According to local news from Rwanda, four mass graves, reportedly tied to the country’s 1994 genocide, have been unearthed in the country.
The sites are outside the capital Kigali, in the Gasabo district, where about 3,000 people went missing during the massacres. About 200 bodies have been exhumed and locals believe the graves may contain all of the bodies.
The graves were uncovered after commemorations were held to mark the start of the killings two weeks ago.
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Volunteers have been leading the search after a woman came forward with the location of the graves, claiming that she saw bodies being dumped there. Houses had to be destroyed in order to get to the graves underneath.
According to Théogene Kabagambire, president of Ibuka in the Gasabo district, an umbrella organisation for Genocide survivors, prior searches in the area had been in vain but new sources many graves in the area.
“The exercise is ongoing as we have identified four mass graves and we are yet to start exhuming three others, the information we have is that many people were dumped in these mass graves,” he said.
“Though some Genocide convicts apologised and some released after serving their sentences, they are doing little to reveal the whereabouts of our loved ones in order to be given a decent burial,” he added.
Genocide survivors were seen around the mass graves trying to identify their loved ones through clothing they wore when they were last seen. Others were seen perusing through an old album which was discovered in the grave to see if it belonged to one of theirs.
“I have information that both my parents were killed and dumped in one of the mass graves here and I came with the hope that I can identify the clothes they were wearing when they left. I wish to be sure that they are here so that I give them a decent burial,” said. Isabelle Uwimana, a survivor.
According to The News Times Rwanda, some survivors say it is difficult to “promote unity and reconciliation in a situation whereby convicts as well as eyewitnesses withhold information of the whereabouts of genocide victims despite repetitive calls to reveal them”.
Rwanda’s genocide began on 6 April 1994, when a plane carrying Rwandan President Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down. The two died.
Hutu extremists blamed Tutsi rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), for the attack then launched a well-organised slaughter campaign.
Some 800,000 people – ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus – were slaughtered in 100 days by Hutu militias. Mass killings ended in July of the same year when RPF defeated Rwandan government forces and took control of the country.
Officials say all of the exhumed bodies will receive a decent burial once the exercise is complete.