The remains of over 25,000 victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi were on Sunday accorded a decent burial at the recently refurbished Cyanika Memorial Site in Nyamagabe District.
The bodies were exhumed from three mass graves near Cyanika Catholic Church.
According to testimonies, information about the existence of the mass graves only came to light a few years ago; a reason which could justify why they had not been buried almost 18 years on.
The exact number of Tutsis who were dumped in the mass graves is not known, but it is estimated to be between 25,000 and 30,000 or over.
According to survivors who sought refuge at Cyanika Catholic Church, a list compiled on April 11, 1994 by the then authorities contained names of about 30,000 people.
“Other people seeking refuge at this church also arrived in the following days, thinking that they would be safe. The number of those who perished here might be above what we think today. We should start with this list to look for the exact number of those who were killed here,” said Senator Jean Damascene Bizimana, who survived the Cyanika killings.
A mammoth crowd of local residents, survivors and top government officials joined those whose relatives were laid to rest last Sunday in the ceremony.
Ministers Aloysea Inyumba (Gender and Family Promotion), Ignace Gatare of ICT, Agnes Binagwaho of Health and the Minister of Labour, Anastase Murekezi, attended the ceremony.
Also present was the Vice President of the Senate, Bernard Makuza and several lawmakers.
A Catholic priest, Father Joseph Niyomugabo, was among those whose remains were buried last weekend.
According to testimonies, the priest refused to abandon Tutsis who had sought refuge at the parish though he was being pushed to do so by his superiors. He was reportedly paraded naked in the area before being killed by Interahamwe militia.
“This day is very important in our lives as our beloved ones are laid to rest in a decent manner. We were impatient to see our families, relatives and friends given the respect they deserve,” said André Martin Karongozi, a survivor.
The president of the umbrella organisation of Genocide survivors associations’ IBUKA, Dr Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, remarked that the burial was possible due to reconciliation efforts.