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Why listing Genocide memorials under UNESCO heritage sites has delayed

CNLG Executive Secretary Jean Damascene Bizimana speaks during a past news conference in Kigali. / Photo The New Times

Two years since the Rwandan government handed over the file containing all the requirements, the wait for the next steps towards having four of its genocide memorial sites listed as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites continues.

The four Genocide memorial sites are expected to be included on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, which officials say will, among other benefits, raise global awareness of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The sites are Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Gisozi, Nyamata Genocide Memorial site in Bugesera District, Murambi memorial centre in Nyamagabe District, and Bisesero Genocide memorial in Karongi District.

The Executive Secretary of Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), Jean Damascène Bizimana, told The New Times on Tuesday that the government had handed over the file in February 2019 and is still waiting for feedback.

“You can’t really say that UNESCO is delaying. We know that this process takes quite some time but the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic can also be blamed for some of these challenges,” he said.

The sites are currently on the ‘tentative list’ of the natural, cultural and mixed world heritage sites.

In a previous interview with The New Times and seen by MTN Updates, Diogène Bideri, the legal advisor at CNLG, said that clearly demarcating the memorial sites’ buffer zones and ensuring that development master plans do not tamper with the sites’ maps is one of the recommendations from UNESCO.

Previously, the UN agency had raised concerns about the “validity” of Kigali and Bisesero Genocide memorial sites which were constructed after the Genocide, unlike Murambi and Nyamata whose pre-Genocide structures remain intact.

“The latter two sit on the same spots where atrocities were committed 24 years ago and their architecture embody harrowing tales about those places. We offered detailed explanations and we believe they were satisfied,” he said.

Out of 1092 world heritage sites in the world, only 95 sites are in Africa.

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