LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women jailed in a Kigali prison for murdering their Tutsi neighbors in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide talk about the killings as if they are still trying to justify why they took part in one of the most notorious mass killings of modern history.
“They were caught and killed easily,” one of the women says about murdering ethnic Tutsis during the 100 days of slaughter.
“I can’t explain it,” says another. “We became just like wild animals.”
Clad in pink and orange prison dresses, female perpetrators recall the past in “Shades of True”, a documentary about eight women who took part in the genocide.
During the darkest chapter in Rwanda’s history, Hutu extremists killed 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus between April and July 1994. Most were hacked to death with machetes.
“We had to kill the enemy,” says one of the women inmates, while another describes how some Tutsi women were sliced open and had their intestines removed by killers “looking for where the foundation of their beauty lay.”
Tutsi women, “tall and soft-skinned”, were accused of seducing the husbands of Hutu women, so they “grabbed the chance to take revenge,” a prisoner said.
“People expect men to be the ones involved in those massacres,” says Immaculee, admitting that she considered killing her half-Tutsi son Jerome to “practice”.
She recalls participating in a live burial of Tutsi children lured into a hole in the ground with a cake, and killing an old woman after dragging her out of a hospital bed.
“You are a master killer,” Jerome says in a message recorded for his mother. “I cannot look at your face”.
He says that if Immaculee ever returns to their village, the neighbors would refuse her even water.
“There’s no reconciliation in people’s hearts. It’s just words,” he says. “She will continue to reap what she sows.”
Another prisoner had incited the killings through her radio broadcasts.
“My only responsibility was the radio,” she says. “The ones who rounded up (Tutsis) were worse.”
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was established after the genocide to try the main architects of the killings.
Rwanda, meanwhile, has tried thousands of lower-level suspects, either in its regular national courts, or in a special system of traditional justice known as “gacaca” courts.
About 2,000 women convicted of genocide-related offences remain in Rwandan prisons.
“Our children should not forgive us,” one of them says.
Reporting by Magdalena Mis; Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org