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The East African : April 7th 2014
The EastAfrican 26 OUTLOOK APRIL 5-11,2014 YEARS AFTER GENOCIDE Each coffin carries information on whether the victim was a male, a female or a child.” Ildephonse Karengera, the director of Memory and Prevention of Genocide serve the bodies, even though it is not one of the most effective methods. There have been consistent demands from different advocacy organisations and genocide survivors for the government to preserve the memory and history of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, with concerns that most of the remains are deteriorating. Leon Muberuka, the in charge Skulls and bones of victims killed during the genocide, laid out in Nyamata Church. Picture: AFP 20 years on, Rwanda grapples with the genocide remains Kigali needs $2 million to p≥ese≥ve bodies scatte≥ed in memo≥ials ac≥oss the count≥y By EDMUND KAGIRE The East African A s Rwanda commemorates 20 years, since the 1994 geno- cide, the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) says it lacks the budget to preserve remains of genocide victims in different memorials scattered across the country. Twenty years down the road, remains that have not been buried are deteriorating fast, with fears that if nothing is done, in their current state they might not last another 20 years, creating concerns that the important physical memory of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi could be lost. In 2008, the government made compulsory for all victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi to be interred in statefunded genocide memorials. This, according to government was necessary to ensure that the memorials exhibit undeniable evidence of the 1994 genocide that can be used to teach future generations about the dangers of bad governance and genocide ideology. Since 2010, the commission has been working with the UKbased Cranfield University on mechanisms to conserve genocide remains to last at least 150 years, but the project has turned out to be costly. An estimated $2 million will be needed to pre- serve the remaining bodies. According to the executive secretary of CNLG Jean de Dieu Mucyo, the research is complete but the commission still lacks money for the project. “We did a joint research with Cranfield University. They sent a team of forensic archaeology and anthropology experts who came here and found out ways the bodies can be preserved. They came and showed us how it can be done,” says Mr Mucyo. “The second phase was for us to acquire a mobile laboratory which we have been moving to different memorial sites including Murambi and Nyamata working on the remains there. The next phase was for the university to send their people to train our people to do the exercise themselves. That too is done,” he adds. However, for the past six months, CNLG has been trying to raise the money to carry out the preservation process and according to Mucyo, the project cannot be financed out of the institution’s budget. “It is an expensive project, we are still mobilising resources,” Mucyo says. The stalled project was aimed at long term conservation of proof of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi as well as keeping historical records for posterity. Apart from preserving the re- mains CNLG also noticed that clothes of the genocide victims and some of the weapons used by the perpetrators were deteriorating fast. The experts first came to Rwanda in 2009 and carried out a study from which they issued recommendations for long-term preservation. Following the recommendations, CNLG bought a mobile laboratory that has been used to treat the bodies. According to CNLG officials in charge of preserving genocide proof and testimonies, the mobile laboratory bought in the UK also came with acrylic coffins. Each of the coffins bears information on the genocide victim whose body is placed therein. “Once this process is done, anyone visiting the memorial will be able to get information on victims buried there without consulting a guide. Each coffin carries information on whether the victim was a male, a female or a child,” says Ildephonse Karengera, the director of Memory and Prevention of Genocide at CNLG. “It is an intricate process which requires time and resources to implement,” he adds. It involves using power re- PRESERVATION EFFORT For the past six months, CNLG has been trying to raise the money to carry out the preservation process MOBILE LAB: According to CNLG officials in charge of preserving genocide proof and testimonies, the mobile laboratory bought in the UK also came with acrylic coffins. Each of the coffins bears information on the genocide victim whose body is placed therein. trieve machines, X-ray machines and scanners which preserve the remains. The mobile laboratory is a sophisticated lab where bodies of the victims are preserved before being placed in airtight casings that can last over 150 years without any deterioration The Power Retrieve and the X- ray machines analyse and identify the methods used to kill victims and the weapons used, the damage caused and whether the victim died in a desperate attempt to fight off the murderers. “What these machines basi- cally do is to retrieve the basic information on how these people were killed and give us an idea of how each individual died. They do not give the full details but at least they will guide us on what each victim went through before being killed, which is a major breakthrough,” says Mr Karengera. According to Mr Karengera, the conservation process will target the five major memorial sites in the country and later move to districts memorial sites until all memorial sites are covered. Five major memorial sites in the country, namely Murambi, Bisesero, Nyarubuye, Ntarama and Nyamata have all be lined up to undergo this process. Currently, according to Mr Mucyo, the memorials will go back to using chalk lime to con- at Nyamata Memorial Site in Bugesera district says that under the current conditions, the remains of genocide victims cannot last longer because the current preservation methods are becoming less effective. “Here we have bodies stuffed in ordinary coffins while skulls are placed in shelves in the huge mass graves. Sometimes when the temperatures go up, down there it becomes damp which has a direct impact on the remains,” “Also for example when it rains a lot, water somewhere will find its way down in the mass graves. Using chalk as preservation method is becoming less effective as the years go buy. So we will need more effective methods if these memories have to be kept intact for maybe another 20 or 50 years,” he says. Inside the church, the clothes which were worn by victims are still piled on the aisles where militias found them but by the look of things, they too are fast deteriorating, having lost colour and other aspects that defined them in the past, including blood. Celestin Karambizi, a geno- cide survivor, who has remains of relatives among the 40,308 genocide victims at Nyamata Memorial Site says, if the government runs out of ideas to preserve the remains, perhaps they can be given a decent burial. “They can bury them and put their names on the graves, even then people can still remember,” he says. However, Mr Muberuka, the memorial in charge disagrees, saying that in their current form, the remains are in a decent state but not sure if they can remain intact for many years to come. He says eight new bodies dis- A body is lowered into a mass grave in Nyamabuye. Pic: D. Sabiiti covered in the nearby areas will also be brought to the memorial. Nyamata Memorial is remembered for its grim massacres when militias invaded the church, murdering more than 2,000 people seeking refuge inside. The locked doors were broken down using had grenades.
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