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Why Genocide Memorial Among World Heritage Sites?

by Daniel Sabiiti
4:23 pm

Nyamata Genocide Memorial

On January 23, 2018, Rwanda submitted an application for registration of four genocide memorial sites among the World heritage properties managed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The sites include Kigali Genocide Memorial in Gisozi,  Murambi genocide memorial in Nyamagabe District, Bisesero Genocide Memorial in Karongi District, and Nyamata Genocide Memorial site in Bugesera District.

The latter was recently announced as a site that stands more chances to qualify since it remained the way it was when Interahamwe massacred the Tutsi in the 1994 Genocide.

Nyamata, formerly a Catholic church built in 1980, was turned into a slaughterhouse where more than 45,000 people who sought refuge were killed in one day.

With the increase in awareness of the Genocide against Tutsi, education remains key in transforming society towards a Never Again.

Listing a memorial site will enable the entire World to learn more about and draw lessons from the history of the Genocide which Rwanda shares with the whole International Community.

UNESCO World heritages are one of the most visited sites around the world, especially during the peak tourism seasons. That means Rwanda will also be able to attract many visitors, not only to learn from the Nyamata site but also to tour the country and witness the development gained in the past 29 years.

“This will encourage more people to visit and see the reality of what they have heard or read about Rwanda and what happened in the country during the 1994 genocide against Tutsi,” Dieudonne Nagiriwubuntu, the Manager at Kigali Genocide Memorial.

As of 2020-2022 statistics, Kigali Genocide Memorial alone was visited by 100,000 every year and according to Nagiriwubuntu that means many more visitors will be able to visit Rwanda and other genocide memorial sites.

Aegis Trust as an organization that was involved in negotiating the inclusion of genocide against Tutsi sites on the World Heritage list says that the move will get Rwanda’s history written in world history, used to educate the young and academicians but also to prevent genocide from happening anywhere else.

“This will make the Never Again a reality to the world and also move our site from national to global sites where their protection and preservation will be done by the world,” Nagiriwubuntu said.

Basile Uwimana, the Commissioner of Memory, Genocide Prevention and Community Mobilization at the Organization of Rwanda Alumni of Genocide Survivor Student’s Associations (GAERG) says it is important to honor the memory and remember the victims of genocide on a global level, not only in Rwanda.

“This will help us to continue the fight against Genocide deniers and people will know exactly what happened here in our country. It is another sign that the history of the Genocide against the Tutsi is going to be included in the curriculum provided by UNESCO around the world in schools and Universities,” Uwimana said.

The Ambassador of Israel to Rwanda, Ron Adam, who was also part of the UNESCO process of adding Jewish Holocaust camps to World Heritage sites says that it is good for Rwanda as it has political and developmental benefits.

“For a UNESCO site to be in a country means a lot. Rwanda will be able to get sponsorship in various educational programs even if UNESCO is not a donor organization but its partners are able to fund various projects,” Amb. Adam said.

According to UNESCO, their World Heritage Committee allocates most of the budget of the World Heritage Fund for the services of the Advisory Bodies on one hand, and for International Assistance on the other hand.

The fund budget lines, among others, are for Periodic Reporting, Reactive monitoring, activities in relation to sites inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, the World Heritage Education Programme, the Upstream process, the World Heritage.

Rwanda has been a member of UNESCO since December 28, 2000, and so far three (3) international assistance requests were approved worth $54,800.

With Rwanda having a seat on World Heritage Committee (2021-2025) some experts say that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will need to do a lot of diplomacy work to get one of its Genocide memorial sites voted on the list.

The Extended 45th session of the World Heritage Committee, in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from September 10-25, 2023, is expected to make the final vote based on the UNESCO expert’s report that will be finalized in June.

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