District memorial sites in bad shape due to lack of funds

Wednesday April 17 2019

urwibutso

The Kigina memorial site on the roadside behind a banana plantation and a home. PHOTO | DANIEL S NTWARI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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Inadequate funding at the district level is cited as the obstacle in plans to keep a number of genocide memorial sites in a good state.

A limited annual budget has forced several districts to fundraise and seek donations from private and public institutions in order to maintain and rehabilitate memorial sites.

Districts are expected to prioritise funding for setting up modern genocide memorial sites following a legislation that compels them to consolidate scattered memorial sites into modern facilities that preserve the victims’ remains in a sustainable way.

According to IBUKA — the umbrella association of the survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi — a few districts had managed to build a number of memorial sites, but majority need major facelifts or complete revamping. Several memorial sites could be merged for better management, a proposal already endorsed by the government and now awaits implementation by respective districts.

“You find that most districts have six or more memorial sites and make annual allocations to work on them one by one, but this can take long.

What is needed is set timelines under which work on critical memorial sites should be completed,” said Naphtal Ahishakiye, IBUKA executive secretary.

Jeam Marie Vianney Gatabazi, a former legislator who is the governor of the Northern Province, said that as districts engage in budget negotiations for the next fiscal year, most will need to plan on having fewer but well-maintained genocide memorial sites.

“We are aware about the financial limitations that districts have been having, but that doesn’t mean that memorial sites face in their quest for reliable information about genocide history.

For instance, the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) has cited instances of parents being unwilling to talk to their children about the genocide history.

“It is really unfortunate having young people implicated in cases of genocide ideology and related crimes. This is why we believe that Kwibuka (commemoration), serves as a key platform for information about the history as well as other platforms such as anti genocide clubs in schools,” said Fidele Ndayisaba, NURC’s executive secretary.

Rising number

An analysis of the cases of genocide ideology and related crimes over the past three years shows the cases have been on the rise for those who were 13 years old during the genocide, who are now 37 years old and above.

Cases of those in this age group increased to 66 per cent in 2018 from about 60 and 36 per cent in 2017 and 2016 respectively.

Another rise in genocide ideology and related crimes was recorded among people born after the genocide now aged between 16 to 23 years, where those implicated increased to 7.2 per cent in 2018 from 3.4 per cent in 2017.

The rate had decreased from 6.5 per cent in 2016. However, Ibuka — an umbrella body for the associations of genocide survivors — said the figures are not alarming and attributed the rise in cases involving young people to an improvement in the reporting mechanism for genocide ideology and denial cases handled by different institutions.

“The numbers are not that alarming considering that over 60 per cent of the country’s population are in the youth category.

This shows that there is another bigger section of the youth that is against the denial and that gives us hope of a better future,” said IBUKA executive secretary, Naphtali Ahishakiye.

Data recorded during the past three years shows there has been a decline in genocide trivialisation, denial and related offences among the youth who were minors during the genocide now aged between 24 to 36, having reduced from 54.4 per cent in 2016 to 32 per cent in 2017 and 24 per cent last year.

Incidence of trivialising or denying the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in the youth were in the form of anonymous notes spreading hate or threatening genocide survivors, divisionism, attacks and damage to property belonging to survivors, among others.

The National Commission for the Fight against Genocide, which organises Kwibuka, said the 25th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi puts emphasise on the youth, most of whom “know nothing, or very little about the history of the Genocide,” according to Jean Damascene Bizimana, the chairperson.

In the age of the Internet, officials told Rwanda Today the objective is to ensure young people are well equipped to handle the information told to them by potential divisionists and to even take the necessary steps to fight genocide deniers.

Young people who talked to Rwanda Today said there was still a lot to do about genocide history. Jean de Dieu Murwanashyaka, Eugene Dufitumukiza, Jean Paul Iradukunda, Sylvestre Habiyaremye and Jean Pierre Mutuyimana, students at the University of Rwanda were all born after the genocide.

They said they found out about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi through conversations with their parents, in schools or when attending a public speech during the commemoration period or by visiting memorial sites.

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