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

In 1994, Athanase Seromba was a priest in Nyange parish in western Rwanda. Since 2008, he has been serving a life-long prison sentence after a conviction by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, for his role in the destruction of Nyange Church during the genocide sixteen years ago this spring.

Prior to its destruction, the Nyange Church measured 55 meters by 19 meters and seated about 1,500 parishioners. On April 11, 1994, gendarmes from Kibuye prefecture arrived at the Church, and, together with Interahamwe as well as other militia and armed with traditional and conventional weapons, encircled the site, trapping inside the 1,500 or so Tutsi who had sought refuge there. Sporadic violence commenced on April 15, culminating, on the morning of April 16, in the wholesale destruction of the Nyange Church and the killing of some 2,000 persons.

For between 10 am and 5 pm that day, the génocidaires, using at least one bulldozer, eagerly demolished the building’s walls and tower, all of which then collapsed upon and killed most of those under its roof. For his hand in bringing about these deaths, Seromba was found guilty of genocide as well as extermination as a crime against humanity by the ICTR.

Today, on the vast vacant space of the former site of Nyange Church—where nothingness represents loss—one searches in vain for a memorial that would be commensurate with the scale and viciousness of the atrocities perpetrated here. In its stead there are damaged tombs and piles of bricks and a row of headstones covered in weeds.

Copyright © 2010 Jens Meierhenrich. All rights reserved.