Testimony: ON THIS DAY MAY 15, 1997, IN MY HISTORY; The Fall of Mobutu Sese Seko and Kinshasa

When we arrived in Kinshasa a week before the fall of Mobutu. It was during that time that General Donatien Mahele Lieko Bokungu (aka Mayere) was killed by what is believed to be the Mobutu’s son a day before Mobutu’s overthrow. It is said that he had started negotiations with Kagame’s soldiers for a peaceful surrender of Kinshasa to the Kabila’s rebels without a fight.

When the Kagame’s men were approaching Kinshasa there was commotion and confusion. I was with a group of other young Rwandan refugees who either had been fleeing from the RPF onslaught from Goma or had been living in Kinshasa since 1994. What was going on in our minds was how these Kagames men are going to slaughter us once Kinshasa falls.

It did not take long the next 2 days on Saturday, May 17, 1997, Kinshasa fell into the hands of RPF soldiers. The people of Kinshasa were jubilant because they thought it was Kabila leading the rebels. Immediately when the Kigali Tutsis arrived in Kinshasa their first mission was to hunt all the Hutus living in Kinshasa regardless of whether they were from Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, or Eastern DRC.

Seeing how RPF was massacring all Hutu refugees and those who were from Mobutu’s region, a group of 5 of us decided to go and seek refuge at the Belgian embassy. When we got at their gate, the Belgian manning the gate made it clear that they couldn’t protect Hutus. “Probably if you tried French guys they might offer you asylum”, they told us. We ran to the French embassy when we were like 50 meters away, we saw the RPF soldiers shooting at the French soldiers. We knew they too weren’t safe.

We decided to head to the UN HQs via Blvd du 30 Juin. When we arrived at the junction of Avenue du Province we met the RPF men who stopped us. They were all speaking Kinyarwanda and one told another to search my bible which had a cover that made it look like a camera. They asked me to open it. When I did I was shaking which made all photos fall down. When it happened I froze because among these photos included the photos of my cousins who participated in President’s Ndadayes swearing-in and his burial ceremonies in 1993. They had schooled with him when he was a refugee in Rwanda. This meant killing me with stubbing. Luckily for some reason, God made all these photos fall on the tarmac facedown. I heard one of them telling them in Kinyarwanda to let me go because it was just a bible and photos. They asked me what I was doing on the streets at that time, I told them that I was celebrating their victory and liberation. They believed me and let me go.

When we arrived at the UN HQs the RPF started coming to where we were hoarded as refugees from Rwanda, Eastern DRC, Ugandans who fled in the 1980s, Burundi, and Sudan. These RPF Tutsi soldiers were only interested in Hutu refugees. They used to come at night and pick whoever they wanted to kill and raped the women who were with us. It only lasted for 3 days but it seemed to last forever. Whenever they came to me I only spoke French and told them I was a preacher from ivory Cost who is stuck in Kinshasa. My cousin Jean Claude Habyarimana from Nkuli was picked up by the RPF soldiers. The next thing we saw he was being paraded at the Kamanyola stadium in Kinshasa with a tire on his neck which was set on fire on national TV.

Later there was this French guy who was the security manager for the UN HQ who helped us to cross River Congo over into Brazzaville. We were close to 100 Rwandan and Burundian refugees. He saved our lives that day.

William Fils de Ruvoyage

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