The Kinigi site is located in Northern Province. Click on the image for a slideshow of photographs. All photographs © 2002-2008 Jens Meierhenrich.

Four massive volcanoes loom over the jagged hillsides of Kinigi sector in Rwanda’s northwest, so high above sea level that it is chilly even in summer. The dark, leafy environment is preferred by Rwanda’s gorillas living eight miles to the west in Virunga National Park, and foreign tourists in search of a glimpse of them have long kept Rwanda’s northwest wealthy compared to the rest of the country.

Between 1990 and 1994, however, these were truly badlands. Tutsi residents—particularly men and boys, according to a local man who showed us the Kinigi memorial—paid a steep price for their ethnicity especially after 1991. Summary executions took place where a wall of the memorial stands today, on a field that was once a government-owned garden. Locals recognized some of the victims then, but soldiers also brought others—strangers—to be murdered, our guide says.

Today mass graves shelter the remains of approximately 90 such victims, while Kinigians continue searching the hillsides for skeletons. The memorial erected here in 2002 beside the busy road linking the town of Ruhengeri and popular tourist hotels for gorilla trekkers was situated in the hopes that potential donors would stop and take pity. So far, they mostly drive right past.

Copyright © 2010 Jens Meierhenrich. All rights reserved.