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Remains of more than 62,000 victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide to get decent burial

March 20, 2019 at 08:10 am | News

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Staff Writer

March 20, 2019 at 08:10 am | News

Nyamata Memorial Site, skulls. Nyamata, Rwanda [Photo: Wiki Commons]

Remains of over 62,000 victims of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide recovered from areas around Kabuga, a town in the Eastern Province in 2018 will be laid to rest later this month at Nyanza Genocide Memorial.

The remains, which were discovered in Kabuga trading centre between April and September last year, will be interred on March 29, The New Times reports.

Over 40 mass graves were found beneath houses in Kabuga last year, and authorities believe thousands remain in mass graves in unknown areas all over the country.

“For people who killed these victims to come forward and reveal the whereabouts of the mass graves so that they get decent burial, is a major step towards achieving full unity and reconciliation,” said Naphtal Ahishakiye, the Executive Secretary of Ibuka, an organization involved in helping survivors find loved ones.

“Many Genocide survivors are still waiting for a chance to get the remains of their loved ones so they are buried with dignity and it is a shame that many of them are still unaccounted for,” he added.

Ahishakiye welcomed the fact that convicts of the Genocide are opening up to show where the mass graves are. He said convicts who give out similar information about mass graves are better able to reintegrate into society and reconcile with relatives of the deceased.

It is almost 25 years since the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. The United Nations set aside April 7 as the day to not only commemorate the event but also honour the victims. 

Referred to as the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Rwanda Genocide, the day features a series of events not only in Rwanda but also across the world.

Here are some key events from the genocide that should never be repeated:

Hate speech and failure to control it

Hate speech was one of the key factors in propagating the genocide. According to the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, genocide does not take place all of a sudden.

One of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) cases was the media case, which held members of the media responsible for broadcasts intended to incite the public to commit acts of genocide.

Addressing hate speech and incitement and putting in place strategy for atrocity prevention are some of the solutions that Dieng offers in preventing genocide.

Delayed action by the international community

The immediate action of the international community could have helped stop the genocide. However, the UN Security Council delayed in addressing the issue and peacekeepers and troops were pulled out before the genocide ended, leaving the victims without any protection.

According to reports, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, Jacques-Roger Booh Booh, sent a telegram to the UN Headquarters two months before the outbreak.

Kofi Annan, the then head UN peacekeeping operations acknowledged that he could have done more to stop the genocide.

“We must never forget our collective failure to protect at least 800,000 defenceless men, women, children who perished in Rwanda…We must acknowledge our responsibility for not having done more to prevent or stop the genocide,” he said.

In 2017,  Pope Francis apologised for the role of the church in the genocide. Not only was the Catholic Church accused of being close to the Hutu-led government, but some priests and nuns also participated in the genocide and were later charged by the ICTR.

Denial of genocide

The denial of the Rwanda Genocide started soon after, with some parties shunning the use of the word ‘genocide’ and using words such as ‘acts of genocide’, ‘Rwanda crisis’ or ‘Rwanda Tragedy’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’.

However, over the years, the country has not only arrested the perpetrators of the genocide but has also rounded up others for genocide denial.

Such denial not only erases the reality of the day but also accuses victims of lying. The annual commemoration of the day is important as it works to renounce that denial and to honour the victims and survivors of the genocide.

Use of existing state structures to perpetrate genocide

The Human Rights Watch established that the Rwanda government had in place structures to mobilise the communities for different initiatives including vaccination of children and ending illiteracy. These were the same structures that the organisers of the genocide used to execute the genocide campaign.

“Some who refused at the start became convinced to act when all authorities seemed to speak with one voice, when the leaders of their parties joined with administrators to demand their participation and when the military stood behind, ready to intimidate those who hesitated,” reads part of the HRW report.

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