SURF is campaigning to raise £3,000 for the construction of a memorial wall in Kiziguro that will list the names of the 3,000 people massacred at the town’s parish church and dumped in a nearby pit.
Survivors and relatives of those murdered at Kiziguro finally saw a degree of justice delivered this April, when a key mastermind of the slaughter of 11 April 1994 was sentenced by the ICTR to life imprisonment, albeit 17 years late. Building on this, the memorial wall will ensure that the dead are remembered with dignity, and that survivors may rebuild their lives.
Within days of the genocide beginning, genocidaires under Jean Baptiste Gatete, in Kiziguro, slaughtered around 3,000 people who, as in so many other parts of Rwanda, had sought refuge in a local church. Some victims were forced to dump the bodies in a nearby pit before they too were killed and tossed amongst the dead.
SURF has criticised the ICTR for the protracted and expensive process by which it has delivered convictions. Gatete’s trial is a case in point. He was arrested in 2002, but only this year was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity.
By contrast, Augustin Nkundabazungu, a senior commander alongside Gatete during this massacre, had a much quicker route to justice under gacaca. He was arrested in August 2010, tried, convicted, and given a penal sentence of life imprisonment, currently under appeal.
Convictions are a key element of restorative justice for survivors. While due process, embodied by the ICTR, is clearly essential, the more informal gacaca can be more efficient.
Miraculously, 11 survivors were rescued from the Kiziguro mass grave by RPF troops when they liberated the area six days after the massacre. Seven are still alive today, but live in extreme poverty. SURF plans, alongside the memorial wall project, to establish a fund to support them in rebuilding their lives.
The current Kiziguro memorial project originated from an appeal from Immaculee, a survivor who escaped to the UK, whose mother, brother and other family members were killed at the site:
“I am trying to raise some money to write the names [somewhere near the grave/within the compound] of all the people who were killed in the church and were then thrown into the mass grave. I cannot afford it on my own; I have even been looking for a weekend job, no luck. I genuinely need some help and SURF’s assistance. It upsets me because entire families are in the grave and it hurts to think that they will be forever forgotten someday.”