Kayonza to start exhuming remains of Genocide victims from valley dam

It has been two weeks since the start of an improved process to remove water from a valley dam in Kayonza District where thousands of Tutsis were dumped during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Simply called “barrage”, the dam is located between Nkamba Cell in Ruramira Sector and Gikaya Cell in Nyamirama Sector, Kayonza District, and it had always been difficult to excavate victims from a dam full of water.


However, survivors knew it all along that some of their family members were there, and one fine day in 2018 when the water level was down they managed to find 51 bodies, and the number would increase had the rainy season not started that very day.


The exhumed victims were given a decent burial in Ruramira Genocide Memorial during the commemoration period in 2019, but the question was still how all the victims lying in the dam could be exhumed and accorded a burial they deserve.


“The process of drying the dam started in June last year, they were using machines to pump the water out, but it seemed like all the water could not be removed, and that was in the dry season,” Longin Gatanazi, Executive Secretary of Ruramira Sector, told The New Times.

For the last two weeks, Rwanda Agriculture Board deployed equipment to excavate a way out for the water, and the official says the technique is working, although it is a rainy season, any water reaching the dam immediately finds its way out.

“We are removing the water, and within two days, the whole dam will be drained by at least Friday morning, we will start searching for bodies in the area,” he added.

Gatanazi said exhumation will done by volunteers from the two sectors, with presence of some Genocide survivors in particular.

But since it is in times of the Coronavirus pandemic, with the country on lockdown, people are not being allowed to make unnecessary movements and gatherings, the official said the exhumation work will not involve a large number of people to avoid the Coronavirus spread.

Emmanuel Musoni, a 50-year old resident of Sabununga Village, Nkamba Cell, Ruramira Sector, is one of the genocide survivors who lost family members, including his father.

“I had to go there yesterday to see for myself. I saw the water quickly exiting the dam. Now we will be able to find the bodies that we could not find before. Draining the dam was all we have been waiting for,” he added.

Elisa Nziyoroshya, president of Ibuka, the umbrella body of genocide survivors associations in Ruramira Sector, said: “Giving a decent burial to your loved one is a relief that words cannot describe”.

“There were many, many Tutsis dumped in the dam during the Genocide. Some were from Rwamagana and Ngoma, while others were from Kayonza and other places, all over the places, there is no exact number,” he explained.

Some suggest a bigger number, but most people believe that around 3,000 Tutsis were dumped in this water body, which also matches with the estimation made by Didace Ndindabahizi, chairperson of Ibuka in Kayonza District.

Ndindabahizi, however, pointed out the remaining challenge in the exhumation process could be the fact that the surface would still be wet if the sun does not shine: “A sunshine for a few hours will be enough to do the work,” he discussed.

Gatanazi, the Executive Secretary of Ruramira, clarified that removing the water from the dam was difficult because it was built in a traditional way, adding that modern dams are built in a way that allows people to drain it easily whenever they want to.

The dam was constructed by Chinese engineers in the 1970s to irrigate vegetables and rice plantations in the marshland between the districts of Kayonza and Rwamagana, formerly communes of Kabarondo and Rutonde, respectively.


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