By Daniel Sabiiti and Julius Rwakarema
Prisoners convicted of genocide crimes have agreed to divulge exact whereabouts of victims’ bodies from the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.
Officials from Rwanda Corrections Services said at least nine inmates have offered to provide this information as soon as possible.
Assistant Commissioner of Prisons (ACP) Hilary Sengabo, spokesman for Rwanda Correction Services, said that the prisoners are inmates in Rubavu, Muhanga and Rwamagana districts.
Rwanda Genocide Survivors Association (Ibuka) President Professor Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu welcomed the developments but said it is only a first step.
“The association has for years been denied the right to know whereabouts of genocide victims, so as to be given a decent burial 23 years on,” Dusingizemungu said. “We should be getting more information from more than just nine convicted genocide inmates.”
Rwanda Governance Board estimates that about 20 percent of genocide victims’ bodies are still scattered around the country in unknown locations, and attributes the lack of information about their whereabouts to genocide ideology and denial.
On April 12, 2017, eight bodies were found hidden under the floor of the sitting room of the family of Boniface in Nyakabanda sector, Nyarugenge district.
Boniface, who is serving a jail term on genocide charges, allegedly told his wife the location of the bodies, but she kept the information secret, despite survivors asking for information over the last decades.
Bodies buried under Boniface’s house were only discovered after a tip from one of his children.
In Bugesera district, Silas Tujyinama, 64, announced during a commemoration event on in Mwogo sector on April 11 that he had killed two people during the Genocide against Tutsi. He has since been arrested.
Bodies have been uncovered in other ways throughout the year.
In January, excavation crews in Gatare Village working on the site for the new Bugesera International Airport uncovered the bodies of two people believed to be victims of the Genocide. The bodies were exhumed from the plot of an Adventist church.
In March, hundreds of genocide victims were exhumed from a mass grave in Kinazi sector of Ruhango district, Southern Rwanda.
During this year’s genocide commemoration period, residents in other communities also provided information on the whereabouts of some genocide victims’ remains.
According to a 2016 research conducted by the ministry of Local Government, more than 1 million people were killed during the Genocide against Tutsi, but the location of many victims’ bodies is still unknown.