17 April 2019

Rwanda: Kwibuka 25 - Tributes Pour in for Bugesera Genocide Victims as 165 Get Decent Burial

Thousands of survivors, residents, and several officials on Monday turned up to pay their respects to Genocide victims in Bugesera District's major memorial sites of Ntarama and Nyamata.

The district held two commemorative events, at Nyamata memorial site in the morning and Ntarama in the afternoon, presided over by Speaker of Rwanda Parliament, Donatille Mukabalisa and Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye, respectively.

As part of the commemoration, remains of 165 victims of the Genocide were laid to rest at Ntarama memorial site.

Only four of the victims were from Ntarama Sector, while 161 came from Nyamata sector, majority of them habing been recently recovered from Nyamata ADEPR Hospital.

Eastern Province governor, Fred Mufulukye, laying flowers on Ntarama memorial grave

Nyamata Genocide Memorial, which contains more than 45,000 victims, is already full, according to officials from Bugesera District.

Both Nyamata and Ntarama memorials, which were in Kanzenze Commune in 1994 and before, are built at the premises of former Catholic Church parishes.

Bugesera mayor Richard Mutabazi highlighted why the process is underway for Nyamata Genocide Memorial to be registered as a world heritage site under UNESCO.

The Genocide was planned for a very long time, and was attempted many times, most especially in Bugesera, said the mayor.

"Nyamata was part of Kanzenze Commune, which had large Tutsi population in what was then called Kigali Ngari prefecture," he said, adding that killing of Tutsis in the area started early.

In 1992, about 667 Tutsis in Bugesera were murdered.

Today, among the people recognised for trying to protect the Tutsi include Antonia Locatelli, an Italian missionary, who was tried to draw the attention of the international community through the media, about the deaths of Tutsi in Nyamata.

She was on March 9, 1992, shot dead at the gates of a church-based school that she ran.

Suffering in church

According to witness accounts, the Tutsi who had sought refuge in Nyamata Catholic Parish initially tried to defend themselves against the Interahamwe militia, but were eventually subdued and killed.

Julienne Murorunkwere, who spent the last moments with parents and siblings whom she later lost from the church, said the militiamen started attacking the church on April 13.

Immediately the clerics, who were all foreigners, were evacuated, leaving them firmly in the hands of the Interahamwe.

On April 16, the soldiers and Interahamwe broke into the church and killed almost all of them.

She said that after the massacre, the killers sprayed pepper powder into the church to rout those that were still alive, whom they also killed.

Murorunkwere survived despite being hit twice with a club to the head and was eventually left for dead.

Despite suffering head injuries for years, Murorunkwere, managed to go back to school after the genocide, and called on fellow survivors never to lose hope.

"I think we have no control over death, but we have control over our lives because we have a responsibility to live due to a hard and heavy past we went through. We have responsibility to live on our own behalf and on behalf of those we lost," she said.

Addressing the mourners, Justice Minister Johnston Busingye said that times like these call for introspection on the part of faith-based institutions.

"When you see things like these; how a church was turned into a memorial site, this should tell us something," he added.

He reminded those present that it was the genocide ideology that sunk the country to the level it did 25 years ago, adding that this vice must be found with full force.

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