Remains of 500 Genocide victims yet to be retrieved from Rwinkwavu mines

Efforts to retrieve the remains of over 500 people killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwinkwavu mines have been futile since 1995.

Efforts to retrieve the remains of over 500 people killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwinkwavu mines have been futile since 1995.

Rwinkwavu Wolfram Mining and Processing Factory is based in Kayonza District, Eastern Province.

The minerals were discovered by Belgian brothers, Gargarathos in 1930, and mining started in 1939 by Ridell and Gastrell (also Belgians).

The failure to exhume the remains was disclosed by the umbrella of survivors associations (Ibuka) and Kayonza authorities, during the closure of the commemoration week in Rwinkwavu Sector on Sunday.

Addressing the mourners, Kayonza mayor John Mugabo said the bodies were buried too deep in the mines.

He said the area in which the bodies were dumped, was planned to be sealed off from mining, adding that it would be turned into a memorial cemetery.

“We have left no stone unturned to try and exhume the bodies but all the efforts are futile. The remains are deep where soils are loose, water is full and physical contact is almost impossible. So, we are giving up any possibility to reach the remains,” he said.

 “We are discussing the possibility of identifying the specific areas where the Genocide victims were dumped, so that they are sealed off for the purpose of respecting the victims,” Mugabo said.

Technicians brought in by the Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG) also reportedly ruled out any possibility of ever retrieving the bodies.

Rwinkwavu was one of the areas where Tutsi used to hide since 1959, when the first Tutsi massacres were conducted countrywide.

It is against such background that many Tutsi took refuge in the area, expecting to survive, just like their grandparents.

Jean Claude Munyeragwe, the  leader of survivors in Rwinkwavu Sector, lamented that the minerals meant to benefit the people were instead used to kill them.

He said organisers of the Genocide in the area used money from the mines to pay the Interahamwe militia that killed the Tutsi in the area.

“Our grandparents hid in this sector during the 1959 Tutsi massacres and were lucky to survive. We thought we would also survive but things turned out differently. Thousands of Tutsi were tortured, killed and dumped in mines,” he said.

A similar problem was also reported in Ruramira Sector, Kayonza District.

Alfred Munyenyiko, a survivor in the area, called for recognition of the mining caves as memorial sites.

“I worked in the mines, so I knew it was impossible to remove the bodies dumped deep in the mines. It demands high level technology which we do not have. Let us just find a proper way to honour the victims without engaging in the futile exercise to retrieve them,” he said.

At least 3,400 bodies of Tutsi killed in Rwinkwavu Sector have so far been accorded decent burial.

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