Shock has gripped a community in Kabuga – about 20km outside Rwanda’s capital Kigali following the discovery of a mass grave believed to contain a large number of human remains.
The discovery come as the country continues the 100 day mourning period from April 7 to July in honor of victims of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.
For the past three days, community in Gahoromani – Kabuga in Masaka sector of Kicukiro district – Kigali, has been exhuming remains from a mass grave at a spot that was branded after CND (Conseil National de Development) – named after the official appellation of the Parliament under the government at the time. As part of the peace process, the government of Juvenal Habyarimana was forced into accepting 600 troops of the rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front forces to be stationed inside CND.
When the genocide began, Tutsis were rounded up from various villages and taken to that compound in Kabuga but they were never seen leaving, according to survivors whose information has been corroborated by genocide convicts in prison.
“Wherever the interahamwe discovered us from our hideouts, they told us that they are taking us to CND to take oath as members of Parliament – which was another way of branding us as accomplices of Inkotanyi who were being killed,” a survivor from the area told kigalitoday.com, our Kinyarwanda language news site.
The latest mass grave was revealed by genocide convicts who are still serving their sentence.
As of Sunday evening, remains of more than 120 people had been exhumed. The remains are being removed in a slow process so that they are not damaged and respect for the victims. They are cleaned and placed in an improvised shade.
Survivors working with locals and officials say as they dig further they find more remains spread over a deep and large surface area.
“We started digging from the sideways and have yet to reach the real CND grave,” said Theogene Kabagambire, coordinator of the survivors umbrella association Ibuka in Gasabo district.
It suggests there will likely be many more remains at the exact spot. The grave is located in compound of one Bosco Munderere which he says he inherited from his father Samari James. The huge compound has gone through various owner over the years.
Survivors are worried there could be more other sites since the perpetrators and convicts have been adamant to give information on mass graves.
“It is so painful for us to live with the fact that people who knew about this site have kept quiet for this long,” said Emmanuel Nduwayezu, a genocide survivor and Ibuka coordinator in Rusororo sector where the mass grave is located, adding: “We are disappointed.”
He added: “For now though at least finding this site will bring some relief.”
During the years when Gacaca community courts were conducting trials in the area, pleas for information on what happened to people brought to CND fell on deaf ears. Nobody was willing to speak, according to officials involved at the time.
A clandestine campaign was also ongoing to scare perpetrators not to reveal anything. Some were told they would themselves be killed by current government.
In this same Kigali suburb – not far away from the CND spot, another mass grave has been discovered at a place called Kariyeri with 157 people found so far.
Exhumation is also underway at Kariyeri where more remains are also expected.
Meanwhile, at CND mass grave, one Daniel Munyaneza, commonly known as Kirenga was able to identify a friend of his among the remains from the clothes retrieved.
As par the existing process, after exhuming remains of genocide victims, the community prepares coffins and organizes a decent burial at a nearby genocide memorials site. In some cases, depending on the nature of the spot, it could be turned into a memorial site.
More than one million Tutsi perished during the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi. Their names are inscribed at memorial sites. But as more mass graves are uncovered, many are beginning to wonder if the exact number will ever be definitively determined.