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Ntarama Genocide Memorial

Ntarama’s former Catholic Church is now a memorial site. 5,000 people were massacred there on 15 August 1994 during the Rwanda Genocide. This church is one of six genocide museums¬†in Rwanda, the site contains human remains, clothing, and artifacts belonging to those who were killed at the church, which remain on display at all times.

Brief History of Ntarama Genocide (Credit to Genocide Archive of Rwanda)

On 13th April, Interahamwe militia under the leadership of Francois Karera, the former leader of the prefecture, conducted a census of the Tutsis at the Ntarama Church. On completion of the count, they told the Tutsis that they wanted them to stay together so that the government could guarantee their security. This was a strategy consistent with actions taken in other places across Rwanda and was intended to draw out and bring together those in hiding. On 15th April, soldiers and Interahamwe militia returned to Nyamata Church and began a coordinated and systematic attack against approximately 5,000 Tutsis who were in the Ntarama church compound. The initial attacks involved soldiers and Interahamwe militia armed with guns and grenades; later that day the Interahamwe entered the church and used machetes and other traditional weapons.

The attacks were particularly violent at Ntarama church, even in the context of the wider genocide that was taking place. Some were tortured until they died; the wombs of pregnant women were cut open as the Interahamwe claimed they wanted to see how an unborn baby Tutsi looks. In the Sunday school building children were swung by their legs and smashed into the walls; the killers claimed that they did not want to waste their bullets.

The attack was led by Francois Karera who commanded the soldiers and Interahamwe as well as groups of civilian Hutus. It is estimated that nearly 5,000 were killed with few survivors.

By 30th April 1994, the focus of the attacks had turned to the Nyabarongo River at Akagera.  Many Tutsis, including those that had survived or escaped Ntarama Church, had hidden in the nearby marshes under cover of the papyrus. The Interahamwe searched the marshes, often using dogs to identify those in hiding, and killed or drowned any Tutsis who were found.

The genocide in Bugesera ended on 14th May 1994 when RPF Inkotanyi soldiers arrived in Nyamata.