September 30, 2019

Remains of 104 Genocide Victims Exhumed At Catholic Church In Southern Rwanda

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The site where the exhumation has been ongoing next to the Cyanika Catholic parish in Nyamagabe district, southern province

An investigation has been opened in Nyamagabe district, southern province, on Cyanika parish amid allegations the clergy may have hidden information about a mass grave in the church’s land.

As of this Monday September 30, remains of 104 victims believed to have been killed in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, have been exhumed.

It all began on September 17, when a young woman tilling land belonging to the Parish found human remains. She did not report to the parish, instead she notified area officials of IBUKA, the umbrella organization of genocide survivors.

The site is located directly infront of the Cyanika Catholic parish. The land has been farmland with various crops.

The church is covered with a large compound where nuns and priests have lived for decades, even before 1994.

A few meters away, is the Cyanika genocide memorial site where about 40,000 victims are laid to rest. The function opening this site in 2012 was graced the First Lady Jeannette Kagame, as that is her home area.

According to Kanamugire Venuste, the IBUKA area coordinator, after being tipped off by the woman who first saw the human remains, they immediately went to the spot.

The exhumation found remains of 10 victims. They continued with the process and by this past Saturday had uncovered 90 victims.

Nyamagabe district, was previously Gikongoro prefecture during the genocide, which was the headquarters of the infamous French-controlled zone turquoise, covering southwestern Rwanda.

Tens of thousands of Tutsis were massacred by a combined force government troops and civilian militias the Interahamwe. French troops lured Tutsi to gather in camps, schools and churches, and then left to allow the massacres to start.

At the Murambi technical school for example, tens of thousands of Tutsis were killed. French soldiers dumped them in mass grave, and to stop them from smelling, tones of lime were pour into the mass grave.

The bodies did not decompose. Instead, they remained full body structures. After the genocide ended, the remains were exhumed. The site is now a memorial site and center for genocide studies. Visitors are shocked by the view of full body structures in the facility.

Back to the Cyanika parish, local officials say there will have to be an investigation to find out if the nuns and priests living in the parish didn’t know about the mass grave in their garden.

It is 25 years, but remains of victims are still being found.

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