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

Tens of thousands of victims are remembered at the expansive memorial complex beside and near the town church in Mugina.

The exact number of those who perished, however, is uncertain. Survivors we spoke with estimate that between 38,000 and 45,000 Tutsi were killed in a weeklong period of daily attacks between April 20 and April 27, 1994.

“Where you see the memorial today was originally a plot of land for the church as well as a corral for cows,” recalls a lifelong resident. In early April 1994, she says, men, women, and children from as far away as the capital city, Kigali, fled here in search of protection from roving Interahamwe militia. They did so because the church had provided safety during genocidal attacks in 1973.

This time, however, local officials cut off the supply of food and water, forcing desperate women and children to venture outside to look for sustenance. Some, we are told, were subsequently raped and then often killed. When attackers returned in force starting on April 20 and gunned their way through the church doors, they met no resistance; the crowds remaining inside had been thoroughly weakened by the lack of water and nourishment.

For years afterward, all that the victims in Mugina commemorated were six mass graves and a few crosses, surrounded by a wall. There were also small mass graves across the road from the church and around what is now a driving school.

These days the landscaped complex, completed in 2008, is tidy, contemplative, and vast. Future plans, we learn, include the acquisition and display of photographs of those who perished here—and the continuation of interment: bodies are still being found on the nearby hills.

Copyright © 2010 Jens Meierhenrich. All rights reserved.