•Habineza, Museminali’s explanations fail to convince House
Continued abuse of Genocide remains in Uganda sparked heated debate in parliament yesterday, as lawmakers failed to hold their tempers over the delayed intervention to give the remains, a decent burial.
The lawmakers’ reactions comes after a parliamentary Standing Committee on Unity, Human Rights and the fight against Genocide chaired by Evariste Kalisa, released a damning report on the general situation of Genocide remains buried in Uganda.
During the Genocide, victims were dumped in the Akagera and Nyabarongo rivers — both tributaries of Lake Victoria — and were washed down and landed at different shores of East Africa’s biggest lake.
Details of the report made the lawmakers summon the Minister of Sports and Culture, Joseph Habineza, and Rosemary Museminali of Foreign Affairs, to inform parliament what the government has done so far in conserving and reburying the bodies.
Both ministers gave seemingly brief explanations on what has been done in the past but less was said about what is being down to date.
Addressing MPs, Habineza gave a brief background of how the bodies where thrown into the rivers and how they were buried in several mass graves in the neighbouring country.
“We have previously sent several officials to Uganda to assess the situation; we also sent over Rwf50m to our embassy there to exhume and rebury the bodies but Ugandan authorities blocked them” said Habineza.
In her intervention Minister Museminali said that the recent visit of the MPs to Uganda helps in putting more pressure on the authorities there to assist in giving a decent burial to 1994 Genocide victims.
“Apart from previous dialogue between the two governments, of late I talked to the Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister (Sam Kutesa) and he pledged support”, said Museminali.
She however hastened to add: “Kutesa rejected the proposal of exhuming the bodies and said that we can only cement the areas where the bodies are buried because the culture in Uganda does not allow them to be exhumed.”
The lawmakers’ tempers flared when they were offered a chance to ask the two ministers questions.
MP Gideon Kayinamura provoked heated debates when he took the floor, first questioning the general situation of memorial sites in the country.
MP Jacqueline Mukakanyamugenge blamed Habineza’s ministry for not paying the people who are conserving the mass graves.
“I am wondering whether you understand the impact of this issue. The government of Rwanda owes these people money. The minister should tell us when they will be paid” questioned the visibly angry Mukakanyamugenge.
Several reports indicates that the bodies buried in Uganda are approximately 11,000, but member of parliament Alfred Rwasa refutes the reports saying the figures are higher than that.
“I am informed of one ditch that has about 25,000 bodies, there are more of those and the number of bodies are likely to be close to 100,000,” he said.
Françoise Mukayisenga requested that the bodies be exhumed and brought to Rwanda but also expressed her dissatisfaction over the ministers’ explanations.
“The Ministers should respond to us in writing otherwise I am personally not contented with their explanations”, said Mukayisenga.
Part of what has stirred controversy is the wording on the sites that reads “victims of the Rwandan conflict”, which, according to authorities should be “Victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.”
MP Theoneste Begumisa told the House that Uganda is one of the few countries that recognised the Genocide of Tutsis and asked whether Rwanda had requested Uganda to change the wordings on the sites and it refused.
He particularly pointed at the abuse of the bodies saying that there is a problem of security if the bodies are being used for witchcraft.
MP Emmanuel Gatera said: “I am not satisfied with the ministers’ explanations at all; we have heard several promises from Habineza but little has been done. I propose that an ad hoc parliamentary committee be established to investigate any irregularities in this issue.”
Several MPs rounded on the issue of not being convinced by the ministers’ presentations and also requested for a written explanation that should be presented to them before April 7. During the session, members also questioned the poor unkempt condition of memorial sites across the country.
“It is clear that MPs have rejected the presentations from the Ministers and hence we request you to answer the queries raised in a written document.” the Speaker of the Lower Chamber, Rose Mukantabana, said at the end of the session.