Exclusion of Hutu massacre and human remains in the genocide memorials of Rwanda: may a cause of the refusal of Rwanda memorial’s sites into the world culture heritage(UNESCO).

Kutibuka ubwicanyi bwakorewe abahutu no gushyira imibiri y’inzirakarengane mu ruhame rw’ inzibutso zo mu Rwanda nk’imwe mumpamvu ishobora gutuma inzibutso zo mu Rwanda zitashyirwa mu murage w’isi. 

Genocide against Tutsi is the genocide that was committed against the Tutsis between 1 October 1990 and 31 December 1994[1].

Genocide memorial site is a place where victims of genocide were buried and which has a special history in the planning and execution of Genocide[2].

There is need for a wide compilation of information about four Genocide memorials that have been short-listed to be part of the World Heritage Sites if they are to be fully added to the global heritage list, an official at the National COMMISSION for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) has said[3]

I went to Rwanda to consult with Victoire Ingabire, who was a presidential candidate at that time, who had been charged with genocide denial because she had asked why the Hutu victims weren’t remembered on the memorials to genocide victims, said Peter Erlinder[4].

In this analysis of memorial sites in Rwanda’s situation, we choose to focus on a case study in which we aim to formulate set of suggestions, which could be used for creating the Professional Code of Ethics for the Rwanda National Memorial Museums. We refer to the articles now stated in the Rwanda National Law in regards to Memorial Sites, and use the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, as well as the UNESCO Criteria for Selection for the

World Heritage List, for reference. We also refer to the IC-MEMO of International Memorial Museum Charter, which applies well to the context

The national memorial sites and museum of Rwanda, are managed by the Rwandan National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide, operating under the Rwanda Ministry of Sport and Culture. We make the suggestions for the criteria of formulating the Code of Ethics for the Rwanda National memorials / museums with the thought in mind, that this code of ethics could also serve and support the application to include Rwanda local genocide memorial sites, such as the Kigali Memorial Center, into the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage sites.

Parameters and the Method of the Study

To serve our goal of coming up with a suggestion of criteria for the code of ethics for the Rwanda National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide, we are basing our discussion on one hand on the existing Rwanda law, and the ethical aspects this thus far states in relation to heritage sites. While ICOM being the recognized umbrella organization for museum and heritage professionals across the world, we choose to use the ICOM code of ethics for our benchmark. The ICOM Code was adopted originally by the ICOM General Assembly in Buenos Aires on November 4th, 1896, and retitled and revised to the current form by the ICOM General Assembly in Seoul on October 8th, 2004. In our analyses we discuss the background and the current situation in Rwanda, especially addressing and discussing the

manifold challenges, which play a significant role in the process of accomplishing the formulation of National Code of Ethics for Rwandan memorial sites. We will also take under consideration the UNESCO requirements for world heritage site application, referring to the criteria for the selection process. In the end we draw a summary with conclusions, and make a recommendation of topics we see would be beneficial to be taken under consideration in forming the Code of Ethics for the Rwanda National Memorial Museums.

Background and Description of the Current Situation in Rwanda

In the process of Rwanda recovering from the genocide, which in between 1st of October 1990 and July 1994 killed over 1.000.000 people, several memorial sites have been established with the lead of the Rwandan government, specifically the Ministry of Sport and Culture, to serve as places for grievance, but also as information centers to help prevention of genocides not only in Rwanda, but worldwide. The memorial sites are operated by the Rwanda Commissions for Fight Against Genocide, which is governed by the Rwanda Ministry of Sport and Culture.

The largest of the centers is the Kigali Memorial Site located in Gisozi, a part of Rwanda’s capital city Kigali. Other memorial sites in Rwanda are also already operating, or soon to be opened in Bisesero, Murambi, Nyamata, Ntarama, Nyanza and Nyarabuye. All of the sites are under the organization of National Commission for Fight Against Genocide.

As these memorial sites serve an important role nationally, they are created from the start on to also serve the wider international community. Since the opening of the Kigali Memorial Center on April 10th, 2004 – which commemorated the 10th anniversary or the genocide’s ending – the site had over 60.000 visitors only within the first three months, 7000 of those being international visitors. There is a consideration and wish to apply for the recognition of UNESCO world heritage sites for the Kigali Center, to internationally secure the heritage significance of this location, and assure further worldwide recognition of the Rwanda memorial sites, and therefore add to their educational importance in the worldwide remembrance and fight against genocide.

Since the end of the genocide, the local and international research teams have analysed over one hundred of Rwanda’s lieux de mémoire, with a particular emphasis on informal sites of memory. By use of satellite technology, geographic data has been collected to provide location-specific information about the studied memorial sites. Many of them have been determined now as “genocide cemeteries”. The Rwandan government has made a proposal to aim to register at least four of the national genocide memorial sites onto the UNESCO list of world heritage sites. Much is still to be done before this is possible.

One of the major obstacles is the still limited amount of information and material available about the genocide and the exhibited collections. The limited collection, which is available ondisplay for now, is also political oriented, additionally suffering from lack of museological professionalism in the collection exhibition and display methods. The major controversy, however, lie in the varying ethical interpretations among Rwandans. One of the challenging issues to be considered is the differentiation of the current museums sites from between cemeteries, memorials, or museums, as the current Rwanda law defines also memorial sites as museums. In addition to this, there are challenges in providing sufficient and objective information and education to various groups of Rwandans. Thus far the limitations in collecting information, and therefore also in being able to provide sufficient and objective information about the genocide history, and the history of the memorial sites, provides also challenges for furthermore informing objectively the international audience visiting the sites. The current limited, and limitedly explained collection is often causing confusion. Since the official opening of the Kigali Memorial Centre, many fundamental questions in regards to the genocide remain still unanswered, creating additional challenges to the process of national reconciliation programme, and therefore hindering the organisational steps necessary to be taken in order to proceed with adapting the standards of international professional organizations, such as ICOM, and furthermore, applying for the UNESCO recognition of the world heritage sites.

Challenges of the Process of Designing a Code of Ethics in Rwanda

There are now preparations to commemorate the 22th anniversary of the 1994 genocide perpetrated against Tutsi and moderate Hutu, addressing the  importance to look at thesituation in relation to the memorials sites. It is also important to provide and share information about what are the government’s plans to carry on with the responsibility to manage the sites, and prepare and develop them not only in terms of preservation, but also for educational purposes as contemporary museums. Within the past twenty two years Rwandans have been visiting the memorial sites, commemorating the genocide victims, but also in hope to find more information about the genocide, helping their quest to facilitate unity and proceed with the reconciliation process, which is still a big issue for all Rwandans, both the victims as well as the perpetrators. In addition to serving the older generations, which experienced the genocide, a new challenge is to also inform and engage the new generation of Rwandans. Sixty percentage of the Rwandan population are under the age of 25. This increasing number of young Rwandans need urgently objective information about the genocide, also feeling they have the right to know and acquire objective information about their heritage and national history, also in the case of the dreadful time in the history. The national memorial sites have an important role in providing this information. In addition to the local population, one cannot forget the international visitors, who want to learn about the genocide and the time in the Rwandan history by visiting the memorial sites / museums.

Even though the memorial locations are emotional places, they should also be the places for discussing and learning, open and available without limitation to all groups. In the memorial sites / museums, in many cases the remains of victims’ bodies are exhibited, but the exhibited items often still miss complete information and a story, which is very controversial, and alsochallenging problem to solve. On one hand, according to the Rwandan culture it is inappropriate to address how Rwandans massacred their relatives, and how the ideology behind the genocide grew to a point of reaching phase of execution, yet on the other hand, there is also professional philosophy that “information is more important than material”. According to Rwandan culture, when a person dies their relatives must bury them within few days. This is evidently a cause of traumatic among survivors once the memorial sites exhibiting human remains, now for over twenty two years.  After the genocide many survivors were able to identify the bodies of their relatives and sometimes buried them. In response to the government’s initiative to rebury officially the victims in dignity, many survivors came up accusing the government of not respecting their customs and cultural norms, condemning the government’s actions and hoping the remains of their family members were not reburied and not respected with dignity. A pressing question is, what are the criteria for choosing the human remains and bodies to be exhibited? In most cases the bodies now exhibited have not been identified, and don’t have relatives alive?.

In a number of recent commemoration events both ethical and professional problems have arisen and addressed by various parties, including professionals, survivors, the families of persons “massacred by current government RPF” and by people who risked their lives in order to save other. All these stakeholders are eager to express and share their ideas about memorial sites management, and about the collection and exhibition profile, advocating for reduction of the government authority intervention in favour of creating a new, moreparticipatory museum culture. The issues are very personal for many, which would also support the establishment of participatory approach, encouraging engagement of the citizen and stakeholders.

Generally, the professionals do not agreed with the extensive government authority in museum and memorial matters, and are suggesting open discussion about how the sites should be managed in rather professional than politically oriented manner. Their proposed aim is to focus on information that remains about the bodies of victims, and create community networks, engaging the different stakeholders in this process. On the other hand, the survivors’ associations and individuals do not agree with the government exposing their relatives’ remains at the memorial sites, suggesting to bury all of them, and to expose only information and other kind of materials/objects. Secondly, as well as the families of the genocide Tutsi survivors, also the families of Hutu killed by RPF wish to see the loss of their relatives to be commemorated. The third reaction is coming from the people who were killed or survived when trying to serve and save other people in risk, yet they are not represented in the memorials, and are questioning the importance they have in the memorials collections and exhibition process.

It is in this context, that the government planned a law in regards to the memorial sites, in order to orient them politically according to its interest, therefore from 23rd March 2009 the sites had to be managed through that law, which has made the site management challenging because of still widely existing absence of professionalism, and also the pressing need therestill is to address and come to agreement about the ethical issues. In consideration of the world standards stated by the ICOM Codes of Ethics, the existing Rwanda law in regards to memorial sites / museums has to be revised, and better adapted to serve the Rwandan post-genocide situation. Interest of the Rwandan population should be served, with careful consideration also on the professional museum and heritage aspects. An underlining issue to be considered in proceeding towards resolving ethical challenges in a county of low income, such as Rwanda, influenced by globalisation, expectations of digitalisation and tourism, are to first address the topics which still have evident potential to stimulate conflicts between ethics and professionalism, challenging the facilitation of development of the memorial sites.

Discussing the Current Rwanda Law in reference to the ICOM Code of Ethics, and to the suitability for the Rwanda National Code of Ethics

The existing Rwandan law on memorials sites has 27 articles, but we focus here on the ones, which have brought up most questions in regards to ethics and museum-related professional issues.

In article two of the Rwandan law, memorial site is defined as a place where victims of genocide were buried, and which has a “special history” in the planning and execution of Genocide. This definition can be considered confusing, not explaining or defining what would be meant with the term “special history”, how can such term be defined in question about planning and executing genocide? What is a “special history” of genocide, indeed, and how can this be described and explained with respect to the various parties involved? Thisarticle is causing confusion in terms of collection and exhibition, because the collectors various interpretations of the ambiguous “special history” affect the process of collecting relevant items and, moreover, reflect the ambiguity of interpretation of these items and materials. In reference to the ICOM Code of Ethics article 2, in relation to collections and the principle behind collecting, addressing the notion that collections should be protected by law, and the notion of “stewardship that includes rightful ownership, permanence, documentation…” (ICOM Code of Ethics 2.), there is much development to do to reach this state in Rwanda. Some controversy has also risen from the fact that the current exhibitions are mostly focused on Tutsi victims, leaving often out representation of the Hutu who were killed by RPF. For the objectivity of presentation, and also for the national reconciliation reasons, this aspect could be improved. The museum collection and exhibition representation being honest and objective would avoid future conflicts between Rwandans of different groups. The Rwandan law article seven, discusses safety of the collections, but limits this to the government’s responsibility to protect the collection. More specific definition would be important in order to guarantee proper care of the collection, as indicated in the ICOM Code of Ethics articles about Collection Care, especially 2.21, Protection Against Disaster, 2.22 Security of Collection and Associated Data, and 2.23 Preventive Conservation.

It would be advisable to involve survivors associations and professionals to determinate the areas in need of professional care and assistance. According to the Rwandan law article eight, the government of Rwanda has responsibility to build the memorial sites, not describing ingreater detail how the further care and maintenance is arranged, but adding in article seventeen, that the funds for construction and maintenance of genocide memorial sites should come from the national budget, various donations and various aid. The thought of providing funding is noble, but in the light of the economic crises, and the government budget limitations, this public source is insufficient for fully financing the museum and memorial development sufficiently. Therefore, the article causes confusion among museum professionals by not addressing and encouraging also importance of self-generated funding for securing the running the operations.

The article eleven of an existing Rwanda law determine the features of a memorial site, which should include: A reception room; A show area of photos and archives to indicate Rwandan history before genocide; A particular place where to indicate names, photos and the curriculum vitae of the genocide victims where possible; A reserved place indicating how genocide was planned and executed; A place where to preserve evidence of genocide including body remains, bones, pieces of clothes or any other item capable of identifying victims; Where to preserve tools and weapons which were used during the genocide; A particular place to put names and photos of planners and executors of genocide; A hall in which visitors shall receive explanations relating to the history of the genocide of a place where the memorial site is located; Where to place archives for books, cassettes, films, testimonies and other items that indicate the genocide history specifically about the areawhere the memorial site is located; counselling halls for people who encounter trauma; where to place names and photos of heroic characters who tried saving the Tutsis.

When analysing and considering the possibilities to put in practice the activities proposed in the current law, it is evident that a major weakness the memorial sites seem to be facing is the lack of professionalism. In the article eighteen, the law gives responsibility of management and maintenance of the features of the memorial site to the staff who “possess sufficient knowledge” to enable them to explain the genocide history, but they forget that such museums need not only the guides, but also persons qualified in different areas of museums profession. Also personnel for creating the collection, as discussed in the ICOM Code of Ethics article 3.3, about the Field Work, and the Collections standards which should be applied, or the 1.14 Competence of Museum Personnel, such as curators, and people capable for professional collection care, archivists, conservators and a variety of other professionals, including also capable managers, to assure the sustainability of these museums, are needed. Not to forget communication professionals for development of channels for communication, such as using social media, for interaction and sharing information with audiences.

This comparison discussion of codes of ethics and the current law, open also door to the debate about UNESCO’s selection criteria for World Heritage Sites, and the challenges of the Rwandan current memorial site status and situation.

Recommendation in Reference to the UNESCO Requirements for Recognition of World Heritage Sites

Here we propose recommendation on how to proceed with the application for placing Rwanda memorial sites on the UNESCO world heritage list.

In article three of the Rwanda law on memorial sites, it is clarified that “upon agreement between the Government of Rwanda and relevant international institutions, memorial sites may be placed under universal patrimony upon approval by a Presidential Order”. In reference to the UNESCO’s application criterion it is advisable to keep in mind, that the UNESCO criteria changed in 2004, listing now 8 criteria. In order for a site to be successfully recognized, it has to meet at least one of the listed eight criteria, and be of “outstanding universal value”. Our suggestion is to build the Rwandan memorial sites application for the UNESCO world heritage site recognition around two of the UNESCO criteria articles (iii) and (iv), which in our opinion acknowledge factors which are represented and addressed in characteristics of the Rwanda genocide memorial sites;

(iii): To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living of which has disappeared; Without a doubt, the end of twentieth century Rwanda has faced the most horrible genocide, where more than one million people were killed only within three months. This horrific episode changed the history of Rwandan people in particular, and left a scar on history of all humanity. Therefore validating the

preserving the tragic heritage of these sites, and recognizing their educational value of, is important for the generations to come and for all nations to learn from. Although the history is tragic, we consider this history applicable for covering the requirement for “outstanding universal value.”

(iv): To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living tradition, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance;

The Rwandan memorial sites of the genocide against “the Tutsi” are places of exclusive memory symbolising the intolerance of the perpetrators against one group, and educational places for preventing genocide in Rwanda, and in all the world, enforcing the instructs of the Universal Declaration of the United Nations in 1948 “never again.”

The UNESCO Committee considers that this criterion (iv) should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria. A suggestion, which is served well by an application based on combination of both the criterion (iii) and (iv).

Apart from the Bisesero and Gisozi memorial sites erected specifically as memorials, Nyamata is a former catholic church, and Murambi former technical school, both of which have been transformed into memorials and preserved into their original state. The authenticity is evidently preserved also as collections (human remains, objects and archives), which testifying how terribly the people were killed. The UNESCO application should be properly formulated, a process, which would benefit from having first proceeded to addressing and

solving the pressing open topics and challenges, and begin taking steps towards forming the national Rwandan Code of Ethics for museums and memorials.

Suggestions for Criteria for formulation of the Code of Ethics for the Rwanda National Memorial Museums in alliance with the ICOM Code of Ethics and the International Memorial Museum Charter

Like other memorial museums, the 1994 Rwandan genocide memorial sites should be displayed in consistent manner with professional standards based on international conventions such as International Memorial Museums Charter (IC-MEMO, Paris 2011), and the ICOM Code of Ethics. As mentioned by the Memorial Museums Charter,  “a joint culture of remembrance cannot and must not be dictated by decree. Given the very different historical experiences, memorial museums should accept the co-existence of different commemorative imperatives that are aimed at pluralistic cultures of remembrance. Institutions should be designed for cooperation instead of encouraging competition, which can create a struggle for dominance. Should this be a practical venture, a joint culture of remembrance could develop gradually out of a multitude of decentralized initiatives”. In additional to the specialised charter the ICOM Codes of Ethics can be used as based model to formulate the Rwandan’s code of ethics or law, but with focus on some national realities. Based on the International Memorial Museum Charter, and the ICOM Codes of Ethics, the following points should be developed for future Rwandan Code of Ethics:

  • Representing Hutu massacres against so that to build collective memory
  • Redefining concept of memorial sites and separate with burial places
  • Restructuring museums functions: Accepting diversity of remembrance, promoting tolerance, equality among victims without ethnic discrimination, freedom of expression resulting to sustainability of institution.
  • Involving all groups, survivors and families of the other war criminal victims, and other stakeholders
  • Writing a proper collection profile policy
  • Including self-generated concept of museums
  • Focus on information rather than human remains
  • Have qualified staff in the domain
  • Develop the social role of museums, not to be politically oriented
  • Create network with other similar institutions, also internationally
  • Digitalization of collections and exhibitions, enhancing interaction with audiences by social media and other technological tools
  • Adapting participatory concept in order to resolve problems related to the collections methods and collection profile

Practical Steps to be Taken Towards Formulation of Code of Ethics for the Rwanda National Memorial Museums, with Particular Reflection to the ICOM Professional Code of Ethics

In consideration of the criteria for formulation of Code of Ethics for the Rwanda National Memorial Museums, we would suggest to use the ICOM Code of Ethics as the bases for formulation of the new Rwanda criteria, since the ICOM Code of Ethics is widely recognized, and thus far also the most commonly accepted criteria of professional museum ethics across the world. It is advisable to also keep in mind the principals of the International Memorial Museum Charter. ICOM Code of Ethics is defined as “representing the minimum standards” for museums, which make it suitable tool for benchmarking in formulation of the Rwandan Code. As additional reference, we could recommend using he United States Holocaust National Memorial Standard of Ethical Conduct, when the process is as far as considering specific standards for the museum staff guidelines. This set of standards of ethical code offers a detailed example, and could be suitable also for the reason that the memorial has been created to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust genocide, therefore reflecting similarity in the sensitivity of the subject matter and the staff professional conduct.

As a suggestion, we think it is structurally important to start by stating the purpose of the code of ethics with a general introduction, as is done with both the ICOM- and also the US Holocaust Memorial Codes of Ethics, explaining why the code is set in the first place, and how it is applicable, such as in the US Holocaust Code “clarifying purpose”, to ensure that Museum employees carry out their work in accordance with appropriate ethical norms and all applicable laws, regulations, and professional ethical standards.” (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Standards of Ethical Conduct, Introduction, January 2008). Also indication of how the code is applied, in which instances, and by whom the code should be used, should be indicated. It would be also advisable to include information about which national laws apply to the museum industry, in this case referring to the Rwanda law (which may be revised by the time).

The process of formulation of the Code of Ethics for the Rwanda National Memorial Museums is still at early stages, and much debate is necessary in order to eventually reach consensus on the codes’ content. This in mind, we propose that the first step would be to encourage open debate, involving the various stakeholders to determine the criteria which would eventually allow formulation of a public constitution, including the museum’s/ memorial site’s statute, mission and abiding laws. Once the general consensus is reached, we advise to move to more practical stage and formulate a professional committee, consisting of museum and heritage professionals, and also having representation of the local people to assure their interests are kept in mind throughout the process. This working committee could then assume responsibility for formulating the more practical and also museological aspects of the code, conducting a proposal to be evaluated, modified if necessary, and eventually approved by the appropriate government body. This proposal could take under consideration the following aspects defined in the ICOM code:

1. Museums preserve, interpret and promote the natural and cultural inheritance of humanity

“Museums are responsible for the tangible and intangible natural and cultural heritage. Governing bodies and those concerned with the strategic direction and oversight of museums have a primary responsibility to protect and promote this heritage as well as the human, physical and financial resources made available for that purpose.” (ICOM Code of Ethics, 1st article principle).

The committee could begin with the establishment of the Institutional Standing, Constitution (1.1), Mission, objectives and policies (1.2) and create a sufficient and descriptive criteria for the museum / site Premises (1.3) and for the accompanying topics, such as access to the public, opening hours, etc. (1.4) and adequate Safety and Health Requirements for both the staff and the public (1.5). This can be challenging in remote locations, but each location should no doubt have at least sufficient first aid kit. Adequate procedures for securing the public and the site (1.6, 1.7), as well as the sensitive and valuable items of the collection, should be designed. Arranging a sufficient insurance for the collection (1.8) may be challenging, however, this could be perhaps linked to the item (1.9), Funding, evaluating the possibilities of finding international sponsors, perhaps even an insurance company. As discussed in the earlier chapter, addressing the importance of Income-generation (1.10) in addition to public funding is essential, since realistically the government funding is insufficient for covering the entire cost of developing and running the sites.

In regards to Personnel, creating a professional employee policy and guidelines, also for assuring further training (1.11, 1.14, 1.15), not to forget including criteria for the museum director (1.12, 1.13), will help to attract qualified professional staff, and provide helpful guidelines for operating the museum. The ethical guidelines also for volunteers, and possible conflict situations, will help to avoid future problems (1.16 -1.18). As mentioned, we recommend to consider using the US Holocaust Memorial Code of Professional Ethics as a reference, as it states in great detail the parameters for the staff professional guidelines. In all of the policy procedures it is evidently also very important to remain realistic, and keep in mind the local circumstance.

2. Museums that maintain collections hold them in trust for the benefit of society and its development

Maintaining professional standards in acquiring collection, as discussed also earlier, has proven challenging. Therefore solving questions and agreeing about the parameters for all aspects covered in the ICOM Code of Ethics chapter 2, from acquisitions and assuring provenance, to the especially sensitive topic of collecting culturally sensitive material, such as human remains, including also plan on how to dispose or de-accession items, require establishment of adequate standards. (2.1 – 2.17).

Another evidently challenging topic has been the Collection Care, which needs to be addressed in designing the code. We would advise being realistic and taking under consideration the current starting status of the collection, and the limited professional capacity available for collection care now. The guideline should not prevent the museums / sites from operating, but should set parameters which help and support further development of both, the museums’ collections and the staff training, assuring sustainability and steadily improving conditions. (2.18 – 2.16).

3. Museums hold primary evidence for establishing and furthering knowledge

As stated in the principle; “Museums have particular responsibility to all for the care, accessibility and interpretation of primary evidence collected and held in their collections.” We see this article particularly relevant to keep in mind in formulating the Rwanda Code of Ethics, for the manifold challenges in the collection process, and gaps there so far are in the information available for explaining and telling the story of the collection, for it to properly benefit the audiences, and also future generations. This includes sufficient consideration of Collections as Primary Evidence (3.1), assuring free access and Availability of Collections and the information tied to them (3.2). In consideration of museum ethics concerning collecting and research, policies to assure respect and objectivity towards all the various stakeholders in relation to the genocide should be kept in mind, while assuring the academic standards. Setting standards and policies for Field Collecting (3.3) Exceptional Collecting of Primary Evidence (3.4), as well as Research (3.5) are all challenging topics to address, since so much of the material and information has been destroyed in the genocide. We see developing policies in case of Destructive Analysis (3.6), and particularly in research on Human Remains and Materials of Sacred Significance (3.7) essentially relevant for the Rwandan Code. Reaching a policy, which is in consensus with the various stakeholders’ interest, requires open dialogue. The topic of Retention of Rights to Research Material (3.8) has caused debate, as earlier discussed in relation to using the human remains in the exhibition. This topic can perhaps also be addressed in relation to (3.9) Shard Experience and (3.10), Co-operation Between Museums and Other Institutes, by involving experts and scholars in the research process to assure transparency and exchange knowledge.

4. Museums provide opportunities for the appreciation, understanding and management of the natural and cultural heritage

As the principle of this article state, “museums have an important duty to develop their educational role and attract wider audiences from the community, locality, or group they serve. Interaction with the constituent community and promotion of their heritage is an integral part of the educational role of the museum.”

Bearing in mind the educational and communal significance of the Rwandan memorial sites, this article, addressing the Display and Exhibition specifics, is relevant. With thoughtful and professionally created Displays, Exhibitions and Special Activities (4.1), Interpretation of Exhibitions (4.2), and addressing Exhibition of Sensitive Materials (4.3), the memorials can serve the Rwandan society providing much needed information, and opening forum for participatory actions engaging people. Planning policy for potential requests of Removal from Public Display (4.4), and also Display of Un-provenanced Material (4.5) express respect for the victims’ relatives and stakeholders, also helping to prevent possible dispute. Establishing Publications (4.6) will be essential tools for sharing accurate information. Reproduction (4.7.) may be relevant for exhibition building, because so much of the original material is still missing or has been destroyed.

5. Museums hold resources that provide opportunities for other public services and benefits

As the memorial sites / museums develop further, in cooperation with professional experts, scholars, and the local public, their significance will grow as centers of expertise, for example in providing identification service, Identification of Illegal or Illicitly Acquired Objects (5.1) or (5.2) Authentication and Valuation (Appraisal) purposes. Creating policy for such cases is advisable. Who are the experts to be used, and how do they operate?

6. Museums work in close collaboration with the communities from which their collections originate as well as those they serve

“Museum collections reflect the cultural and natural heritage of the communities from which they have been derived. As such, they have a character beyond that of ordinary property, which may include strong affinities with national, regional, local, ethnic, religious or political identity.” (Article 6. ICOM Code of Ethics).

Addressing origin of collections, promoting sharing of knowledge and documentation, working in Co-operation (6.1) with other organizations and stakeholders, such as universities and schools, as well as Return (6.2) and Restitution of Cultural Property (6.3) are significant for addressing respect and providing accurate information in relation to the Rwandan peoples heritage, not only in case of the genocide, but also in reflection of wider Rwandan heritage. Practical steps in showing international respect, with policy about Cultural Object from an Occupied Country (6.4) is advisable. Focus on the Contemporary Communities served (6.4), with thought of how to fairly and accurately arrange Funding for Community Activities (6.6), truly being able to involve the people and offer them a participatory platform, are worthwhile to plan. In this planning process the Use of Collections from Contemporary Community (6.7) and plans on how to best proceed in engaging and Supporting the Organizations in the Community (6.8) could well go hand in hand with the engaging and participatory approach.

7. Museums operate in a legal manner

Legal Framework for the museum operations should come from the National and Local Legislation (7.1), as also instigated by the Rwandan government Law. In addition to this, museums policies should acknowledge international standards, such as ICOM Code of Ethics for Museum Professionals, and the principles of the International Memorial Museum Charter, as suggested in this recommendation. This helps the museums and memorials to be placed and addressed in international framework, assuring standards and operational policies, which are reflective of the international standards.

8. Museums operate in a professional manner

The Principle of this article is to assure, that the museum professionals operate according to agreed laws and standards, and on the other hand, to assure and develop public recognition and respect for the profession. This also serves the interest of the museums and memorials management in general. This in mind, taking under consideration the relevance of the articles (8.1 – 8.18), addressing museum professionals’ responsibilities ranging from Academic and Scientific (8.4) to Confidentiality (8.8) or possible conflicts of interest, such as Gifts, Favors, Loans or Other Personal Benefits (8.12), or the use of the museum name (8.17), are topics worth discussing, however, this may be more relevant on individual institutional level. As mentioned, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Standards of Ethical Conduct, January 2008, offer detailed example of standards which could serve as an option for reference.


It is essential to take under consideration the Rwandan national circumstances, and the exceptionally challenging situation. Many fundamental questions are yet to be solved, both ethical and practical, such as what is the definition of a national monument, memorial site, burial place, or a museum, and how to define this? On one hand, it is essentially important to proceed with transparency and respect to the stakeholders, namely the local population, who in many cases have a sensitive personal relationship to the topic. On the other hand, it is also necessary to adapt professional standards and a museological approach when proceeding with safeguarding both the tangible, and intangible Rwandan heritage, in best available professional manner.

Whether the choice of a term to describe the Rwanda genocide memorial locations, and centres build to commemorate those, will eventually be determined as a museum, or a memorial sites, is only the surface. The core issue, and the underlying motivation of preserving these heritage sites, and commemorating and communicating the genocide history, as well as the contemporary history of the past twenty years, is to acknowledge and to educate accurately the Rwandan population about their own heritage. It seems the major challenge of succeeding with the Rwanda memorial sites once some victims are not represented and remembered, and dealing with the country’s contemporary history, starts with first succeed in involving the local communities both Tutsi and Hutu in safeguard the collections in their possession and whole communities, and to truly feeling connected to the mission of the memorial museums or sites as inclusive heritage.

In our proposal to reach this objective, we suggest a participatory approach, aiming to create modern participatory memorial museums/sites, which are places for open discussion and learning for all age- and cultural groups, the victims and perpetrators, as well as for the international community. In general we consider that the mission of these heritage sites is to reflect and educate inclusively, sharing the lessons learned about the Rwanda genocide, which was planned and executed by Rwandans against Rwandans tragically tearing the nation apart. The memorials / museums can offer a forum also for wider discussion about genocides in general, sharing information objectively, and providing objective education about how to prevent genocides from happening in the future. After the 1994 genocide the Rwandans inherited several genocide memorial sites, which have now been preserved by the government, to remind people of the genocide that took place. Even though these sites are not advocated for tourism, the sites are gaining popularity, as tourist to Rwanda become aware of them and the history applicable to the memorial sites. To reach the above discussed goals, of establishing agreed set of guidelines and code of ethics for sustainable development of the genocide memorial sites / museums, asking the following questions could be useful for the planning process: What were, and what are the attitudes of Rwandans of different ethnic groups vis a vis the memorial sites within twenty years after the genocide? How the Rwandan government has resolved the challenges, and managed to collect and provide accurate and objective information? Are there limitation and weakness in the existing law, and if so, how to improve the law to truly serve the purpose? What suggestions can be proposed to create and maintain the Rwandan genocide memorial sites / museums, assuring sustainable manner to educate people, and the generations to come, and how to best prioritise the tasks to be completed? These, and a number of other questions need eventually to be answered. To accomplish best results in this process we encourage an open discussion. In order to assure transparency of the process we suggest formulation of a professionally focused task committee, which involves also the local population, and which can create an objective proposal, acknowledging the current situation and challenges involved, with proposed solutions for sustainable development of the Rwandan historic heritage sites, serving the best interest of the Rwandan people.


  • Rwandan Law governing memorial sites and cemeteries of victims of the genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda (10/09/2008).
  • The ICOM Code of Ethics For Museums, revised by the 21st General Assembly in Seoul (Republic of Korea) on 8 October 2004.
  • http://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria/ UNESCO Selection Criteria for the World Heritage Sites, revised in 2004.
  • New times, article, on 06 Feb 2014
  • International Memorial Museums Charter, approved at the 10th annual membership meeting if IC-MEMO, Paris, October 2011.
  • National Commission for the fight against genocide; Identification of Memorial and Cemeteries Sites of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, Kigali 2006.
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Standards of Ethical Conduct, January 2008.
  • National Heritage Council of South Africa; Critical reflections on heritage, 2012.
  • SUSAN M. Pearce; Interpreting Objects and Collections, 1994.
  • Claudia Clemens; Memorial museums: The new face of Memory (master’s thesis), 1997.
  • Peter van Mensch and Leontine Meijer van Mensch; News Trends in Museology 2011.
  • Rwandan Prime Minister’s office; Official Gazetteyear  48 no 12bis 23 March 2009.
  • Nina Simon; The Participatory Museum, 2010.


[1] Rwandan Prime Minister’s office; Official Gazetteyear  48 no 12bis 23 March 2009, p68

[2] Idem