Tag Archives: suggested

Providing access to genocide documentation: learning through teaching

The team tile resizedWhen I first joined Aegis Trust as the archive projects coordinator, I was both excited and nervous about working for an organisation that dealt with documenting such a sensitive issue as the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. I experienced the genocide from a distance, having lost most of my mother’s family members to it and watching my mother cry herself to sleep every night, knowing she could do nothing to save them except pray for a miracle.

I feel that being indirectly affected by the genocide, but also having some distance from it, allowed me to have multiple perspectives of the events of 1994. Having lived abroad from the longest and wildest beaches of the southern hemisphere in Port-Shepstone South Africa, to the neutral beauty of Switzerland, I have heard stories and opinion on the history of Rwanda from the deepest south to the glamorous north. And now, once again, I find myself back at the centre of the Earth, back home in Rwanda: right at the source of the genocide where the truth can be dug up.

I am so proud to be a part of Aegis Trust and contribute to what it does. By working with the Genocide Archive of Rwanda, I am able to not only learn about the genocide, but also be part of something bigger: documenting the genocide and providing access to this information online to millions of users globally.

My main task in the archive is to oversee the development of content for our website in partnership with our devoted communications team. We update the site as frequently as possible, select photographs and other archive items and keep our followers up-to-date with our activities, projects and upcoming events through social media. I also act as the middle-woman between upper management and our local and international partners. Our good relationships with these partners mean we have a lots of new projects lined up. We are never bored here at the archive. Every day brings new challenges.

What has made my job even more enjoyable, despite the fact that we work with emotionally challenging collections, is that we have a dynamic working environment where humour is still very much alive and friendship is strong.

But the reason for all of us being here remains the same: to document the genocide against the Tutsi and to make it accessible to the world, now, and for future generations. Time does not stand still. With every year that passes since 1994, our work of preservation and education becomes even more important.

Mimi Frank coordinates archive department projects and events. She is the intermediary between the Genocide Archive of Rwanda, international partners and supporting organisations.

Learning About the Genocide

small-1My name is Yvette Umutoniwase and I am in charge of research and content development at the Genocide Archive of Rwanda. When I started working at the archive a year ago, I didn’t know what was waiting for me. Since then, I have been lucky to do something that interests me, challenges me and gives me the opportunity to constantly learn.

I didn’t know much about the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi when I joined the archive. Mostly because I didn’t want to learn, and also because I was scared of what I might learn.

I survived the genocide when I was seven years old. As a child, I didn’t understand much about what went on in 1994. When I was growing up, I did my best to ignore and forget everything about the genocide.

Today I learn about the genocide every day I go to work. I read documents and reports from the archive, write about killing and memorial sites and research genocide related subjects. Needless to say, I read and write about the genocide a lot. And even though it’s a scary and depressing subject, it’s also very interesting. I cannot claim to know everything about the genocide, I cannot even claim to know enough. I always feel like I have so much to learn, and I know I will never stop learning.

My favourite part of the work I do is field research. Most often this involves interviewing people. The largest part of the archive’s collection is testimonies given by people with different experiences of the genocide: survivors, perpetrators, rescuers and elders. It’s my job to meet with these people and collect their stories.

Yvonne - connecting people 1During my last field research, my colleagues and I went to Rusizi in the south west of the country to arrange interviews with people who had committed the genocide. We met with five perpetrators from different villages in the district who were willing to give their testimonies.

Before we conduct the interviews (which are video recorded) we give interviewees a pre-interview questionnaire to fill in. As I was helping the interviewees complete the questionnaire, two of the perpetrators told me they were related. As soon as they told me, I saw a striking resemblance between them. They looked alike, except one was clearly older than the other. It turned out that they were father and son.

I was incredibly surprised when they told me. In all my time at the archive I had never met two perpetrators who were father and son. Questions started to run through my mind. How could that happen? When they went to kill people, did they leave home together as if they are going for a normal father-son activity?

I have heard a lot of different stories about children who grew up with the shame of what their parents had done during the genocide – stories of fathers who didn’t want their sons to kill and stories of sons who didn’t want their fathers to kill. In most stories, a family has one perpetrator and I subconsciously thought that was the standard. Meeting these two men had me wondering about the effect it has on a family to have more than one perpetrator in the family. Does it increase the guilt the rest of the family feels? How is the relationship between the two perpetrators? And do they relate to the rest of the family? I know the answers to these questions will be complex and challenging.

The testimonies we collect, from both survivors and perpetrators, are difficult to hear but they are an incredibly important resource for learning and teaching. By listening to those who were here in 1994, by asking them about their experiences and by sharing what we learn with the world, our team is helping to educate about the factors that lead to genocide and how to prevent it from happening again.

When I first started working at the archive I didn’t realise the kinds of experiences my work would give me. Today, I’ve learnt more than I could have imagined and met people from all walks of life. I’m incredibly grateful to contribute in a small way to our global understanding of genocide as well as learn something new everyday.

Yvette Umutoniwase is a Research Assistant at the Genocide Archive of Rwanda. She develops content, conducts research and collects information to build the archive’s collections.


Yvette Umutoniwase is a Research Assistant at the Genocide Archive of Rwanda. She develops content, conducts research and collects information to build the archive’s collections.

Connecting people to the memory of genocide

By Yvonne Umugwaneza

My name is Yvonne Umugwaneza and I work for Aegis Trust in its Archive & Documentation department. Every day I communicate the work of the archive by writing stories about our activities and by organising and arranging the documents & photos on the Genocide Archive of Rwanda website. Communicating what we do is important because it provides information on the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi to people around the globe. This is one of many ways we use facts and evidence to teach the world about how the genocide was planned and implemented in Rwanda.

The activities we have range from collecting materials to digitising content and making it accessible on the website. Once documents are collected, the next step is to store them in the right format and create metadata. To do this, I go through its content to understand it well, and then select its key components. This allows me to create precise and comprehensible metadata. I also create a short description for the document to help anyone who views it to get a quick summary before going in depth. These steps ensure that materials are easily and quickly accessible from their source. It is important for us to follow a set of guidelines when uploading the content so that our users consistently access accurate information. Once a document is uploaded, described and provided with its metadata, access to it is provided through the archive’s website.

Providing information about the genocide plays a crucial role in its prevention and the peace building process. By making these archives available, people around the world are able to understand that the genocide in Rwanda was not an ethnic conflict, but a planned and systematic campaign implemented by the government against its own citizens. As people understand the nature of genocide against the Tutsi, they will gain a better understanding of Rwanda’s historical background. This is important because it helps to provide a clear picture of the genocide’s impact and consequences on the Great Lakes region. While counties in the region have a lot of differences they also have a lot in common. Understanding the history and consequences of the genocide in Rwanda helps us to understand and respond to the root causes of the conflicts that have affected some of those countries. With a good understanding of the 1994 genocide, the prevention of such tragedies will likely be increased.

The Genocide Archive of Rwanda also includes information about unity & reconciliation projects throughout the country. These are the programmes being implemented to reunite the country through a foundation of peace. Many of these programmes draw on the archive as a resource.

The aim of the Genocide Archive of Rwanda is to respect the victims of the genocide by keeping their memory alive, sharing survivors’ experiences, and engaging with people around the world to learn about what happened here in 1994. Having the materials accessible to users globally, and organised in a way that makes it easy for them to use and learn from, is an important part of achieving this objective.

Yvonne Umugwaneza is the Communications Officer for the Genocide Archive of Rwanda. She also uploads and catalogues content to be featured on the archive’s website.