New mass graves in Rwanda reveal cracks in reconciliation efforts, 30 years after the genocide

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A Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) rebel walks on May 23, 1994, by the plane wreckage in Kigali in which Rwanda’s late president Juvenal Habyarimana died on April 6. (AP).

HUYE, Rwanda, April 6, (AP): The diggers’ hoes scrape the brown soil, looking for – and often finding – human bone fragments. The women then wipe the bone pieces with their hands as others watch in solemn silence.
The digging goes on, a scene that’s become all too familiar in a verdant area of rural southern Rwanda, where the discovery in October of human remains at the site of a house under construction triggered another search for new mass graves believed to hold victims of the 1994 genocide against Rwanda’s Tutsi.
In the months since, Rwandan authorities say the remains of at least 1,000 people have been found in this farming community in the district of Huye, a surprisingly high number after three decades of government efforts to give genocide victims dignified burials.
As Rwanda prepares to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the genocide next week, continuing discoveries of mass graves are a stark reminder not only of the country’s determination to reconcile with its grim past but also of the challenges it faces in aiming for lasting peace.
Speaking to The Associated Press, the head of a prominent genocide survivors’ group and several other Rwandans said the discoveries underscore that more needs to be done for true reconciliation.
Rwanda has made it a criminal offense to withhold information about a previously unknown mass grave. For years perpetrators of the 1994 genocide, including those who served prison terms and were later released, have been urged to speak up and say what they know.
Yet the mass graves are still mostly found by accident, leading to new arrests and traumatizing survivors all over again.
The October discovery led to the arrest of Jean Baptiste Hishamunda, 87, and four of his relatives.
After the remains of six people were discovered under his home, diggers started going through his entire property, finding dozens and then hundreds more remains as their search extended to other sites in Huye.
An estimated 800,000 Tutsi were killed by extremist Hutu in massacres that lasted over 100 days in 1994. Some moderate Hutu who tried to protect members of the Tutsi minority also were targeted.

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