Nyarubuye Genocide Memorial

Outside of the capital, Kigali, Rwanda is split along geographical lines into four provinces. Each province is divided into districts which are then further sub divided into sectors.

I am living and working in Kirehe District which is in the Eastern Province.  The two schools that I will be supporting are in Nyarubuye Sector.

Nyarubuye Sector has a genocide memorial centre about forty minutes by moto-taxi from Nyakarambi. Yesterday afternoon Dorothy arranged a visit for the four new VSO volunteers plus a near neighbour, Kyle from New York State, who is placed at a nearby secondary school through the World Teach programme.     

There was another bone shaking cross-country scramble, in convoy, during which the moto carrying John developed  throttle problems grinding to a halt on one of the steep ascents and causing him to slip off the back, the first of us to bite the dust.  Fortunately it was just a matter of hurt pride.  

The Nyarubuye memorial is centred on a large red brick church and what was an adjoining convent. 51,000 genocide victims have been laid to rest in a mass graves nearby. Bodies continue to be recovered and buried, even now, 16 years on.

Although they were only 20 km or so from the safety of the Tanzanian border, rather than fleeing the country, a large number of Tutsis from this region had sought refuge in the church and the convent in the belief that it would afford them sanctuary.

Unfortunately this was not the case and 5000 of them were massacred in a single day. Our guide described in some detail the barbaric way in which victims were defiled and slaughtered. The convent now houses piles of clothes belonging to the victims, implements with which they were tortured and slaughtered and cases full of broken skulls and bones – lest anyone should forget or attempt refute what happened.

Mounted on the front of the church is a statue of Christ with arms outstretched. One of his hands is missing. There is a belief by some that it fell away because the hand of God was unable to prevent such apalling acts of genocide.

3 Responses

  1. One hell of an experience Phil! Where was the good Lord to let it happen? I hope there will be pleasanter visits to come. All the best, gerry.

  2. Have seen Nyarubuye featured in documentaries which was horrific enough. It must have been quite a sobering experience. Education has to be part of the healing process and a building block for the future.

    • Hi Keith,

      Nice to hear from you.

      The school I visited today at Nyabitare, which is in Nyarubuye Sector, has a genocide memorial backing on to the school grounds. This school, which is one I’ll be supporting for the next 3 months, has an Anti-genocide ‘club’ as well as an Ant-Aids ‘club’. It is quite common and very necessary.

      I hope the Cherry & Whites have picked up by the time I get back. I look forward to catching up over a pint.

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