Officials say a dam outside Kigali, Rwanda, could contain the bodies of up to 30,000 victims from the genocide against the country's ethnic Tutsi minority.
Identification of the bodies has been complicated by coronavirus-related lockdown measures in Rwanda, but 50 have been exhumed thus far, The Associated Press reported.
Also complicating the removal of the bodies is the water in the dam, according to Naphtal Ahishakiye, the executive secretary of genocide survivor organization Ibuka.
“The challenge we face now is that the valley dam contains water, but we are trying to dry it up,” Ahishakiye told the AP.
Despite a virus-related lockdown, which will prevent in-person gatherings for funerals, Ahishakiye added, “we try our best so that we give the dead a decent burial.”
The discovery came days ahead of the 26th anniversary of the beginning of the 1994 genocide.
Militias composed of the Hutu majority killed about 800,000 Tutsis and anti-genocide Hutus in in the days following the assassination of President Juvénal Habyarimana. The nation, which established a National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, typically marks the anniversary with public memorial observances, which will be limited to television and social media due to the lockdown.
The discovery of the bodies may complicate ongoing attempts at reconciliation in Rwanda with the revelation that the perpetrators of the genocide may not have been forthcoming about the location of all victims’ bodies.
Numerous people convicted in connection with the genocide have since been released early or completed their sentences, including Aloys Simba, a lieutenant colonel who was released in December 2018 over the vocal objections of the Rwandan government.