The four sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List are the sites of Nyamata, Murambi, Gisozi and Bisesero, UNESCO said.
These four sites commemorate the massacres which bloodied Rwanda for around a hundred days between April and July 1994, targeting the Tutsi ethnic group and which claimed more than 1 million victims, according to the Ministry of Unity and civic Engagements, “MINUBUMWE”.
The government of Rwanda welcomes this step.
“The historic inscription of genocide memorial sites on UNESCO world heritage increases international visibility and honors the memory of the victims they represent throughout the world. This renaissance strengthens the fight against the denial of genocide and will serve to educate present and future generations,” indicated the Minister of Unity and Civic Engagement, Jean Damascene Bizimana who represented the government of Rwanda in a decisive summit of the Unesco held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this Wednesday.
Located on Gisozi Hill a few km from the center of the capital Kigali, the Genocide Memorial, built in 1999 and inaugurated in 2004, is the main one of some 200 places of remembrance which dot the land of a thousand hills.
The site notably houses the remains of 250,000 victims of the genocide found in the streets, houses, mass graves and rivers of Kigali and its surroundings.
This site is most often visited by the Forum for Vigilante Memory, FMV. This NGO also accompanies visitors to reflect and immerse themselves in history to fully understand how to fight against these tragedies, a source and foundation for peace education.
The FMV appreciates this step.
Genocide was defined during the first session of the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 1946 as “a denial of the right to life of human groups”, whether these “racial, religious, political and other groups were destroyed entirely or in part” (resolution 96), recalls Ferdinand Ndayiragije, legal representative of the FMV.
“The registration of the four memorial sites which occupy an important place in our lives thanks to the link between the past and the present, is a remarkable contribution of UNESCO in the fight against the forgetting of a most serious evil. extreme crimes against humanity and the expansion of genocidal ideology,” he insists.
In collaboration with other partner NGOs such as the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience and the AEGIS-Trust which runs the Kigali Genocide Memorial at Gisozi on behalf of Rwanda’s Ministry of National Unity & Civic Engagement, the FMV also organizes training on peace education, leadership, non-violent communication and even reconciliation at the Gisozi memorial. More than a hundred civil society actors, journalists, community leaders in refugee settings and committed young people have already benefited from these training sessions.
In this museum retracing the history of Rwanda, the visitor finds himself confronted with display cases displaying skulls, bone fragments, torn clothing, piled up images, portraits of victims and weapons – machetes, clubs, rifles – used by the genocidaires.
The other UNESCO classified sites were the scene of the bloodiest absolute evil of the genocide.
In the Nyamata church, about forty kilometers south of Kigali, 50,000 people who had sought refuge there were massacred in one day.
The building has been transformed into a memorial representative of other churches in which victims of the genocide died, UNESCO says on its website.
On Murambi Hill, about 150 km southwest of Kigali, local authorities and the former Rwandan armed forces called in April 1994 on the Tutsi population to regroup in a technical school group under construction under the pretext of guaranteeing their security, before massacring them. Between 45,000 and 50,000 people died there.
The Bisesero site notably commemorates the resistance led, with spears, machetes and sticks, by Tutsi against the genocidaires who murdered hundreds of people in the hills of this region in the west of the country.
The Bisesero massacres are one of the most sensitive episodes of the genocide, and more than 50,000 Tutsi were lynched there.
For UNESCO, “heritage is the legacy of the past that we benefit from today and that we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage constitutes an irreplaceable source of life and inspiration.”
The Forum for Vigilante Memory (FMV), an organization under Rwandan law, which is based on the values of Memory, Education and Prevention, supports this approach by UNESCO.
The march towards UNESCO recognition of these sites has been underway since 2012. The government of Rwanda, local communities, national and international experts and relevant advisory groups as well as other actors have collaborated closely to this end.
The four memorials become the first sites of memory on the African continent to be included on the UNESCO heritage list.
Some of the FMV pictures on the Kigali Genocide Memorial, one of the four sites inscribed by UNESCO on its world heritage list.