When we first arrived in Rwanda, we all quickly decided that we wanted to pay our respects to the 1994 Genocide victims and families by learning as much as we can about it. Therefore, during the trip from Huye to Bugesera, we asked if we could stop at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
The 1994 Rwandan Genocide, also known as the genocide against the Tutsi, was a massacre of the tutsi tribe, as well as some of the Hutu tribe. After the death of the king, Hutu political elite organised the mass murders of the Tutsi tribe. The Tutsi were being slaughtered in their homes, towns or villages, churches and school. Anyone that showed sympathy towards the Tutsi were also killed. The genocide lasted for 100 days with around 1,000,000 being brutally slaughtered.
We decided that we wanted to go to the memorial as we wanted to pay our respects as well as learn as much as we can about the history of Rwanda. The Kigali memorial has 3 different exhibitions including:
History before colonisation – the factors and events that led to the genocide, the nature of the genocide – the horrors that occurred, post-genocide, which showed the details of the reconstruction after the genocide, justice for victims and forgiveness given by survivors.
This first exhibition was hard to walk through, as it explained (and showed by video or photo) the different types of brutality and horror that occurred to not only the Tutsi but to anyone, including Hutu, that showed sympathy towards the Tutsi. The rooms that were the most heartbreaking and emotional were the picture room, bone remains room and the clothing room. It is hard to believe that this sort of brutality could occur within such a now peaceful country, but these rooms put a face to every number that was mentioned in previous rooms.
Exhibition 2. Wasted Lives.
This part of the museum looks into the different massacres around the world that have not been recognised as genocide by international law, including the Holocaust.
The different massacres were distressing and upsetting because, even though we know of the different stories and history, we don’t know everything. We focus mostly on the statistics of massacres and genocides rather than the victims and loved ones. This museum focuses on not only telling the story of the genocide as well as other massacres but the victims, families and the knowledge we need which would potentially help to avoid them from happening again.
The last exhibition was called, Children’s Room. This was beyond what I could have imagined, there was nothing that could’ve prepared me for what was to come. As soon as we all walked in we were in tears. On the walls of the rooms there were pictures of children that had died in the genocide and underneath there was a plaque with, their name, their age, their favourite food or thing to do, and how they died. All were brutal.
It is unbelievable and distressing to think about all the adults and children who lost their lives prematurely.
From the last exhibition, we sat down in a room and watched a video. The people in the video were the same from the first one that we saw as we arrived. Although, this video was different. They were happy, they had forgiven those who had hurt them, and found peace. They had graduated, got married, had children. One couple we had seen had met through their grief and were married and had children together.
We then walked outside into the the gardens which hold the mass graves of around 250,000 people who were laid to rest, rose gardens and reflection gardens. These gardens are beautiful and well kept, to not only honour victims but allow a beautiful and peaceful place for families and loved ones to go to remember.
This year marks the 25th year since the genocide. Rwanda is constantly developing and improving but it is clear that the country is at peace with its history.
The quote i will forever remember is from Morgan Freeman in the Guestbook of the memorial:
“because what you have accomplished as a result of the Genocide, as a result of reconciliation, makes us all feel that peace is possible. Thank you.”Morgan Freeman