Rwanda Parliament has rejected a proposal seeking to give full authority to private institutions to manage genocide memorial sites located within their premises.
The Ministry of culture and sports tabled a bill to parliament proposing in articles 11 and 23 providing for memorials of 1994 Genocide against Tutsi located on the land of organizations, such as churches, be owned and managed by those institutions.
However, legislators have furiously rejected the requests in the draft law. Currently the government manages all memorial sites across the country.
“Why are we delegating the responsibility of the government to manage the memorials? We suggest the articles be revised,” said MP Henriette Mukamurangwa.
Lawmakers said, while some sites where victims of Genocide against Tutsi lay to rest belong to organizations, the bodies of victims cannot be property of anyone else, if not the government of Rwanda.
“I don’t understand such a philosophy. It’s not understandable,” Mukamurangwa added amidst a session where MPs furiously disagreed with the proposal.
The MPs worry that if the law allows private operators to manage memorials; either the institutions will carelessly manage them or they will claim other rights as landlords.
“They (institutions) will manage the memorials on their own and we will fall short in paying due tribute to the victims of Genocide against the Tutsi,” said MP Mukamurangwa.
For MP Nyirasafari, “the institutions managing the memorials may claim that they are short of resources and leave memorials in a sorry state.”
Other MPs even say, management of a memorial site would be complicated, if it is located within an embassy of a country which has cut diplomatic ties with Rwanda.
“We should find another philosophy,” suggested MP Juvenal Nkusi.
Nyange memorial site where thousands Tutsi perished is located in the land of the Catholic Church. Other memorials in the land of this church also include Kibeho and Ntarama memorials from Nyaruguru and Bugesera district respectively, to mention but a few.
Reacting to the proposal, MP Desiré Nyandwi suggested, “leave the land property ownership to the current owners, but management of the memorials is an exclusive duty of the government.”
After several submissions, the Speaker, Donatille Mukabarisa, said that, “we would like you to do more consultations on this article (11) before we vote for it.”
The same was also agreed on article 23.
This decision also affected article 25 which provides for staff of memorial sites owned by private organizations.
The point MPs made on this was that they could not vote an article providing for memorial sites owned by organizations, while they don’t agree with the principle.
Catholic Church does not mind
Bishop Smargde Mbonyintege, the president of Catholic Church Episcopal council and bishop of Kabgayi told KT Press that, “For me, it should be a responsibility of government to manage the memorials.”
Mbonyintenge agrees on the fact that maintenance of memorial sites requires a lot of money which they may not afford.
“We would give some conditions to the government before they take ownership of memorials; allow us to keep visiting them because there are buried our own people, and to hold a mass to the place whenever required,” he said.
The government would also agree that no activity which is contrary to their belief, be carried out at the memorial site.
Meanwhile, Mbonyintege said they have finished transferring Kabgayi genocide memorial to be managed by Muhanga district.
Currently, the government is negotiating to take over management of Nyange memorial site from the catholic church.
Mbonyintege said the church may ask for an alternative land, if some other activities take place at the memorial.
Kibeho sanctuary in Nyaruguru district is also preserved as a memorial center.
Land title of any government memorial site will be held by CNLG- the Commission for fighting against the Genocide.
Julienne Uwacu, Minister of Sport and Culture, defended the policy that, “For the last 21 years, the organizations where memorial sites are located have never failed to take good care of them. And this law provides for punishment to any illegal act on memorial sites.”