The residence of former Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana is located in the Town of Kigali. Click on the image for a slideshow of photographs. All photographs © 2002-2008 Jens Meierhenrich.

This compound and its neighboring residences on a quiet, tree-lined street in an upscale quarter of Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, was the scene of a grisly struggle in the hours following the assassination of President Juvénal Habyarimana.

After the plane carrying the President was shot down at about 8:30 in the evening of April 6, 1994, civilian authority for the stability of Rwanda was supposed to pass to this Prime Minister. Agathe Uwilingiyimana—who was Hutu and considered a moderate official in the government—faced mortal danger along with her husband and five children when her political power was rejected by extremist elements, but she refused to flee their home.

Military, including the heavily-armed Reconnaissance Battalion and the Presidential Guard, poured into this neighborhood during the night and early morning of April 7, firing on the gendarmes and Ghanian peacekeepers who guarded her, preventing her from leaving to address the nation on Radio Rwanda. Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, the directeur de cabinet of the Ministry of Defense, effectively seized control of the military by signing a communiqué to be read over the radio announcing the death of the President.

At around five o’clock in the morning, ten Belgian peacekeepers were dispatched to protect Uwilingiyimana, but as soon as they arrived the compound came under an attack. In the dispassionate words of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, “The Prime Minister fled her home and hid at a neighbouring compound. She was found, killed, and then sexually assaulted.”

According to the Bagosora Trial Judgment, “Shortly before noon, soldiers discovered Mme Uwilingiyimana in her hiding place. Other soldiers in the area heard the applause and shouts of joy and knew that she had been captured. She came out quickly and without struggle, apparently because she wanted to protect her children who were hiding in the same area. She tried to persuade the soldiers to take her to the military camp. A small group, including some from southern Rwanda, were willing to do so. Others refused and wanted to execute her immediately. Captain [Jean Morgan] Hategekimana reportedly arrived and gave the order to kill her on the spot. A lieutenant of the National Police, who was in training to become a judicial officer, shot the prime minister, blowing away the left half of her face. Witnesses who came to the house soon after found her nearly naked body on the terrace and carried it into the house. Another witness who passed an hour or so later found that her dressing gown had been thrown up over her upper body and that a beer bottle had been shoved into her vagina.”

Uwilingiyimana’s husband and five other men were also murdered here that day. The children escaped.

Copyright © 2010 Jens Meierhenrich. All rights reserved.