Over the past 28 years, Rwanda has been commemorating the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi but there is one particular group of people that had been forgotten but this year they were remember after corroboration of information.
In Bugarama, Rusizi district, many people were killed in the area where the cement manufacturer CIMERWA is located. At least 57 people, mostly former employees of the factory and their relatives, were killed within the premises of the facility while more than 100 were killed within the vicinity.
The killings in CIMERWA broke out on April 16, 1994 where Interahamwe militia, with the help of soldiers, searched for all Tutsis in the area, including within the factory and the surrounding communities, killed them and dumped their bodies in the nearby River Rubyiro.
On Saturday, April 16, relatives and friends of those who were killed at the CIMERWA cement factory, this year, for the first time remembered their loved ones who were killed and their bodies dumped them in the river, leaving no evidence behind.
The date coincided with the day they were killed, April 16, 1994. All these years, commemoration events never focused on the river, which bears heavy significance, simply because people, including the killers, could not provide the information.
It is the first time the remembrance was held at the banks of River Rubyiro after the details of how the killings were executed and the final destination of the victims confirmed.
Perpetrators had remained silent. However, recently one of the killers, who pleaded guilty, confessed and shared details of how people were killed within CIMERWA and also revealed that their bodies were dumped in the nearby river.
It was relief for the families which surely knew that their relatives were killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi but could not point a finger where their remains were.
“We are relieved. It gives us peace to know where our loved ones ended up. Over the years we have been talking to Genocide convicts from this area to tell us where they put the bodies of the people they killed and none was willing to reveal the information,” said Jean Bapfakurera one of the relatives of the victims killed in CIMERWA.
“However, one of the detainees who was recently released felt the need to confess and say where they threw the bodies of the people they killed, which gave us some closure at least. We are relieved,” he added.
Clement Kayitare, who survived in the area said that for 28 years they have been grappling with the pain and trauma of not knowing where the bodies of their relatives were put because the killers refused to cooperate and share information.
“Every year we commemorate our loved ones with a gap in our hearts but today our hearts are at peace. We request authorities to establish a memorial site by the river so that we can come here every year to remember our people,” Kayitare said.
The affected families want a memorial site with the full names of the Genocide victims who were dumped in River Rubyiro as a way of keeping their memory alive.
The Mayor of Rusizi District, Dr Anicet Kibiriga, said that the area will be taken into account and authorities will discuss on the way forward in regard to how to preserve the memory.
“It came to our notice recently. We are going to discuss and agree on what to do in order to preserve the memory of the people killed and dumped in the river,” Dr. Kibiriga said.
“We are going to discuss with the Ministry of National Unity and Civic Engagement to see what to do but we also believe that there should be a memorial of River Rubyiro,” he added.
During the commemoration event organised by CIMERWA, two cows were handed to two vulnerable households as part of efforts by the cement manufacturer to empower surrounding communities.