KAMPALA, Uganda - The bodies of nearly 11,000 Rwandan genocide victims that floated more than 100 miles downriver and were placed in makeshift graves in Uganda will receive proper reburial, Rwanda's ambassador said Sunday.
The bodies will be exhumed from the shores of Lake Victoria and reburied in three permanent mass graves, Ambassador Ignatius Kamali said on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide.
"We have decided to accord a decent burial to those genocide victims," he said. "We want the exercise done within 100 days from today."
Kamali did not say how much the process would cost but said that Rwanda would foot the bill. Tom Lutu, an official in Rakai district, told The Associated Press that the Rwandan government bought the land where the bodies will be buried.
Kamali did not say why the bodies would remain in Uganda instead of returning to Rwanda, but touted the initiative as an attempt to improve the relationship between the two neighbors.
A plan to do the rebury the bodies two years ago in Uganda was marred by land issues and the resistance of some local leaders. Kamali said both issues had since been settled.
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
Get our best delivered to your inbox.
Ugandan officials welcomed the plan.
"We are good neighbors and they are also members of the east African community," said Ugandan Minister of State for Ethics Nsaba Buturo. "We agreed with them that those bodies need a decent burial. We gave them the go-ahead."
The Rwandan genocide began on April 6, 1994, after a plane carrying the central African nation's president _ a member of the Hutu ethnic majority _ was shot down. Hutu extremists had been planning an attack on minority Tutsis as well as moderate Hutus, and the slaughter began the next day.
In a span of about three months, an estimated 800,000 people were killed _ many hacked to death with machetes and hoes. Women were systematically raped and tortured, their limbs chopped off. In some cases, pregnant women died as their fetuses were ripped from their wombs.
Many bodies had been thrown into Rwanda's Nyabarongo River, which feeds into the Kagera River and which dumps into the large Lake Victoria. The bodies floated down the river for two or three days before reaching Uganda, said Ugandans who witnessed the bodies' arrival. During that time, many Ugandans swore off eating fish, out of fear that the fish in Lake Victoria were feeding on the bodies.
In 1994, Ugandan villagers buried the bodies along the shores of Lake Victoria in a tranche of six large makeshift mass graves and numerous smaller graves. Some of the graves were made of concrete; others were shallow and covered only by shrubbery.