Survivors of Rukaramu massacre demand right to visit grave in Bujumbura airport

The secretary general of the association of survivors of Rukaramu massacre-AREMARU, calls on the government to help them have the right to enter Bujumbura International Airport and hold a service in remembrance of their dead.

“Over 600 people were buried in a mass grave inside Bujumbura International Airport”.

Christophe Ntawuyankira, secretary general of AREMARU, says they live in deep sorrow as they have no right to approach where their relatives were buried. “Over 600 people were buried inside the International Airport of Bujumbura in 1998. At the time there was no enclosure. We are not allowed to get in the airport and put flowers in memory of our people”.

Mr. Ntawuyankira says they are aware that the matter is in the hands of the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission –CVR but they ask for a small entrance that can be kept closed and only open every January 1st as a commemoration day so as to let the bereaved weep for their dead people. “It seems that our dead are imprisoned while we have no right to visit them. It is really sad”.
Emmanuel Habimana, Director General of the Burundi Civil Aviation Authority, says it is difficult to give external people access to the airport zone. “We follow rules and the latter do not allow strangers to have access to the place”.

He also says the matter is a political question that cannot interfere in the airport management. “Rukaramu massacre is one among other massacres that occurred in Burundi and all these questions are dealt with by the national commission. The bereaved should report the case to CVR and follow administrative procedures”.

During the night of 31December 1997 to 1January1998, rebels attacked Rukaramu area. Over 800 people were reported dead in the attack and on 4 January 1998, the administration provided 600 coffins that were put in a mass grave located in Rukaramu zone. Since Burundi Civil Aviation Authority (AACB) closed the entire perimeter of Bujumbura airport, families of the victims no longer have access to the mass grave where their people were buried.