MPIGI DISTRICT - During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, thousands of dead bodies of Genocide victims were heartlessly dumped in the Akagera and Nyabarongo rivers — both tributaries of Lake Victoria.
Their dead bodies were helplessly washed down and landed at different shores of East Africa’s biggest lake. They were later buried at six different mass graves in Uganda. One such site is Ggolo in Mpigi District which is home to 955 bodies.
This southern town of Uganda is about 100 Kilometres from the capital, Kampala where the Rwandan community in Uganda and friends gathered to mark the 15th commemoration of the Genocide.
Apart from a prayer service held at the burial ground, during the official ceremony certificates of appreciation were given to three men for their exceptional behaviour.
Two fishermen (Geoffrey Kasumba and Waswa), who fished the dead bodies from the shores of the Lake, sometimes with bare hands and helped in burying them were recognised during the event.
Another one who was recognised was Mohamood Thobani, a Ugandan businessman with Asian roots, who generously donated his land to be the resting ground for the fallen Genocide victims.
In an interview, Kasumba recollects his experience during 1994 saying the horror of witnessing broken bodies and rotten flesh continues to evoke vivid memories. 15 years down the road, Kasumba still wonders what could have caused such human tragedy.
“Up to today I keep wondering and asking myself what prompted people to kill each other like that. The memory of the dead bodies disturbs me, and in fact personally I stopped eating fish for almost 4 years after 1994.”
“I saw bodies floating like fish in the water. Their bodies had missing limbs. Some would come without legs and arms, and at times we came across the different bodies’ parts alone. It was very difficult to find a dead body with all the limbs of a human being. My eyes will never forget what they saw.”
“The whole village was filled with fear. At first we did not know where the bodies we coming from but we later heard media reports that people in Rwanda were killing each other in Rwanda and there was a severe war. We were told people these bodies were being dumped in a river in Rwanda (Nyabarongo) and were flowing through Kagera River into Lake Victoria.”
“It was rare to find a single body floating because most of the bodies were tied in bundles. They came in large numbers for about three months that we stopped fishing on the Lake. We even stopped eating fish because we knew the fish were feeding on these human bodies. It took a very long time for to resume our fishing business again.”
According to Kasumba, when dead bodies intensified around the Lake, several NGOs including the Red Cross and CONCERN facilitated the villagers to form a burial task force that helped to bury the remains in mass graves at the site.
“Everybody was concerned. We eventually received support from different charity organisations that provided us with gloves to use. We had to bury the decomposing remains in several mass graves to prevent outbreak of diseases.”
“I will never forget what I saw. My prayer is that whoever was behind the killings is also punished. ”
The six burial sites are soon to be consolidated into three well tended memorial sites following a report by a team of Rwandan parliamentarians last month visited and found the sites unkempt.