This is the largest memorial site basing on the number of victims buried at the site. It is a resting place for more than 250,000 bodies of victims of the genocide against the Tutsi. The bodies were brought at the place from various places around Kigali City. These include victims who were killed and indecently buried in their homes or found under debris of demolished or burnt houses, those thrown in ditches and trenches, in rivers and other water bodies, from bushes and shrubs, etc.
The Memorial Center is divided into three major exhibition sections including one that documents the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. There is also a children’s memorial and an exhibition on the history of genocidal violence around the world. There’s also another section hosting the Education Centre, Gardens, and Genocide Archive of Rwanda which form part of a meaningful tribute to those who perished, and provide a powerful educational tool for visitors.
The memorial was inaugurated in April 2004.
Murambi Genocide Memorial Center
Murambi Genocide Memorial Site is located in Murambi village, Remera Cell, Gasaka sector, Nyamagabe district in the Southern Province; 126 km from Kigali City and 3.5 km from Nyamagabe town. Before genocide, Murambi was located in Nyamagabe commune in Gikongokoro prefecture which was formed after merging former communes of bufundu, Nyaruguru, Bunyambiriri and Buyenzi in 1963.
This region was characterized by a history of killings and massacres since 1959 mainly in the former Bufundu region when the then prefect Rwasibo Jean Baptiste who led the region under the Belgian authority. With the aid of the Belgian authorities a notorious plan was designed and executed to get rid of Tutsi people in that region. Through the plan, Tutsis were relocated to deserted regions of Kibungo and Bugesera which were a breeding area for Tsetse Flies which killed a large proportion of the population.
Those who managed to survive settled in the area and started to develop it. However, to due the continued history of hatred, Tutsi people in the region were continually targeted during the first and second republics and this killing climaxed during the 1994 genocide.
In 1995, bodies of the victims of genocide against the Tutsi were brought at the center from surrounding areas. Murambi Memorial Center has got a uniqueness in that it has got some bodies of the victims that were not reburied but preserved and kept in areas where those who visit the center can see them.
It has been divided into the following major sections:
· The reception: in this section visitors are taken through the chronology of the history that led to genocide.
· There’s a cemetery where more than 50,000 victims of the genocide were laid to rest.
· There’s also a former technical school that hosts the preserved bodies of the victims that are kept in open space for visitors to witness the scale and nature of the death that the victims experienced. It’s in this school that a large number of victims were killed and close to 1200 bodies were preserved together with artifacts like clothes worn by victims as proof of the genocide that took place in the area.
· There’s also a section consisting of trenches where bodies of the victims were cast after they were murdered and a volleyball pitch where a French flag was raised since the area was near a military camp for French army that was serving under Operation Turquoise and then a Memorial Garden
Nyamata Memorial Site
Most of the Tutsi population mostly living north and south of the country were forcibly deported to dwell into the barren and tsetse fly infected area of Nyamata.
Once the area operated and become habitable by these occupants Tutsi in 1980, a church was setup for worship. In 1994, this place once regarded holy and sacred become desecrated; a place of sacrifice of the Tutsi faithful members by their Rwandan counterparts where over forty five thousand people who had sought refuge were all brutally massacred in one day.
After negotiations between the Catholic Church and the Rwandan government, the church was converted into a memorial site, representing other churches in which the victims of the genocide against the Tutsi were slaughtered.
Bisesero Memorial Site
Also known as the memorial of resistance, Bisesero Genocide memorial site is known so much by Rwandans for its resistance during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis. Between the month of May and June 1994 is when the interahamwe came to carry out the massacres that sent over 40,000 Tutsis dead.
The real story
During the month of May 1994, residents from neighboring sectors came to take refuge in Bisesero. As mass killings of the interahamwe increased by the day, people trekked from miles away to take refugee there. As killings drew by, the Bisesero residents had prepared enough to fight rather than succumb to the interahamwe extremists.
Under the orders of a one elder and resident Aminadabu Birara, the Bisesero residents were put to a tactical preparation to fight back anyone who had come to attack their village. Bisesero being a hilly area, the residents were ordered to take strategic cover on top of the hill called Muyira where they could spot their enemies from above. The only allowed fighters were men and boys that were strong enough to resist, while children and women took cover behind the same hill. At that moment the prominent weapon to the Bisesero residents were stones and a few spears.
The Big fight
On 13th May, upon knowledge of the interahamwe that the Bisesero residents were prepared to fight back – Heavy artillery (Mortar 81, 82 and many heavy arms) from all corners of Rwanda and many armed forces inclusive of the Hutu civilians were deployed in Bisesero to finish off the residents.
Upon reaching Bisesero, over 4000 residents had gathered on top of Muyira Hill with stones and spears ready to defend themselves. Mortar 81s and 82s faced the hill letting loose the gigantic bullets as the interahamwe extremists rose up the hill. At the same time the Bisesero Tutsis were aware they had been attacked – upon anyone who tried to go up to the top they would throw stones and spears in defense.
Although many died a few did survive trying until 13th June when the French invaded.
The French invaded Bisesero on 13th June claiming intentions of keeping security and stopping the genocide. Upon their arrival they talked to a one Eric who had been a teacher at the time, he knew French. The situation was still alarming although the residents that where well hidden came out of hiding seeking help from the French army. After which they (French army) denied and claimed they would come back after three days for their rescue.
Not long after the French army’s departure, the interehamwe came back to finish what they started. Initially the Hutu killings went on during the day, but this time round they came to kill day and night to finish off each and everyone before the French did come back 3 days later.
The night of 30th June the French came back and only to find almost everyone slaughtered and just maybe a quarter of the thousands alive but wounded so badly.
Currently the Bisesero Genocide memorial which its construction started in 1997 has three buildings full of human bones and currently an ongoing construction of a grave yard where the 50,000-60,000 bodies will be buried.
Ntarama Genocide memorial
The church of Ntarama was converted into a genocide memorial on 14th April 1995 and is dedicated to the 5,000 people who lost their lives there. One of Rwanda’s six National Genocide Memorial Sites, Ntarama contains human remains, clothing, and artifacts belonging to those who were killed at the church, which remain on display at all times.