24 years later, funerals held for 157 Rwandan genocide victims

A number of Rwandan churches where thousands of people were slaughtered during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda have been turned into memorials, as in this one at Nyamata, located 30 km south of the capital, Kigali. Photo: Fanny Schertzer/Wikimedia Commons
Published April 18, 2018

The recently discovered bodies of 157 victims of the Rwandan genocide have been laid to rest in a former Anglican church, alongside the 36,700 victims already buried there.

On April 15, 1994, more than 25,000 people who sought refuge and sanctuary at the Ruhango Anglican Church were slaughtered. The church is now a memorial for the victims.

The massacre at Ruhango was repeated in other churches across Rwanda, which have likewise been converted into memorial spaces.

An estimated 800,000 to one million Rwandans, mostly of the Tutsi minority, were killed by Hutu extremists in a span of 100 days, from April to June 1994.

This week, thousands of mourners gathered at the site to pay their respects to the victims as their bodies were laid to rest in the mass grave.

“It was always a challenge that our people could not get a decent burial,” Gerald Mudahemuka, whose parents and relatives were killed in the church, said in an interview with The New Times newspaper. “We have been searching for them. Now that we found them, we pray that they rest in peace and we will continue to push so we get the remains of other relatives as well.”

One of the few people to survive the slaughter was Claudine Uwizeyimana, who was a teenager when the church was attacked. Speaking at the service, she said, “On April 14, Interahamwe militia [Hutu paramilitary groups] attacked us, but people resisted,” The New Times reported. “The next day they came equipped. At around 10 a.m., they came; there was initially some resistance but the killers were ready and well-armed. They shot people from outside the church before breaking the doors and windows and entered, many were killed, including my brother.”

The Rwandan government says it will continue to support survivors of the genocide and help to locate other bodies.


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