18 September 2018

Rwanda: Government Steps Up Bid to List Genocide Memorial Centres on Unesco Heritage Sites

The National Commission for the fight against Genocide (CNLG) has started the process to train local experts who will prepare documentation on four Genocide memorial sites as the country intensifies efforts to have the centres listed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage sites.

The sites are Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Gasabo District, Nyamata Genocide Memorial site in Bugesera District, Murambi Memorial Centre in Nyamagabe District, and Bisesero Genocide memorial in Karongi District.

The New Times has leant that Rwanda has hired experts from 16 countries with different skills to train Rwandan experts for three weeks on registering sites on the worldwide heritage list managed by UNESCO.

The training will equip Rwandan experts with skills on filing such documentations.

According to officials, Rwanda seeks to complete the whole process in February 2019. Despite the processes having started four years ago, the sites are yet to be added to UNESCO's world heritage list following demand to upgrade them.

Jean Damascène Bizimana, the Executive Secretary of CNLG, told The New Times that the country submitted the documentation but it was returned on grounds that it had not been prepared by appropriate experts.

"After submitting the documentation, UNESCO showed us the gaps that we should refine," he said.

After submitting documentation, he said, a UNESCO committee will review the request.

"Most of these experts we invited to train us are from countries that are on the voting committee," Bizimana added.

The local experts being trained include workers from CNLG and museums, among other institutions.

Bizimana said that there's a skills gap in the management of the Genocide memorial sites, including the inability to articulate the history of the Genocide against the Tutsi.

"The current ones (sites) mainly show the remains of Genocide victims, meaning that we still lack international standards to present whole elements," he said.

Bizimana added that there has been improvement on Kigali Genocide memorial where mourners can watch video content on Genocide history.

"We want to move to this step and these experts will also train us on preserving such historical evidence and how to avoid all risks that can damage the memorial sites. Lack of such requirements impede consideration of different sites for inclusion on the list," he said.

Out of 1092 world heritage sites in the world, only 95 sites are in Africa.

Once added on to the heritage list, he said, UNESCO will integrate the Genocide memorial sites in education to teach children Rwandan history.

Samuel Kidiba, Director of the African Heritage School, said: "No development can be reached without looking at both historical and natural resources heritages. Trained Rwandans will now be able to prepare such documents".

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