Yale University



A-Z Index

Indications of Genocide in the Bisesero Hills

Bisesero Region


According to a report of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR),1 the Bisesero Region (see image 2) was the target of near-daily attacks in the period between April 9 and June 30, 1994. The attackers used firearms, grenades machetes, spears, clubs, and other weapons. Transportation used by the attackers included a variety of small and large vehicles. The attackers included gendarmes, communal policemen from Gishyita and Gisovu, armed civilians, and Interahamwe (an unofficial para-military group made up exclusively of extremist Hutu).

The genocide and the desperation of the resistance that characterized the events which occurred in the hills of the Bisesero Region, seem to have had profound repercussions on the landscape. This change to the landscape was probably a result of both attacks and resistance, including large numbers of pursuers and victims moving through the region, and the thousands of exposed decomposing corpses. There is no doubt that thousands of maimed corpses littered the landscape in this locality.

The exact number of deaths in the defined Bisesero Region is difficult to assess. However, there could have been no fewer than approximately 14,000 deaths2, and likely many more neither accounted for nor officially confirmed. This number of deaths in a contiguous study area, the Bisesero Region, of no greater than 35 km2, would give a ratio of no less than 400 corpses per km2. However, the actual areas of more concentrated resistance and genocide are approximately 22 km2, which would mean a ratio of no less than 636 corpses per km2.

Three distinct features were discovered, labeled I, II, and III. Feature I represents the areas of known genocide and resistance activity (the Bisesero Region), and it also corresponds to areas where distinct change in the landscape was observed for the period during which the genocide occurred—in essence, these findings helped to define the areas comprising the Bisesero Region and those of the greatest activity related to the genocide and resistance. Feature II corresponds to the clearance of possible trails or roads that closely trace the Kirparo River and its tributaries, and which become more visible either during or immediately after the genocide events, possibly due to heavy use. Finally, Feature III corresponds to a still-unidentified “stain” on the landscape, which appears to be a memorial to the genocide victims.

- Russell Schimmer, GSP, Yale University

1 Foundation Hirondelle, BISESERO, THE HILLS OF DEATH, from ICTR/Bisesero, June 2, 2003.

2 Verwimp, Philip, “Death and survival during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda” in Population Studies, Vol. 58, No. 2, 2004, pp. 233–245.


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