RDF defends war memorial monuments at parliament

Friday July 18 2014

A monument depicting RPA fighters manning a

A monument depicting RPA fighters manning a 12.7mm anti-aircraft gun sits on the top of the lower chamber of deputies at Parliament Buildings. Photo/Cyril Ndegeya 

By Emmanuel RUTAYISIRE

The Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) has dismissed the opposition’s stand on the monuments erected recently at Parliament Buildings. The military said the essence of the art facets, unveiled during the 20th Liberation Day celebrations, were entirely aimed at preserving the country’s history.

During a guided tour of the three monuments, RDF officials explained in detail the correlation between the monuments, which form the outer circuit of the Campaign Against Genocide Museum whose inner circuit is under construction in the eastern wing of the lower chamber.

Once complete, the inner circuit will house information, both in art and documentation form, on how the then-rebel Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) stopped the killings of 1994.

“This museum is quite important because when you go to Gisozi Genocide Memorial Site all you see is the triumph of evil,” said Venuste Ngarambe, an architectural engineer working on the project. “But there were other efforts to defeat that evil, and is what we are telling.

“This is a Campaign Against Museum. There will be documented history in the inner circuit.”

The outside circuit has three monuments. One shows a woman who has just been killed and the commander carrying a rescued baby. Then there is one showing soldiers fighting to stop the Genocide against the Tutsi, which details how the war was won.

And on the rooftop is mounted a 12.7mm anti-aircraft gun. The RDF officers say the gun was instrumental in containing the adversary, who had bigger numbers and was better armed than the RPA.

“It is a story of rare bravery by the then-rebel RPA, showing how very few men fought an adversary who was more advanced in numbers and weaponry,” Mr Ngarambe added. “This is a museum which will be housed here at parliament.”

At the east end of the building, there is what military officers say is a heroes cemetery, showing a soldier kneeling in remembrance of his fallen comrades.

The framers of this initiative told Rwanda Today that the museum was intended to preserve the efforts by Rwandans to stop the genocide when the world had abandoned them. Officials say the genocide was unique in the sense that it was Rwandans who killed fellow Rwandans and that it was brought to a stop by Rwandans.

Museum will tell the story

“The Campaign Against Genocide Museum will tell the story of how the RPA conducted rescue operations and fought the war stopping the genocide,” said military spokesman Brig-Gen Joseph Nzabamwita. “The monuments are ready and were commissioned by the President.

“The internal museum is still under preparation.”

When the killings began, the officers say, an order was issued by then-rebel leader (now president) Paul Kagame for units to move to reinforce the 600 RPA fighters in Kigali so they were not wiped out and the fighting had to go hand in hand with rescue operations, getting people out of danger.

“This was a thematic plan by RPA to stop the genocide,” Mr Ngarambe recounted. “In four days, the Alpha mobile force had arrived from Mulindi.

“When they arrived, the 3rd Battalion headed to defeat the enemy from Rebero; this was important because corridors were opened to enable a number of Tutsis in Gikondo and Nyamirambo to come here. This place became a tactical sick bay. They also rescued people from Amahoro stadium, including Faustin Twagiramungu and the current Education Minister, Dr Vincent Biruta.”

Last week, the opposition claimed that the monuments were part of a wider scheme by the ruling RPF to rewrite the country’s history in its favour. “Every country has a way that it maintains mental representation of its history,” said former senator Wellars Gasamagera, a senior RPF member.