for protection had gathered. Although his life was in danger, the burgomaster stayed with the Tutsi refugees and repeated that no one would die while he was alive. While the intermediate government was abusing one part of his population, Callixte roamed relentlessly all the eight sectors of his commune continuously urging his population to resist the genocide.

He managed therefore to repel off the genocide until his assassination, on the 21st of April 1994, by the Interahamwe in the commune of Ntongwe while he was going home from a meeting in Gitarama. His chauffeur and a friend who had taken refuge at his home were assassinated with him. The night of his assassination, the genocide began in Mugina and continued the next day. Thousands of Tutsi were killed in their homes, in the buildings of the church and the local buildings.


1 The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda sentenced Jean Kambana to imprisonment for life for genocide and crimes against humanity.