The Genocide Memorial
If the events that had taken place at the hotel in 1994 had been difficult for me to comprehend, what had happened throughout the country was made very real by the Genocide Memorial (http://www.kigalimemorialcentre.org). Seeing children’s toys and other everyday objects brought to mind visits I had made to Auschwitz concentration camp, where babies’ dummies and dolls were among victims’ belongings. It’s far more powerful seeing these places in real life than on a television screen.
The room containing pictures of victims was reminiscent of the display of those murdered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime at Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I remember the looks of bewilderment and confusion on their faces, having been photographed on arrival at the jail with no idea what was to become of them. Here the pictures were of Rwandese men, women and children smiling for the camera in happy times before the genocide. The photos at Tuol Sleng were taken in the seventies, so while still relatively recent in historical terms, they were in black and white. Those here were from the nineties and in colour, making the victims and their personalities stand out even more as individuals, and the gravity of events almost more tangible.
I was horrified to learn more about the careful planning of this tragedy and its execution – what happened and why. I was both appalled and ashamed that the international community stood by as it did so. On display was an article from the Times from January 1994 stating that human rights organisations were warning of a potential catastrophe in Rwanda if nothing was done. Three months later began the start of 100 days of horror, during which one million people lost their lives. That is just so staggering, a number so huge it cannot be visualised. The room here was full of photos of just a small minority of those victims, and outside 250,000 of them were buried. A lot of their lives ended by being butchered at roadblocks on the very streets I had been walking on as I explored the city; others had been killed by childhood friends or neighbours. So sad.
” In 100 days, more than 1,000,000 people were murdered. But the genocidaires did not kill a million people. They killed one, then another, then another…… day after day, hour after hour, minute by minute. Every minute of the day, someone, somewhere, was being murdered, screaming for mercy.
And receiving none.”
Excerpt from Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre website