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Friday, April 24, 1998 Published at 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK



Despatches

Remembering the victims of Nyamata
image: [ Up to a million people were systematically killed in the genocide ]
Up to a million people were systematically killed in the genocide

One of the places where people convicted of involvement in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda have been executed is the town of Nyamata south of the capital Kigali. Up to a million ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were systematically killed by death squads loyal to the extremist Hutu regime. Our West Africa correspondent, Mark Doyle, visited Nyamata in June 1994, shortly after the genocidal killings. He recalls what he found.

The first thing was the smell. We were approaching a church outside Nyamata and the vile smell of rotting flesh was the first signal of what we were about to see.

Outside the church, the grounds were littered with bodies, some mutilated, all in contorted positions. I recall having to step very carefully to avoid treading on one of the corpses or body parts.

I didn't count the dead because what I saw inside made accurate counting impossible. In the thin blue light provided by the remains of a broken stained glass window, I saw the ground was thick with bodies - in places, three or four deep.

There were certainly hundreds of genocide victims in and around the church at Nyamata that day. Some had been killed with machetes, but shrapnel holes on the inside of the brick walls of the church testified to grenades having been thrown into the crowded building before the killers managed to get in to finish their work.

It was clear from the sheer number of corpses in the church that the victims had gathered there because they thought it would provide them with shelter.

In the church grounds, apart from bodies, there were little piles of clothes strewn on the ground. They were the bundled together belongings of people who had fled their homes believing they had a chance of escaping the genocide.


 





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