If you ever find yourself in Kigali and you intend to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial, prepare yourself for all shades of emotion. Anger, pain, grief, sadness…you name it.
Like most visitors to Kigali, I wasn’t going to be left out in visiting the largest Genocide memorial in the country so off I was on a Saturday afternoon, the day after I arrived the city.
Getting to the memorial, we were welcomed at the reception by a lady who then briefed us about the memorial. A short clip about the Genocide is played for visitors before going into the memorial hall. Watching that clip gave a sneak peak into the situation and I saw a couple of people shed tears while it was played. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning.
Prepare yourself for all sorts of emotions if you plan to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial. I could help but shed tears. So many senseless killings! It's good to see that Rwandans have been able to move past such a horrific time in their history. They live as one without discriminating against their tribes/ethnic groups. Still waiting for the day Nigerians will do the same 😒
The genesis of the genocide according to the notes and captions in the memorial can be traced back to the colonial era. It then slowly brewed over the years before finally erupting in the year 1994. Displayed in the memorial are clips, photo and other exhibits chronicling the genocide. There were photos of full grown men and women hacked to death with machetes. Some others were said to have been buried alive. Some bombed in their place of refuge. From the display, it was obvious that the perpetrators were brutal in carrying out their mission. Another room in the memorial had real human skulls and bones. There were also clothes, shoes and other belongings of victims who lost their lives. Children weren’t spared either. There was a section in the memorial dedicated for them with plagues giving a brief description about who they were and how they died. In plain and simple words, IT WAS HORRIBLE!!!
The part that was particularly emotional for me was watching clips of living witnesses recount the horror. There were stories of people who were the only surviving victim in their family, Mothers who lost their children, Children who lost their parents, Husbands whom their wives had to watch them die right before their eyes…I had to shed a tear. The pain of losing a loved one is something I’ve been dealing with for years but hearing the stories of these survivors made me thankful that people I lost didn’t have to go through as much pain as they did. Nothing worse than watching a loved one hacked to death right in front of one’s eyes. I don’t even want to imagine it.
Outside the Memorial building were mass graves where victims were buried. A wall by the graves had a list of some of the victims of the genocide. I’m not particularly sure they were able to recover all the corpse of the victims but from a few indications, a good number were recovered.
Visiting the memorial was an eye opening and sad experience overall. It made me more human. It made me more grateful. And, it made me come into the full realisation that violence is never the answer. I tried to place myself in my head in April 1994. I’m sure I was probably excited about turning 5 years old that year. I must have been talking and bragging about how I’ll wear a pretty dress and have cake plus rice and chicken. That was my worry as a 5 year old but the kids in Rwanda had far more to worry about. Even much more than an average adult in Abacha regime could think of.
The 1994 Rwandan Genocide is probably something that Rwandans will talk about for generations to come. It’s a part of their history and I’m glad to see that they’ve come to terms with it and have since then moved on with their lives. And from the progress in the country that I witnessed during my visit, I have no doubt that Rwanda’s future will be even brighter than its dark past.
What You Should Know
The Kigali Genocide Memorial is situated at Gisozi, about 10 minutes from the city center.
It is free to visit the genocide museum but you pay $20 (foreigners apart from East Africa Community) to take pictures inside.
Pictures are allowed outside at no cost.
Have you ever visited the genocide memorial? Please share your thoughts and comments