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

Near the top of a sharp incline and surrounded on three sides by dark forest, this memorial is one of those in Rwanda that feels most like a mausoleum, perhaps due to its isolation, long cement tombs, and absence of flowers or other signs of tender care. A high metal roof protects the tombs, which are completely sealed; and though a wooden fence encloses the structure, the memorial is otherwise open to the elements and, forbidding as it is, to visitors.

According to Domina Mukakabera, a survivor of genocide in Rwanda’s west, the victims were originally buried here a decade after the genocide, in May 2004. Perhaps due to its isolation or to other dark reasons, such as the desire to create provocation or destroy evidence or both, the Rugabano memorial was attacked the following year by abagome (“evil men”) who opened up the graves and stole blankets from the caskets, scattering bones in their wake. In addition to this manmade injury to the victims‘ dignity, the memorial has also suffered water damage, requiring that the remains be removed, taken to the district office, washed, treated, and, in July 2007, reburied.

“RIP” is painted at the entrance on a white brick cross-like marker, but in Rugabano a peaceful rest seems difficult to achieve.

Copyright © 2010 Jens Meierhenrich. All rights reserved.