Genocide memorial sites in good state will not be relocated in line with plans to have fewer but well-maintained monuments.
A new draft law has clauses that sought to bring together various scattered memorial sites, many of which have since fallen into disrepair, under one roof to ease their management, but the Minister for Sports and Culture, Julienne Uwacu, said this will not be the case.
Uwacu made the clarification, yesterday, while meeting members of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Unity, Human Rights and Fight Against Genocide, as part of ongoing debate in the committee about the draft law that the government tabled before Parliament in July.
In the draft law, local government officials are given the right to relocate some memorial sites scattered around districts to one designated in each district site.
Legislators have been wondering if the arrangement doesn’t mean that several Genocide memorial sites across the country will be relocated, often against the will of survivors and conservationists.
However, Uwazu said it will not be the case because there will be more than one memorial site in a district legally put under the category of district memorial sites and it means several sites that are in good shape will remain where they are under the care of districts.
A provision in the draft law stipulating that all Genocide memorial sites that are not in the category of national memorial sites, special memorial sites, or international memorial sites will have to fall under the category of district memorial sites had left confusion on whether there will be only one site in an entire district.
According to Article 16 of the draft law, the remains of Genocide victims buried in locations other than memorial sites will be reburied with dignity when their families take the initiative or in agreement with district officials.
This means remains of Genocide victims that did not get a decent burial or victims who are buried in a place considered not safe enough will be accorded befitting burial in sites designated and protected by districts.
The MPs insisted that Genocide memorial sites that are not in sorry states should be left intact and protected because Genocide survivors want to find remains of their loved ones at places with a significant historic meaning to the circumstances surrounding their killing.
“It should be clear in the law that memorial sites that are in good condition will not be relocated,” said MP Jacquéline Mukakanyamugenge.
Both MPs François Byabarumwanzi, who heads the parliamentary Standing Committee on Unity, Human Rights and Fight Against Genocide, and Iphigénie Mukandera suggested that clear standards be defined in the law about how to define a Genocide memorial site in good condition.
“We need to set standards for memorial sites to ensure that we know exactly what we mean by ‘good conditions,’” Mukandera said.
Why local governments matter
The Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), Dr Jean Damascène Bizimana, told the MPs that making districts legally responsible for managing Genocide memorial sites has a lot of advantages.
It will reduce the number of rundown sites as it is currently not clear who is in charge of maintaining them, according to Bizimana.
“Districts are in a good position to make decisions and they have the financial means to take care of the sites,” he said.
Activists have also warned that the new law should not make it possible to destabilise Genocide memorial sites that host important history about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Naphtal Ahishakiye, the executive secretary of the umbrella of Genocide survivor associations, Ibuka, suggested that memorial sites should be located in places easily accessible by survivors.
“No one needs to walk long distance to go and pay respects to their loved ones,” Ahishakiye said.
Charles Habonimana, who heads the association of former student Genocide survivors, warned against moving remains from one place to another and called instead for investing in their preservation where they are.
The proposed law governing ceremonies to commemorate the Genocide against Tutsi and genocide memorial sites will be replacing the 2008 law governing memorials and cemeteries of victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi.