Kwibuka23: Kaboneka warns on reparations

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Kaboneka and other officials look at some of the tools that perpetrators used to butcher the Tutsi inside Ntarama Catholic Church in Bugesera District. / Sam Ngendahimana

Local Government minister Francis Kaboneka, yesterday, urged persons required to pay reparations to survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi to fulfill their end of the bargain and challenged the communities to follow up on such cases.

Kaboneka, who was addressing thousands at Ntarama memorial site in Bugesera District, also delivered a message of hope with more emphasis on remembrance, recovery, unity and compensation of Genocide survivors.

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Minister for local government Francis Kaboneka gives his remarks at Ntarama Genocide Memorial yesterday. / Sam Ngendahimana

The minister had joined the rest of the country to honour victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, on the third day of the national commemoration week.

Minister Kaboneka comforted survivors in the district but reminded people to help in the compensation process.

“We understand that people in this district are reluctant to pay reparations to survivors, this is not acceptable and we don’t need to use force. It is even simple for a person (former convict) to approach a survivor and provide comfort in case of indigence, but there is a need to expedite this process,” he said.

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A wall of the church broken by Interahamwe in the Genocide, currently Ntarama Genocide memorial site.
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Ntarama Genocide Memorial is the second National memorial site in Bugesera, as Nyamata memorial site was also a Catholic Church. / Sam Ngendahimana

According to documents from the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, at least 8,445 cases adjudicated by Gacaca courts have not been executed, in terms of paying reparations to the victims.

The same document also states that 854 court bailiffs have completely failed to execute compensation judgments; 1,016 cases involved genocide convicts who deliberately refused to pay damages, while 1,277 cases have incomplete files.

Kaboneka said Bugesera has the highest number of memorial sites, many of them being former churches and has a unique story of long-time persecution of Tutsi.

“The history here is one of persecution that started long before 1994 because this is where the Tutsi were banished to die because it was an inhabitable place,” he said.

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Dieudonne Munyanshoza sings a mourning song at Ntarama Genocide Memorial. / Sam Ngendahimana
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Some victims' documents seen here archived inside Ntarama memorial site. / Sam Ngendahimana

He said the district, among others, was exposed to serious mass killings before the culmination of 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, recalling mass killings in 1959, 1963, 1972 and 1992.

Churches where people would go for purification, blessings, prayers and holly communion turned into slaughter houses in 1994.

“Those who say that genocide happened in 1994 are doing nothing but a disdain, what took place here in 1994 was just a wind-up of what had long been taking place,” he added.

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Handmade gospel music instrument archived at Ntarama Genocide Memorial, mostly used in Protestant church. / Sam Ngendahimana
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Mourners inside the memorial to honor the victims at Ntarama Genocide Memorial.
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Mourners listen to Chantal Niwemugeni's testimony at Ntarama Genocide Memorial yesterday. / Sam Ngendahimana

Kaboneka urged residents, especially Genocide survivors, to rebuild their lives and get stronger.

“‘Truth’ will always overpower the ‘lie’, this should make us stronger, let us remember with hope, by committing ourselves to live better, decent life, we owe it to ourselves to strive for the better,” he reassured.

Chantal Niwemugeni, who narrated her ordeal during the Genocide, recalled gruesome killings that took place at Ntarama church.

“I have bitter, haunting memories. I can’t forget the choir that used to sing everyday in the compound of the church, its members succumbed to machetes, clubs, and other crude weapons,” she said.

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Genocide survivor Chantal Niwemugeni gives her testimony, she was at Ntarama Catholic Church when Interahamwe attacked the Tutsi. / Sam Ngendahimana

“I can’t forget the noise of killers covered with banana leaves on the April 11, 1994. I can’t forget old people who put up a resistance (in vain), I simply can’t forget, we were suffocated with pepper-like gas, before grenade attacks,” she recalled.

Niwemugeni, a daughter of Deogratias Munyarugarama, who was a teacher in Ntarama Sector, survived with his brother and father, who, after the Genocide also died of trauma-related illness.

According to Niwemugeni, it was a ‘way of the cross’ that started from their home, to Ntarama church, then to Kimpima hill, to former Nyamata parish, to wetlands around River Akagera and so many more places.

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Umurinzi w'Igihango Silas Ntamfurayishyari shares his testimony, he saved lives of some Tutsi in Bugesera during the genocide against the Tutsi. / Sam Ngendahimana

“It reached a time where some of us preferred to commit suicide than to die a horrific death but eventually RPF liberators came to our rescue,” she said.

“I managed to study and earned a Master’s Degree in Finance. As Genocide survivors, don’t give up, soldier on and have embraced hope,” she appealed.

At least 5000 people in the former Ntarama church turned into a national memorial site were killed by Interahamwe militia with the support of former government soldiers from Gako Military Barracks.

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