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New Rwandan genocide archive opens

By Azadeh Ansari, CNN
More than 20,000 documents and photographs relating to the 1994 genocide will be stored at the archive.
More than 20,000 documents and photographs relating to the 1994 genocide will be stored at the archive.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New archive documents 1994 Rwandan genocide
  • Site sits on a slope above the mass graves of more than 250,000 victims
  • The U.N. estimates that more than 800,000 people perished in the genocide
  • GPS technology and survivor archives have helped identify 1,000 relevant sites in Kigali

(CNN) -- The Genocide Archive of Rwanda opened its doors to the public Friday at the Kigali Genocide Memorial grounds in the country's capital, offering an in-depth look at the horrors of the country's 1994 genocide.

The new site rests on the slopes above the mass graves containing the bodies of 250,000 Rwandans murdered in 1994.

The physical archive at the Genocide Archive of Rwanda, showcases 1,500 audiovisual recordings and more than 20,000 documents and photographs from genocide survivors and perpetrators both at the facility and online.

The Rwandan government's National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide and British-based Aegis Trust set up the project in 2003.

"It is very exciting to have this archive. For the past two decades, we have been fighting against the deniers of genocide," said Freddy Mutunguha, director of the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and Rwanda director of the Aegis Trust.

"As a survivor of genocide, it is very painful to hear that someone is denying what happened to yourself, your family and your people. This archive gives me confidence that at least we can fight it with the facts," said Mutunguha.

This new comprehensive archive gives survivors like Mutunguha -- a Tutsi who lost his mother, four sisters and 60 members of his extended family in the genocide -- an opportunity to connect with the rest of the world.

"Although the initial collection is relatively modest, we wanted to make the Genocide Archive accessible to everyone as early as possible in the process of research and acquisitions," said archive manager Yves Kamuronsi.

The Aegis Trust is also collaborating with the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom on a project to create a comprehensive map of Rwanda's genocide sites.

As a survivor of genocide, it is very painful to hear that someone is denying what happened to yourself, your family and your people.
--Freddy Mutunguha, director, the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre
RELATED TOPICS
  • Rwanda
  • Genocide

The database uses GPS technology to map all the genocide sites in Rwanda, matching them with photographs and testimonies from survivors, witnesses and perpetrators.

To date, over 1,000 sites have been identified in Kigali alone.

"The more information we can have about the genocide, [the more] researchers can start to understand how it is that genocides evolve, develop and how governments began to implement it," said Dr. James Smith, CEO and co-founder of Aegis Trust.

Understanding the details, we can then appreciate and recognize the signs and develop strategies to prevent tragedies like genocides and crimes against humanity in other parts of the world, said Smith.

The United Nations estimates that more than 800,000 men, women, and children perished in the Rwandan genocide, perhaps as many as three quarters of the nation's Tutsi population.

"During the genocide, the international community turned their backs to us, they didn't take what was happening seriously. It will be very embarrassing for the international community to see these achieves detailing the facts and not take responsibility to prevent something like this from happening again," said Mutunguha.

 
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