Rwanda: Renewed Call to Reveal Location of Remains of Genocide Victims

Twenty-five years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that claimed the lives of over a million people, Rwandans have been called upon to volunteer information on the location of remains of the victims who did not get decent burial.

The call was made yesterday as hundreds of mourners gathered at Ruhanga Genocide Memorial site to pay their respects to victims who were buried there.

The commemoration event was also an occasion to offer a decent burial to remains of 65 victims at the site.

Ruhanga Genocide Memorial is located at the former Ruhanga Episcopal Anglican Church (EAR Ruhanga) and has a mass grave inside the former church.

This is the only Anglican Church parish in the country which was converted into a Genocide memorial site.

In the wake of the Genocide, thousands of Tutsi flocked to the church as they desperately sought to hide from their tormentors.

Over 25,000 were killed at the church compound where they sought refuge.

The memorial site hosts 36,769 victims, including those who were found in the surrounding areas.

The Ruhanga victims are remembered and honoured on April 15 every year, a day on which they were gruesomely killed after resisting several attacks from Interahamwe militia and the then army.

Genocide survivors recount how they used stones and traditional weapons to dispel attacks from Interahamwe and FAR soldiers who later used heavy weapons and military helicopters to kill the Tutsi in Ruhanga area.

Twenty-five years later, the survivors in the region are still gripped with sorrow because the whereabouts of the remains of some of their fallen relatives and friends is unknown.

They would love to accord them decent burial.

"At some point you keep faith that your loved ones are still alive because you didn't bury them," said Yves Murenzi, a survivor.

"I urge especially government institutions to mobilise citizens and join hands in search of victims so that they are given decent burial," Murenzi added.

Genocide survivors say that the perpetrators and those who were not targeted still hide information on where the victims were dumped or buried, and call for volunteering to disclose the information.

Theodore Uwiduhaye, the president of Ibuka in Gasabo District, said Genocide survivors find it challenging that many remains of their relatives are yet to be given decent burial as perpetrators do little to reveal where they were dumped.

"As we bury our loved ones 25 years after the Genocide, who were recently exhumed in different parts, we still don't know the whereabouts of a very big number of victims. It is still a challenge given that at some point you look in crowds and think that you can see a family member," said Uwiduhaye.

The event was marked by chilling testimonies from survivors who fled to the church, the hardship to reach there and how they suffered at the hands of Interahamwe militia.

The Mayor of Gasabo District, Stephen Rwamurangwa, said the district encourages people who have information but cannot speak freely to use anonymous letters for officials to trace and exhume bodies.

Richard Sezibera, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, condoled with families whose relatives were given decent burial, those whose family members are buried at Ruhanga, and Rwandans in general.

He said that those who committed genocide wanted to wipe out the Tutsi and leave behind no testimony but they failed, stressing that the fact that there were commemoration events was a sign for their failure.

"Let us continue commemorating as we renew because it is unity that made us who we are today. Let us keep investing in unity no matter the cost," he added, assuring Rwandans that genocide will never happen again.

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