The Kigali Genocide Museum and Memorial Gardens
Today was never going to be an easy day. 259,000 victims of the Rwandan genocide are buried here. Personally, I find that number staggering and impossible to comprehend.
- The genocide lasted 100 days
- 1,000,000 Rwandans lost their lives
- 300,000 children were orphaned
- 85,000 children became the head of their household
- 2,000,000 became refugees
- Two-thirds of the population were displaced
As most of you know, I have researched this subject in great detail but there were still several things that shocked me today.
- A common thread for survivors of the genocide here is that they knew their attackers, many were friends or neighbours. To know something is one thing. To hear individual survivors tell their personal stories and call their attackers by their names was harrowing. One lady said, “Patrick, my next door neighbour, came to kill us. The family were not well off and we had paid for their children’s education.”
- Part of the museum is dedicated to children. There are numerous photographs and below each a list of details:
- The child’s name
- Their age
- Their favourite hobbies
- Their favourite foods
- Their favourite person
- How they died
I will spare you by not citing an example.
3. Near the end, at the bottom of one display, there was a photograph of two round faced nuns, one with wire rimmed glasses. Immediately, my heart went out to them, they were here to help and must have witnessed heinous crimes and even lost their lives. The text beneath the picture explained that these two women were convicted for ‘crimes against humanity’ as they had handed a church full of Tutsi to the Interahamwe militias who had killed them all. Both women were sentenced to 10 years in jail.
To end on a positive note, many survivors whose family members are buried here spoke openly about how much they loved the Memorial Garden and how it was a place where they could feel both close to their loved ones and feel loved in return.