On Thursday 13th February 2020, Israeli Ambassador to Rwanda, Ron Adams visited Murambi genocide memorial site and paid respect to more than 50,000 victims of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, who are laid to rest at the memorial.
After explanations about the history of the Genocide against the Tutsi at Murambi, he was guided to a tour of different parts of the memorial.
Murambi genocide memorial centre is located in Nyamagabe District and is one of the four genocide memorial sites that Rwanda has started the process to get them listed on UNESCO world heritage.
About the genocide against the Tutsi at Murambi
Following the assassination of President Habyarimana on 6th April 1994, road blocks were constructed and an announcement was broadcasted, prohibiting people from leaving their homes. The genocide in Gikongoro was exceptionally well-planned. Interahamwe militias armed with guns immediately began killing Tutsi, then looting and burning their houses. The Interahamwe had received military training in the former Mudasomwa Commune and were organised and efficient. Some Tutsi who survived attacks in neighbouring towns fled to Gikongoro because they assumed it would be safer.
The leaders in Gikongoro had planned the genocide in advance and were ready to implement it. The group of leaders coordinating the specifics of the genocide operations included: Laurent Bukibaruta of Gikongoro Prefecture, Felicien Semakwavu of Nyamagabe Commune, and military officers, including Captain Faustin Sebura who commanded the Gendarmerie Camp in Gikongoro. The leaders informed the Tutsi that they were unable to protect them if they remained widely dispersed and that they would be given a safe escort to a place in Murambi where they could be protected.
Over a period of two weeks, Tutsi were sent or taken to Murambi until an estimated 50,000 were gathered at the Murambi Technical School. The water pipes leading to the school were cut and they were deprived of food. This had the effect of weakening the Tutsi at Murambi to the point that resistance to attack would be difficult. To ensure that Hutus who had fled to Murambi would not be caught up in the massacre that was planned, they were separated and given a place of safety at a private secondary school.
On the 18th April 1994, the interim president of Rwanda during the genocide, Theodore Sindikubwabo, held a meeting with administrative leaders and military officers in Gikongoro. That evening, following the meeting, the first attack took place. The Tutsi defended themselves using stones and bricks from the site and repelled the first attack. A similar attack took place the following day and was repelled. Elemental in planning and executing the massacre at Murambi was Emmanuel Nteziryayo, a former burgomaster in this area.
Following what amounted to two days of probing attacks, the main assault commenced on 21st April. Armed with guns and grenades, the first attacks started in the early hours of the morning. A substantial force had been assembled for the attack, enabling the school to be encircled to prevent escape. Interahamwe militia, policemen, and Hutus from the surrounding communes joined the attack. Surrounded on all sides, the Tutsi were unable to defend themselves or escape. The Murambi Technical School sits on a hill with open sides containing no cover; therefore the attackers were able to approach the school building in a tight circle and could clearly see and kill anybody trying to escape down the hill. Tutsi were killed in the main school building, in the classrooms, and outside where they were hiding. The few that managed to escape sought refuge at the Cyanika Parish Church but the Interahamwe attacked that church, too, killing those inside.
The following day, 22nd April, leaders and French soldiers organised bulldozers to dig mass graves. Thousands of bodies were buried in mass graves over which the French soldiers built a volleyball court in order to cover them. Subsequently, the French armed forces leading Operation Turquoise established their headquarters at the Murambi killing site.
Today Murambi serves as one of the eight National Genocide Memorial Sites, and contains the remains of more than50, 000 victims killed at the technical school, including some remains exhumed from the surrounding area. Only 34 people from this site are believed to have survived the genocide. The 21st of April every year is dedicated to the commemoration of the victims of Murambi.