Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Aegis Trust, CNLG in joint efforts to archive Genocide records


Aegis Trust, a UK-based public charity registered in Rwanda as a non-government organisation, has partnered with the National Commission for the fight against Genocide (CNLG) to improve and expand the Genocide archives.

This follows the government’s approval of a National Archives and Records Management policy earlier this year.

“The policy was approved early this year in February, with an objective to help government efficiently and effectively organise archives and put in place mechanism to avail information in the archives for use. We want to have a coordinated system of the archives with a central coordination mechanism,” Edward Kalisa, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Sports and Culture, said yesterday at a feasibility study workshop hosted by Aegis Trust and CNLG in Kigali.

The workshop brought together individuals and organisations that hold original records relating to Genocide (text, images, audio and visual) with an aim of consolidating efforts of documentation of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

“There have been uncoordinated initiatives in the documentation by various bodies, private and public, but by bringing them together, we can learn from each other, build synergy and do more with less resources,” Kalisa  said.

“Aegis Trust has invested a lot in organising the archives and has advanced expertise; we can work with them to have a major archive centre. We have huge expectations from such initiatives,” he added.

Attracting partners

Through the multi-organisational partnership, Aegis Trust is seeking to bring on board various partners involved in documenting the Genocide for proper centralised archiving and find ways to ensure the materials are accessible for those interested.

“We are bringing together partners to see what is available and a way forward to have accessible archive. Some of the material is kept at home and not well archived or inaccessible. With a centralised archive, it will be possible for researchers, students and anybody interested to access them,” Freddy Mutanguha, the Aegis country director, said.

Mutanguha said there is still denial of its (Genocide) occurrence and proper documentation is a good way to make people see it as a reality.

“Nearly 20 years after the Genocide we still have denials of genocide. The only weapon is to keep evidence of what happened, that will show how it was planned and executed,” he said.

Genesis of archive idea

The idea of archives was borne of excesses of materials for an exhibition during a past Genocide memorial.

“We had to collect pictures, documents, paper based materials, testimonies from survivors, perpetrators and rescuers. We couldn’t use all this material for the exhibition; we could only select a few,” Mutanguha said.

“It brought up a question of what to do with some material that survivors had given but were not presented at the exhibition. We decided to get an accessible archive.”

Mutanguha said they have been able to collect and preserve a wide range of records, including informative testimonies from elders that detail the genesis, events, outcomes and recovery in the post-Genocide period.

Also being carried out is a pilot interactive mapping of sites related to the Genocide.

“The country is developing fast and the only way to preserve some of these places (road blocks and mass graves) is to create a map that can be digitalised for future reference,” he said.

The team is also looking at ways of archiving Gacaca court reports, which make nearly 70 per cent of the files, Mutanguha added.

“Gacaca files are quite challenging, not only because they are many but also finding a good solution for digitalising and accessibility. We are working with strategic partners to develop appropriate ideas and technicalities,” he said.

On board also are strategic partners who have expertise and experiences in similar projects elsewhere in the world, including the World War 2. USC Shoah Foundation from California, and NIOD (the Institute of War Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Netherlands) will provide expertise in dealing with the various records.

Petra Links, from NIOD, said it is beneficial to partner in this area.

“There will be high level preservation employing advanced techniques and archive management methods,” Links  said.

“There will also be software and infrastructure necessary to provide a digital platform for access to the collection, making it a leading edge of archival management that supports the process of learning, reconciliation and peace building in Rwanda and beyond.”

Jean de Dieu Mucyo, the executive secretary of CNLG, welcomed the move, saying most of the vital documents are scattered in the country and beyond.

He encouraged Rwandans to tell their history and the Genocide, in particular, to counter denial.

Aegis Trust, CNLG in joint efforts to archive Genocide records


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