Representations of Rwanda have been shaped by the display of bodies and bones at Tutsi
genocide memorial sites. This phenomenon is most often only studied from the perspective
of moral dimensions. This article aims in contrast to cover the issues related to the
treatment of human remains in Rwanda for commemorative purposes from a historical
perspective. To this end, it is based on the archives of the commissions in charge of
genocide memory in Rwanda, as well as interviews with key memorial actors. This study
shows the evolution of memorial practices since 1994 and the hypermateriality of bodies in
their use as symbols, as well as their demobilisation for the purposes of reconciliation
The politics of exhumation in post-genocide Rwanda
Contrary to other countries that suffered mass violence in the late twentieth century, such as Bosnia, the issue of individual identification or DNA identification has never been considered seriously by the national and international agents of the memory in Rwanda. The lack of forensic investigation is a result of the financial situation of the Rwandan state after the genocide. In 1996, Rwanda was officially declared as the poorest country in the world. How in this context did Rwandan and international agents manage the memory of the genocide and especially the corpses? Considering the absence of a state-led individual identification program, how did exhumations occur and for what purposes? Who were the agents of exhumations in Rwanda? But also, what is the history behind the conservation of bones and corpses in genocide memorials? Based upon the study of the public archives of the National Commission for the Fight against the Genocide, this paper sheds some historical light on the debates around the management of genocide corpses in Rwanda since 1994.
From 1994 onwards, bodies have been at the centre of the politics of memory surrounding the genocide of the Tutsi. As well as constituting evidence in forensic investigations, bodies are on display in the memorials to the genocide. This exhibiting of bodies aims principally to remind visitors of the historical facts of the genocide: the sites of the massacres and the methods used during them. The research carried out by Rwandan institutions with a view to memorialising the genocide is uniformly insistent on the "practices of cruelty" employed during it. Inventories of weapons used during the massacres are accompanied by descriptions of different methods of killing. These methods are also represented in many memorials. This paper will examine how these constructed ideologies of the twentieth century affected the treatment of Tutsis in the Rwandan genocide and the alarming consequences this created for the destruction of dehumanised bodies.