Friday, April 19, 2024
Justice & rights

Ntarama genocide memorial tells a particular story.

Ntarama genocide memorial, one among six National memorials of Rwandan genocide against Tutsis of 1994, tells a particular story compared to other national genocide memorials in Rwanda. This was explained in detail to the Belgian delegation of history teachers who visited it on March 8, 2019.

According to Mr. Innocent Ruzigana, one of two managers of Ntarama genocide memorial, it is dedicated to 5,000 people who were killed there.  Those people were from the surroundings of the Ntarama Catholic Church, who believed to find refuge in it as it used to be some years before, because churches were respected, and none would come to find them there.

The particular story of Ntarama is that the area had been the home for all deported Tutsi from former Ruhengeri, Gikongoro, Gisenyi and Gitarama ‘prefectures’, and were settled in Nyamata refugees camp after the outbreak of violence in 1959, added Mr. Ruzigana.

The story goes up several years before.

Mr. Ruzigana explained to the Belgian delegation visiting, what was the situation before the genocide against Tutsis of 1994. “Bugesera was historically less populated than other areas in Rwanda, as it was heavily forested with swamp areas that were infested by the tsetse fly. This area became more populated after the violence in 1959 to 1962 when Tutsis living the northern region of the country were forcibly relocated to the Bugesera region.”

This was a strategic area for the exiled group of people to die, added Mr. Ruzigana. Surrounded by forests and swamp, tsetse fly was there to kill their livestock, and whenever there was an outbreak, Tutsis were massacred and significant attacks were followed by arrests and killings of Tutsi, not only in Bugesera but across the country.

During genocide of 1994

When the President Habyarimana died on April 6, 1994; the killings started in Kigali the capital of Rwanda located to around 24 km from Ntarama. On April 7, Tutsis’ homes were attacked and burned in Bugesera, those who were not dead fled to Ntarama and Nyamata parish catholic churches, Mr. Ruzigana continued to tell the story.

The Ntarama church was attacked on April 15, 1994, and around 5,000 people were killed most of them women and children. All the people who were hiding in the church’s kitchen were burned to death. There was a Sunday school building where many children were hidden, they were killed by swinging them by their legs and smash their skulls against the wall; militia claimed not to want their bullets wasted.

By April 30, 1994; the focus of the attacks had turned to the Nyabarongo River at Akagera where the survived Tutsis from Nyamata and some from Ntarama churches were hiding. Mr. Ruzigana told the Belgian delegation that until April 14, 1994; when Rwanda Patriotic Front Inkotanyi invaded the sector, they found only around 9,000 Tutsis alive among 59,000 who lived in that East area of the country. Around 50,000 Tutsis were killed in a period of just one month.

Nyamata and Ntarama were sectors of former Kanzenze Commune in Rural Kigali. The church of Ntarama was turned into a genocide memorial site to remember the 5,000 people who lost their lives there. This site is of particular national significance and the human remains, clothing and artifacts taken by those killed in the church remain on display at the site.

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