Works on the second phase of ‘Jardin de la Mémoire’ (Garden of Memory) for the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi are expected to be completed this month, The New Times has learnt.
Constructing the memorial garden located at Nyanza Genocide Memorial Centre in Kicukiro District was officially launched by First Lady Jeannette Kagame in April, 2019
The Garden of Memory symbolises life and rebirth after the Genocide, as well as the protection that was offered by nature during the Genocide.
Naphtal Ahishakiye, the Executive Secretary of Genocide Survivor Organization- Ibuka said the first phase has been completed while the second phase will be completed by the end of July, 2020, “before embarking on the third and fourth phase that might be combined so as to fast-track the works.”
“The third and fourth phases might be short and we are mulling over combining them as a way of fast-tracking the works. Our wish is that we mark next year genocide commemoration when the memorial garden is complete,” he said.
The garden preparation, which will cover three hectares at a cost of Rwf700 million is being implemented under the support of Ibuka, National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), Imbuto Foundation and Kicukiro District.
Features of memorial garden
Each feature of the memorial garden has a symbol of Rwanda’s tragic history.
The features include a stone monument, a dry garden, the forest of memory, landscape terraces, earth mounds, a meditation corridor, seasonal marshlands, and an amphitheatre.
Marshlands, waterways, rivers, trenches, trees, flowers, pit-holes and others will represent places where victims were killed or thrown dead or alive, retrieved alive or dead during the Genocide.
The dry stone feature simply means we were here as a place of renaissance, the rebirth.
The forest of memory will have indigenous tree varieties, starting with 100 trees for 100 days of suffering and slaughter during the Genocide.
Umurinzi tree (meaning guardian in Kinyarwanda) was planted to keep the memory of genocide survivors’ loved ones alive.
The garden will also have a corridor for meditation with benches and shaded areas for people to relax and meditate.
The open lawn and amphitheatre will be used as a gathering area during commemoration ceremonies.
There will also be a giant monument for flame of hope – six metres high, made of copper, with two upright individuals (a man and woman) – representing dignity and resilience of those who experienced the Genocide.
The earth mounds symbolise Rwanda’s “thousands hills” that provide intimate quiet spaces for meditation and reflection.
Ahishakiye explained that, “so far the garden and many of its features are being completed. Amphitheatre is complete but not yet roofed. Many works are in final touches and there remain cleaning works.”
“The third and fourth phases which will include installation of benches that will also serve visitors to read books in the facility, planting trees, installing lights, completing works for amphitheatre, installing water pipes to water for the garden and others,” he said.
He said the garden of memorial was so much needed to represent the tragic history when over 2,500 Tutsi were killed by Interahamwe-militia in the area after they were abandoned by UN peacekeepers.
They had sought refuge at the former ETO-Kicukiro (currently IPRC-Kigali), which was protected by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR), until the Belgian contingent left the country, leaving them at the mercy of the Interahamwe militia.
Ahishakiye said that as Rwanda marks 26th anniversary of the Liberation Day, the garden of memory is a great achievement that recognizes RPF-Inkotanyi who – on April 11, 1994 – rescued some of the Tutsi who had come to seek refuge in the area.
“Over 2,500 Tutsi were killed on this hill and they are also buried at Nyanza Genocide Memorial Site. In general, over 96,000 genocide remains are buried in this memorial site because remains that are exhumed from different areas of Kigali city are relocated to this site. This means a significant need for a garden of memory on the site,” he explained.Follow NkurunzizaMiche