22 March 2017

Rwanda: Experts Push for Archiving to Preserve Genocide Memory

ARCHIVING Genocide facts has significant implications on not only preserving evidence but also on building strong foundations for the country's socio-economic development.

Experts said this during a meeting hosted by King's College London (an international organisation in the application of technology in the arts and humanities, and in the social sciences) and Aegis Trust, in Kigali, which discussed digital archives, memory and reconstruction in Rwanda.

Freddie Mutanguha, regional director of Aegis Trust, said rebuilding a post-Genocide nation like Rwanda requires preserving such unfortunate historical facts for present and future generations to learn from.

"The archives provide information and evidence of what happened. Even as we commemorate the Genocide 23 years later, we find out that we have younger generations which wants to access this information easily, to learn about the Genocide, and understand the cause of the Genocide, which will consequently give room for sustainable peace and reconciliation," Mutanguha told The New Times.

The King's College London digital humanities department and Aegis Trust brought together academic, private and public sector stakeholders from Rwanda and abroad to explore the implications, impact and transformative effects of digital archives and digitisation processes in the context of understanding the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and supporting the country's reconstruction.

The three-day conference, under the theme, "Digital Archives, Memory and Reconstruction in Rwanda," opened yesterday.

Experts will address a range of issues and share experiences and best practices under four broad themes: Memory and Memorialisation, Education and Peace Building, Social Justice and Inclusivity, and Capacity Building and the Digital Economy.

Mutanguha said Aegis Trust has visited more that 11 institutions in the country only to find out that most of their physical Genocide archives were deteriorating.

"It is everyone's responsibility that the Genocide archives are maintained and, hence, it is important for us to digitalise them for future references, not also forgetting the significance of physical archives. The archiving is very important to keep the memory of the Genocide at heart. It is important to keep the evidence of the Genocide against the Tutsi," Mutanguha said.

Jean-Philbert Nsengimana, the minister for youth and ICT, said digital archiving is important not only to the socio-economic development of the country but because it is another way of reaching out to the young generation of Rwanda, which he referred to as the 'digital natives' on matters relating to Genocide remembrance.

"Digital archiving is important to preserve memory, share and teach about our country's history. It is critical, very important and we know, based on our history, that a country that has not built its foundations based on its history cannot have sustainable development. Digital archiving is part of economic development strategy; we are here to learn how we can leverage technology for memory and remembrance," Nsengimana said.

The minister said as the country gears up for the 23rd commemoration of the Genocide, it is imperative that all Genocide facts are archived.

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ARCHIVING INITIATIVES

With funds from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), a study carried out in 2013 identified major archives in 18 institutions, the most prominent of which was the records of the Gacaca courts of more than 60 million pages.

Combined, these archives are of unparalleled significance, both to Rwanda and the world, and act as a record of processes of conflict, justice, reconciliation and reconstruction.

Recognising this, Aegis Trust began assembling evidence related to the Genocide and reconstruction, including testimonies as well as historical evidence. Together, these materials form the Genocide Archive of Rwanda, a form of physical and digital archive.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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