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

“Trois milles victims du genocide”, three thousand genocide victims, the painted slogan tells us, died here in the Grande Séminaire of Nyakibanda and environs, between April 20-23, 1994.

Established in 1936 by the Roman Catholic Church, the Grande Seminary was Rwanda’s leading training center for Catholic clergy. In 1994, it served as one of Butare’s most notorious massacre sites. Together with Nyumba parish, it is said to have sustained some of “the highest [fatality] figures for victims in the area,” according to African Rights’ brief history of the genocide in Gishamvu sector.

Curiously, the information that “[t]rois milles victimes du genocide” were murdered here is painted on the inside of the memorial’s foot-high surrounding wall, and thus de facto hidden from view for anyone but the most inquisitive visitor. In 2001, President Paul Kagame was among the visitors paying respect to the victims of genocide in this community west of Butare, attending that year’s official commemoration ceremony.

Given the vast expanse of the Grande Seminary, even today, when its influence has waned, it is somewhat surprising to find that the Nyakibanda memorial is tucked away in a remote corner of the complex, its size almost negligible compared to its surroundings. In fact, one is hard-pressed to recognize this memorial for what it is. Given the writing emblazoned on the outside, “Nimuruhukire mu mahoro,” (“Rest in Peace”), no visitor could be faulted for mistaking this genocide memorial for one commemorating the legacies of ordinary violence, not the extraordinary violence that undoubtedly was the cause of death of the trois milles victims who are remembered here.

Copyright © 2010 Jens Meierhenrich. All rights reserved.