Rwandan Heritage Sites gain UNESCO Status

Rwanda’s recent global achievement is its heritage sites which attained the World Heritage status following their inscription by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

To begin this mark, was the Nyungwe National Park, which was featured on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The natural heritage site located in Rwanda’s Southern and Western Province spans an area of 101,900 hectares. The site located in Rwanda’s South-western province closer to the Burundian border was initially established as a natural reserve in 1933, and was further developed into a national park in 2004 in a bid to boost, protect, and safeguard thousands of endangered and endemic species it shelters; emerges as the largest mass of natural forest in the region, home to over various species of primates, over 322 bird species, 200 identified orchids, and nearly 300 butterfly species widespread, the park remarkably oozes of biodiversity.

To Rwanda, this inscription serves as a dynamic step in guaranteeing its long-term conservation, preserving its natural heritage for future generations, and promoting sustainable development for neighboring communities.

This development will further promote Rwandan tourism to an international market, and harness Capacity building in conservation, heritage management, and studies; especially on protecting attributes and managing values. According to David NKUSI, a Heritage Studies Lecturer at the University of Rwanda, the National Park’s inscription is to not only raise the Visit Rwanda portfolio but further pave the way for employment opportunities to heritage practitioners as per UNESCO standards on top of bringing on board more interest and active engagement at the national level. 

Also scripted were four Genocide Memorial Sites, into the UNESCO World Heritage list. 

Murambi Genocide Memorial Site; Located 126km from Kigali City and 3.5Km from Nyamagabe town in Murambi village, Remera Cell of Gasaka sector, in Nyamagabe District (Northern Province), the site was characterized by killings that date since 1959. Divided into four major sections, these include; The reception: here visitors are taken through the chronology of the history that led to genocide. The cemetery; where more than 50,000 victims of the genocide were laid to rest. Also is the former technical school; that hosts the preserved bodies of the victims, preserved together with artifacts like clothes worn by victims as proof of the genocide that took place in this area. It consists of trenches where the bodies of the victims were cast after being murdered and a volleyball pitch where a French flag was raised since the area was near a military camp for the French army that was serving under Operation Turquoise.

Gisozi Memorial Centre in Kigali; Also known as the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center, the site located in Rwanda’s capital was established in 1999 under the management of Aegis Trust and the City of Kigali. This site was established in honor of the 250,000 victims killed during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. This site comprises not only bodies gathered but also an exhibition of clothes, weapons, and documents detailing the massive massacre. 

Located on top of the Muyira hill, near Karonji district in Rwanda’s Western Province Bisesero Genocide Memorial facility was established in 1997, but followed the tragedy that claimed over 40,000 Tutsi massacred during the 1994 Genocide. Also, part of it is a mass grave of over 60,000 bodies. The site also holds zig-zag trenches which some of the Tutsi survivors used to escape from the Hutu militias.

The Nyamata Genocide Memorial Site is situated at Nyamata in Bugesera District (southeast of Kigali), 19 kilometers from Kigali. This site was once a dwelling for a renowned Catholic Church established in 1980. The facility was later turned into a memorial center following the massacre of over 45,000 Tutsi who had taken refuge in it during the 1994 Genocide.

Dr. Jean Damascene Bizimana, Minister of National Unity and Civic Engagement (MINUBUMWE) states that this inscription is not only a contribution to the preservation of Rwanda’s natural heritage but also of particular significance to the Rwandan people, for whom it is the first site inscribed on this universal list.

For the first time, Rwanda joins the 168 state parties, having joined 33 other African states which include Egypt, Genea, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Uganda, DRC, Sudan, Algeria, Argentina, Morocco, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Botswana, Nigeria, Tunisia, Namibia, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Benin, Ghana, Gabon, Libya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo.

By Andrew I Kazibwe