Charles Kwizera–13 April 2011
Kigali — The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), yesterday, held a memorial service for former employees slain during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
According to testimonies recounted during the service, the Tutsi who worked at the Kanombe International Airport, were among the first victims of the Genocide that claimed over a million lives.
Workers, who survived death at the airport, were among the first witnesses of the brutality, as they were the first to hear the news of Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane crash, before it pilfered through the rest of the country.
Testifying at the memorial, Patrice Munyaneza, who worked in the control tower at the time, said that he witnessed the crash.
“I was working the night shift and had been informed that Habyarimana was to land that evening from Arusha. When the plane started approaching, I readied myself to direct it, but later realised that it had not made it to the airport,” reminisced Munyaneza.
He added that he was the first to report the crash to his superiors; the news was the beginning of the killings at the airport that took lives of a number of his colleagues.
“When my superior came shortly after the crash, he began beating me up and kicking me around calling me names, he tried to shoot me, but later abandoned his plan,” he testified.
Munyaneza said that they were later taken out of the airport premises to a location where all his colleagues were killed. He managed to escape and after a couple of days, found his way to the former Cyangugu Prefecture, currently in the Western Province.
Speaking at the memorial, the Director General of CAA, Richard Masozera, called for solidarity, saying it would enable Rwandans to work towards unity and help one another specially the survivors. He further urged people to shun detractors who undermine the country’s development efforts.
In his speech, Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, a member of the East Africa Legislative Council , who was the guest of honour, called for more compassion for survivors.
“We need to put ourselves in the shoes of survivors to understand their pain. It is then that we shall be able to stand with them and help them change their miserable lives for the better,” he said.