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Ntarama Genocide Memorial Site

Kigali, Rwanda

Ntarama Genocide Memorial Site

Ntarama is a town in the rural Kigali Province, situated in an area known as Bugesera. The association of Bugesera with genocidal development is a long one. For decades,

there have been forced population movements and frequent massacres.

About an hour's drive southwards from Rwanda's capital city, Kigali, the red-brick church at Ntarama is peacefully situated, shadowed by acacia trees. Ntarama Church, however, is the site where some of the most brutal killings of the 1994 Rwandan genocide took place. The church at Ntarama was seen as a safe place by almost 5000 people, many of whom were women and children and who went there for sanctuary. But Ntarama was not a safe place. The victims of the genocide remain there, their bones still strewn with lifeless chaos where they fell nearly ten years ago. Their belongings cover the floor; clothes, suitcases, a child's white sock - the last remnants of a desperate flight for life.

The Genocide Memorial is located about 30 kilometers south of the capital city of Kigali. Located in the Bugesera region, this church and its contents are a reminder of the horrifying violence that took place at this site during the Genocide against the Tutsi of 1994. Each time prior to 1994, when violence against Tutsis had erupted in Rwanda, the pursued could safely seek refuge in any church and find sanctuary. So when the violence broke out again in April 1994, many Tutsis took refuge in churches as their parents and grandparents had before them. This time however, the church did not save them from being slaughtered. The approximately 5,000 people that fled to Ntarama for safety were murdered.

Ntarama Church is now a small memorial, it never returned to being a church. Inside, light filters through holes in the walls of the church made by grenades. Clothing of the victims hang from the rafters and personal belongings including, pens, pots, sleeping mats, glasses and books lay in piles in the front of the church, near the alter. A number of coffins are stacked up in piles in the front of the church. At the doorway, near the back of the church, there's a large table topped with skulls lined up in rows.

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