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

From a distance, the Ruragwe memorial to the genocide could be mistaken for a small, very pretty garden. Set on a gentle slope next to a banana grove in the rural vicinity of Kibuye, its delicate fence of slender branches held together with scraps of fabric encloses flowering plants, diminutive shrubs—and an uneven patch of grass and eight graves under which lie the bodies of 146 people.

Their remains were gathered here in the late 1990s from crude, haphazard burials where victims met their death on the surrounding hills. Trenches and drains keep the land from becoming soggy during Rwanda’s two annual rainy seasons and from damaging the simple graves. There are no signs, banners, or engravings; the dignity of the victims is conveyed through the quiet simplicity of this memorial and the natural beauty of the surroundings.

Beauty can deceive, however. In 1994, the hills and valleys of Kibuye region were a cauldron of violence, as a series of cases tried before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, readily attest.

There is also the case of Agnès Ntamabyariro, minister of justice in the genocidal regime, accused before Rwanda’s Nyarugenge Court of the First Instance. She hails from Mabanza, a dwelling a mere three miles from Ruragwe. Toward the end of the genocide, Ntamabyariro reportedly traveled to her home region to spur on the violence here. According to African Rights, a non-governmental organization, “She used a microphone to rally the population, criticizing them for ’contenting themselves with killing only a few old women.‘ To urge them on, she allegedly told them that ’When you begin extermination, nothing, no one must be forgiven.‘” Ntamabyariro was sentenced to life imprisonment in January 2009 for her participation in the genocide.

Copyright © 2010 Jens Meierhenrich. All rights reserved.