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Saturday 25 October  

Rwanda to unveil genocide archive

Published on 10 December 2010 - 5:10pm
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A state genocide archive drawing together thousands of audio-visual and photographic files documenting Rwanda's mass killings of 1994 was to be unveiled in Kigali on Friday.

The Rwandan Genocide Archive is an effort to group together all documents on the 1994 killings, in which an estimated 800,000 people, mostly minority Tutsis, were killed.

The project, which comprises a physical and digital archives and a research project, will be inaugurated later Friday by Rwandan Prime Minister Bernard Makuza.

It was set up by the British-based Aegis Trust and Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide.

The physical archive is based at the genocide memorial in Gisozi, a district of Kigali.

"In comparison to the largest genocide archives - for example Yad Vashem in Jerusalem or the Shoah Foundation Institute at USC in California, the Genocide Archive of Rwanda is an infant, but will develop significantly over the next decade," Aegis Trust chief executive James Smith told AFP.

In Yad Vashem there are 55 million pages of documents, nearly 100,000 photographs, compared to 20,000 documents and photographs combined in the Rwandan archive.

"In Kigali we have 1,500 tapes of audio-visual film footage and testimonies of survivors, compared to the Shoah Foundation's 238,000 thirty-minute tapes of 52,000 Holocaust survivor testimonies," said Smith, who also runs Britain's only memorial to the Holocaust.

He said the Kigali archive's research programmes "will continue to trace materials from the genocide period, to map and gather information at sites of the genocide, and to record fresh survivor testimony".

"As a survivor, having access to all these testimonies brings comfort and gives you hope. You see that you're not the only one who suffered and you see how other people managed to live again after the genocide," Yves Kamuronsi, the young Rwandan who heads the archive, told AFP.

"It's hard though. There are memories that keep coming back to me."

The digital database, set up with help from the University of Texas Libraries, will make all of the archive material available to researchers through a cross-referenced system that allows keyword searches.

An integral part of the research programmes will be the creation of a GPS-mapped database of Rwanda's genocide sites.

The idea is to combine the use of GPS technology with site photography and interviews with survivors, perpetrators and eyewitnesses at the locations of roadblocks and mass graves. Over 1,000 relevant sites have been identified in Kigali alone.

"The Rwandan genocide will not necessarily leave a permanent scar on the nation’s landscape," said David Kirk, Lecturer in Human Computer Interaction at Nottingham University's School of Computer Science.

"This project will allow future generations to see the extent of the genocide in Rwanda even after urban and rural development."

Aegis' Smith said he hopes the archive project "will provide unique and growing evidence for the present and future generations to enquire more about how genocide develops in order to better understand how it may be prevented".

  • The skulls of genocide victims on display at the Ntarama memorial in Rwanda. ...
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