In 1995, the remains of more than 18,000 men, women and children were exhumed from mass graves at the Murambi Technical School, now known as the Murambi Genocide Memorial Centre in southern Rwanda. Although many bodies decomposed completely, the intense heat formed in the pits allowed some of the skeletal remains to be preserved. Most of these corpses were reburied in in common graves at the memorial centre. However, nearly one thousand corpses were further preserved in lime and placed in the school buildings where they were killed.
On the walls at the Murambi Genocide Memorial Centre are photographs of victims.
Ground workers depart the Murambi Technical School, which is now known as the Murambi Genocide Memorial Centre in southern Rwanda.
Clothing of genocide victims.
In remembrance of the estimated one million victims killed during the 1994 genocide hundreds of memorial sites are maintained throughout Rwanda. This documentation project covers four of the official national sites as well as the Kigali Genocide Memorial: Ntarama Genocide Memorial, Nyamata Genocide Memorial, Murambi Genocide Memorial and Nyarubuye Genocide Memorial.
“Over 800 bodies of Tutsis genocide victims were pulled from this mass grave,” said Musoni Protais, a site manager at the Murambi Technical School, which is now known as the Murambi Genocide Memorial Centre.
Visitors in the Children’s Room at the Kigali Genocide Museum where photographs and stories of a few of the thousands of children who were killed in the 1994 genocide are on view; below each photograph is a short bio about the children: Patrick, 5-years old, Favorite sport – Riding bicyle, Favorite food – Chips, meat and eggs, Best friend – Alliane, his sister, Behavior – A quiet and well-behaved boy, Cause of death – Hacked by machete. Uwamwezi, 7-years old, and Iréne Umutoni, 6-years old, Relationship – Sisters, Favorite toy – A doll they shared, Favorite food – Fresh fruit, Behavior – Daddy’s girls, Cause of death – A grenade thrown in their shower. Rwandan families donated photographs of their children for the memorial. The memorial museum honors the estimated 250,000 people buried on the site in mass graves.
The visuals provided at the national sites are thought provoking, unforgettable and haunting. Visitors (local and foreign) are strongly encouraged by the government to share in this unconscious chapter of Rwanda’s history.
The Rwanda Genocide was a slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus by members of the Hutu majority. From April to July 1994 an estimated five hundred thousand to one million Rwandans were killed. The genocide grew out of an ongoing civil war between the then Hutu-led government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which was largely composed of Tutsi refugees, whose families had fled to neighboring countries following earlier waves of Hutu violence against the Tutsi minority.
A collection of skulls from local victims of the 1994 genocide are displayed at the Nyarubuye Genocide Memorial site. Referred to as the Nyarubuye massacre, an estimated 2,000 Rwandans were killed on April 15, 1994 at the Nyarubuye Roman Catholic Church, where they sought refuge from Hutu attackers.
Today, ethnic identification has been banned by the Rwandan government: there are no Hutus and Tutsis – only Rwandans. What remains from the conflict are grenade damaged churches, mass graves, tattered clothing items, remnants of Tutsi identification cards, skulls, bones, mummified bodies and memories – painful memories.
Several local children loiter outside the Nyarubuye Roman Catholic Church. In April 1994, Tutsis from several communities gathered at the this church seeking refuge but instead met their deaths, at the hands of Hutu attackers armed with machetes, traditional/crafted weapons, guns and grenades.
The skulls of these genocide victims display signs of a bullet wound and a blow from a blunt object such as a club. They are displayed at the Ntarama Genocide Memorial.
The worn national identity card of a young woman, whose family name was Uwimana, is kept in a storage container on the grounds of the Ntarama Church, which is now the Ntarama Genocide Memorial. According to the memorial site manager Uwimana was killed on these grounds along with 5,000 other Tutsis on April 15, 1994. During that period national identity cards were marked to label the ethnicity of the bearer; after the genocide such ethnic classification was banned by the government.
Although 5,000 victims are said to be buried at the Ntarama Genocide Memorial mass grave, the memorial wall only lists 260 names. The memorial site manager stated this is due to the challenges of identification: Many families were killed leaving no one to identify remains. Also, many Tutsis seeking safety came to the Ntarama site from the surrounding area – because they didn’t live in Ntarama they were unknown.
A coffin containing the body of Annonciata Mukandoli, 32, is displayed along with skulls of genocide victims at the Nyamata Genocide Memorial. The memorial is at the site of Nyamata Parish Catholic Church, where according to site manager, Rachel Murekatete, 45,354 genocide victims are buried. “10,080 Tutsi died inside and outside the grounds of the church on April 13 -14, 1994. Ms. Mukandoli was chosen to represent all the women who like herself were raped by multiple assailants and viciously killed.”said Ms. Murekatete.
Visitors tour the burial grounds at the Kigali Genocide Museum where an estimated 250,000 victims, who were killed in the 1994 genocide, are buried in mass graves.
A visitor to the Kigali Genocide Museum views an exhibit of photographs of people who were killed during the 1994 genocide.
Ntarama Church displays signs of grenade damage that occurred on April 15, 1994.
A large sheet of white paper in the bible studies room, at the Ntarama Genocide Memorial, gives visitors an opportunity to write their thoughts.
To see more photographs by Ric Francis please visit http://www.ricfrancis.org.
Alex Niyungeko, 41, holds his son Samuel Rai,3, while seated with his wife, children and brother during a memorial service for his father.
Journalist Alex Niyungeko, 41, is one of tens of thousands of displaced Burundians living in Rwanda. His secretive departure from Burundi, he stated, was fueled by police attacks on his family. In January Mr. Niyungeko’s father, Ntirubuza Tharcisse, 79, died from natural causes in Burundi, and he was unable to return for the funeral; he held a memorial service in Kigali, Rwanda, and the church was packed with Burundian refugees.
Mr. Niyungeko is the chairman of the Union of Journalists of Burundi. In that capacity he ran afoul of the chief of police (Domitien Niyonkuru) for the capital of Bujumbura. Since April 2015, when the president, Pierre Nkurunziza, announced plans to run for a third term in office, sparking weeks of street protests by the opposition who said his bid was unconstitutional, protests have been banned. At the time Mr. Niyungeko said, “I told journalists to do their professional work and report on the protests.”
The next day the office of his union was raided by the police and closed. He stated, “I was roughly handled and several of my colleagues were beaten. On the scene I confronted the chief of police and asked him how could you as an educated man close our office? What crimes have we committed?” In describing the exchange Mr. Niyungeko conveyed what followed: “The chief became angry and said I have no explanation – I only have an order and you have humiliated me in front of my men.” Several of Mr. Niyungeko’s contacts within the police department told him that he would be killed. Nevertheless, he issued a public statement condemning the closing of his union’s office. He secured his family (wife and three children) at a location away from their home and went separately into hiding.
The police discovered the location of his family and twice attacked them with tear gas grenades, according to Mr. Niyungeko. After the second attack he put them on a flight to Rwanda. He feared it wasn’t possible for him to leave via the airport – because his name was on a watch list – so with the help of friends he crossed illegally into Rwanda via vehicle.
Additional photographs by Ric Francis may be viewed at http://www.ricfrancis.org.
Northern Uganda is still recovering from twenty years (1986 – 2006) of armed conflict that led to a major humanitarian crisis: 1.8 million people – almost the entire population of its Acholi sub-region were displaced.
An estimated 25,000 to 28,000 children were abducted during the period as the result of an insurgency by the Lord’s Resistance Army, 80-percent of whose fighters were children. According to the Ugandan government 250,000 children dropped out of school during the peak of the war, as a result of the closure of 737 schools in northern Uganda.
Eight years after the 2006 ceasefire agreement the region is still in recovery mode. Poor quality of educational infrastructure and the lack of qualified teachers are major problems for the large numbers of returning children. Other obstacles for children wishing to go to school are the long distances they must walk, poor prospects for post-primary education, and the key role of children in livelihood strategies of income for labour constrained households. Consequently many families are faced with a dilemma when it comes to education: do they spend much needed family income on school uniforms, books and school fees to send their children to inadequate schools, or keep them home and permit them to concentrate on developing livelihood skills such as farming.
In Pader district (northern Uganda) Alex Opira, headmaster of Acutomer Primary School with an enrollment of 365 students, stated, “the challenges to schooling also include inadequate scholastic reading materials, the lack of housing accommodation for teachers who live far away, and high dropout rates due to negative attitudes by parents who don’t value education, as well as early marriage for girls.” According Mr. Opira, “the education ministry is trying to address our needs but has thus far failed to do so; we’re told by the government that it wants to help but doesn’t have the money – it has similar request for educational funding from other counties.”
Students in northern Uganda are far less likely than their peers in Kampala to be provided a basic quality education. Given the lack of preparedness to compete in Uganda, to say nothing of a highly competitive world, children in the region – especially girls – are in danger of being left very far behind.
Additional photographs by Ric Francis may be viewed at www.ricfrancis.org.
Lubiri Village (Pader District), Uganda – Nodding Syndrome (NS) is a mysterious and devastating neurologic condition which stunts growth, causes its victims to nod (repeatedly dropping their heads forward), have epileptic seizures (resulting in badly bruised faces and bodies), and causes cognitive deterioration. In severe cases it can result in death. Also at an advanced stage the syndrome causes its victims to wander aimlessly, hence families will tie the person with a rope or chain to prevent them from getting lost, injured or in the case of a young woman raped.
The condition mostly affects children 5-15 years in northern Uganda, South Sudan and Tanzania – although apparently there are no active cases in Tanzania. According to Komakech Paul, a senior clinical officer at the Atanga Health Centre III in Lubiri Village, Uganda, NS is concentrated in Pader, Kitgum, Lamwo, Lira and Gulu districts in northern Uganda. It has been active in the region since 1997 and the first really bad cases began to appear in 2006, said Mr. Komakech. “It’s associated with river blindness which is linked to blackflies. Blackflies breed in fast flowing fresh water. Sub-counties in the aforementioned districts, which are along the Aswa, Pager and Agago Rivers, are where the families affected by NS live. The link to river blindness is an assumption that’s still being investigated,” stated Mr. Komakech.
New research, presented in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, suggest that blackflies, infected with the parasite Onchocerca volvulus (the parasite that causes river blindness), may indeed be capable of passing on a secondary pathogen that is to blame for the spread of NS. This new study is from the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium. It documents how the use of insecticides and application of larvicides to rivers (keys to controlling the blackfly population) have affected the rates of NS in areas like northern Uganda.
This supports claims by officials at the Atanga Health Centre III, that the area has not seen any new cases of NS since the government launched an intervention program in 2012. Under the program river dosing was started: chemicals that kill blackflies have been used to treat rivers (it continues today). As a second part of the program village health teams administered ivermectin (the anti-parasitic drug used to prevent river blindness) to people in affected communities. The drug clears filarial worms from the body; the larvae from the worms enter humans via blackflies stated Mr. Komakech. Health officials at the Atanga Health Centre III are attributing the absence of new cases to these interventions.
Nevertheless, despite the absence of new cases health officials have an existing population of young people who require treatment for NS. The primary drug of treatment is sodium valproate. Unfortunately not all patients respond to the drug. It is not a cure. While some children have recovered to the point that they lead normal active lives, if they cease taking the drug they revert.
The aforementioned new study while not providing a cure does provide possible answers regarding how NS is spread. The report on the study cites the following: NS epidemics come and go because indigenous populations may become immune to the NS pathogen over time, but that when forced migration moves a non-immune population into an area with a large number of blackflies, NS cases erupt. “Population displacement resulting from civil conflict has preceded NS outbreaks in both northern Uganda and South Sudan,” states Robert Colebunders, MD, PhD and head of HIV/STD Unit, Department of Clinical Sciences at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Antwerp.
So while the new study is informative the search for a cure continues. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), in the United States, has been actively involved in trying to discover a cure for NS since 2011, said Mr. Komakech. He went on to describe how officials with the CDC took ten Ugandan children from one family (in Lamwo district) to the U.S. to be examined: five of the children had NS and five were unaffected. The results have not yet been released. “We’re working with something that’s still not well known and our community desperately needs to be informed,” concluded Mr. Komakech.
Additional photographs by Ric Francis may be viewed at www.ricfrancis.org.
Ethiopian coffee farmers are involved in a five year program to teach them to diversify their source of income: The Livelihood Diversification for Smallholder Coffee Farmers program.
The program, funded by the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and supported by Catholic Relief Services, is also being implemented in Kenya and Rwanda. It’s designed to increase food security and access to financial services through the introduction of small ruminant (sheep or cow) rearing/fattening, oxen fattening, bee keeping (honey production), Farmer Field Schools and Savings and Internal Lending (SILC) groups.
What follows are photographs (20) of Ethiopian coffee farmers and communities involved in the program:
Oromia region (Gelan District) – Workers at the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU) Ltd. processing coffee beans.
Oromia region (Gelan District) – Men at OCFCU process sacks of coffee beans for cleaning.
Debeka Village – Ayele Dergaso, 65, with assistance from his son Astarke Ayele, 25, digs up sweet potatoes.
Debeka Village – Ayantu Gumi, 45, makes Ethiopian coffee by first roasting coffee beans. Afterwards the beans will be ground in a wooden mortar and then brewed in a Jebena (a pottery boiling pot).
Debeka Village – Freshly roasted coffee is brewed in a Jabena.
Debeka Village – Neighbors and family members relax over coffee and sweet potatoes.
Debeka Village – Martha Wakayo, 18, Ayantu Gumi, 45, and Tamru Ayele, 12, converse with other family members and neighbors.
Debeka Village – Ayele Dergaso, 65, right, shares coffee with neighbors Adane Washola, 15, left, Tamrat Gelgele, 24, third from left, and his son Fekadu Ayelel, 14.
Debeka Village – Children go about their way on a very hot afternoon.
Magala Lemefa Village – Abbiti Shorre, 6 (foreground), Abreham Shorre, 8 (center-blue shirt) and Gete Shorre, 10 (directly behind Abreham) walk to school.
Bochesa Village – Abiti Tariku, 8, plays with a one-week old lamb on the grounds of his grandmother’s coffee field
Magala Lemefa Village – Hirbaye Shorre, 46, stands idle after trimming False Banana trees on the grounds of her coffee field, while her cow feeds and a grandchild plays; she owns two coffee fields in separate villages.
Bochesa Village – Hirbaye Shorre herds her cow and sheep home after they grazed at her coffee field.
Bochesa Village – Hirbaye Shorre walks around her coffee field picking the few coffee beans that were not harvested, while her grandson plays in a tree.
Magala Lemefa Village – Bekelech Shorre, 15, collects an empty coffee cup from her four-year old cousin, Jaleta Tariku.
Ejersa Fora Village – A farmer displays green onions and ginger for sale at the Wacheray Market.
Ejersa Fora Village – A farmer sells peppers to a young girl.
Ejersa Fora Village – Adnech Gocha unties rope from the legs of her sheep.
Ejersa Fora Village – Before the start of the Livelihood Diversification for Smallholder Coffee Farmers program, locals would informally gather to collect money to loan to one another; after the program began they converted their traditional money collecting methods into this Savings and Internal Lending Community (SILC) group.
Ejersa Fora Village – Adnech Gocha, 42, sells Kocho (a food made from False Banana trees) to customers at the Wacheray Market.
Additional photographs by Ric Francis may be viewed at www.ricfrancis.org.
Buoyed by rhythmic chants the farmers swung their labor intensive agricultural hand tools in unison, each motivating the other to move swiftly, tirelessly and happily as they prepared a field for seeding at the farmer field school (FFS) in Fogi Village, Ethiopia.
It is late morning and the sun bathes the farmers with its rays, yet despite the heat and hard work it is apparent these men and women could not be happier. As members of a farmer field school they’re linked by camaraderie and an urgency to improve the lives of their families. Eighteen members of the Wolda Misoma Group (a Savings and Internal Lending Community Group – SILC) own and operate this school, created with the assistance of the Ethio-Wetlands and Natural Resources Association (EWNRA), as part of the Livelihood Diversification for Smallholder Coffee Farmers program in Ethiopia. The program is funded by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) and supported by Catholic Relief Services (CRS). This five year program, which has also been implemented in Kenya and Rwanda, is designed to increase food security and access to financial services through the introduction of small ruminant (sheep or cow) rearing/fattening, oxen fattening, bee keeping (honey production), Savings and Internal Lending (SILC) groups and Farmer Field Schools (FFS).
Farmer field schools fall under the category of farmer groups which are informal organizations whose members have similar interests. Farmer groups also include SILC, Seed Growers, Marketing, and Irrigation Users. During an interview with members of the FFS, Getu Jebo, 25 (head of the school, married with five children), and Bikila Tero, 25 (married with four children), they discussed how the school grew out of the Wolda Misoma (SILC) Group. Before the creation of the school EWNRA trained field agents (such as Mr. Tero) to organize SILC groups in the area. Afterwards EWNRA searched for a strong SILC group through which it could execute its idea for a farmer field school. The idea for the FFS came from a need to ensure the sustainability of different interventions, implemented by the Livelihood Diversification for Smallholder Coffee Farmers program.
This meshed perfectly with Wolda Misoma Group members who recognized the importance of diversifying crops and income while providing their village with vegetables. “In this area consumption of vegetables has not been a firmly established part of our diet. We saw vegetables when we visited urban areas but we didn’t understand their importance. Our attitude has changed because of the FFS,” stated Mr. Tero. He and Mr. Jebo agreed that all of the group’s members have benefited from the school learning how to grow a variety of vegetables, e.g., carrots, cabbage and onions, while also becoming more efficient as coffee farmers through the use of improved spacing techniques.
The members were excited about the idea of starting a FFS and receiving training that would otherwise be unavailable individually. So after calling their interest to the attention of EWNRA, this implementing partner made an agreement with local government administrators and secured rented land (0.35 hectare for three years for 3000 Birr – 19 Birr equals $1.00) for the school. Initially EWNRA provided training to four FFS members who then shared the knowledge with the group. The project has provided the school with seed, farming tools, watering cans and experts on how to properly plant, manage and harvest crops.
The school provides the added benefit of educating passing locals who observe how vegetables are grown and replicate the lessons at home. Every tuesday and thursday the eighteen members work collectively in the field from 9:00 a.m. until noon. Daily they work in pairs, each responsible for watering three beds of coffee seedlings mornings and evenings; there are 33 coffee seedling beds.
The school embodies the concept of “each one, teach one.” “We commonly work happily together. We use songs to motivate one another and to tease, particularly if someone is having a low-energy day,” said Mr. Jebo laughingly. Everyone is rewarded for their efforts with free vegetables; if there’s a surplus harvest it’s sold at the market.
“In the future we plan to expand production to utilize all of the school’s land to include maize, and fence the area off through the creation of a live fence,” stated Mr. Jebo. The live fence would be made using elephant grass which could also serve as feed.
The concept of “each one, teach one” is indeed the essence of the farmer field school.
In December 2013 approximately 400 youth bunge (Swahili for parliament) members from Garissa, Kenya met to elect local representatives. Garissa is a predominantly Muslim (Somali) town. It is a hub in the ongoing humanitarian food aid program into the northeast of Kenya.
The country’s youth bunges serve as a counterweight to political apathy and unemployment while helping to cultivate the leaders of tomorrow. The youth come together from different villages to join as bunge members. The bunges serve as a youth-owned, youth-led and youth-managed space for young Kenyans to develop leadership skills and promote decision-making about their priorities.
The bunge model was introduced by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), based on significant research into the causes of Kenya’s post-election violence during 2007/2008, where youth were both victims and perpetrators. “The research showed that youth had no confidence in civil society or in the existing public or private institutions in Kenya. They wanted to run their own organizations and to help strengthen Kenya’s post-election recovery. Simply put, they wanted to be empowered,” says Dwaine Lee, director of the Education and Youth Office at USAID/Kenya.
According to Kenya’s 2009 census over a third of the national population, that numbered 40 million, are youth (defined by the government as 18 to 35) and the vast majority are out of school with no regular work or income. Bunges give them an opportunity to coalesce around what they need and expect from Kenya’s elected leaders.
Additional photographs by Ric Francis may be viewed at www.ricfrancis.org.