Kigali Genocide Memorial
is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
It honours the memory of the more than one million Rwandans killed in 1994 through education and peace-building.
I wasn’t sure about visiting this centre – I have read quite a bit about this particular genocide and remember it well – would this be a ‘token gesture kind of place’ or so harrowing I would need space – lots of it to find equilibrium again.
It was neither – it was a remarkable place which honours those so brutally murdered and does so much more – it puts it into a context.
It does an excellent job about educating – about how incremental mind changes, subtle gossip and creation of envy can change neighbours into enemies.
“It is a crime against humanity to be
accused of being born ”
It looks at genocides throughout recent times :
– The Armenian 75% of those in Ottoman Empire murdered
– The Hereros 80% of population murdered
– The Pol Pot in Cambodia 25% of its population killed
– The Holocaust killed 6 million Jews (about 2/3 of Jewish population in Europe) and 5 million non Jews
– The Muslim killings in Bosnia Herzegovina has disputed figures but it is believed 200,000 people were killed, 12,000 of them children, up to 50,000 women were raped, and 2.2 million were forced to flee their homes.
– and the rest
And doubtless as our present becomes history more will be added – Syria? Iraq?
The word genocide is a fairly recent addition to our language:
Geno=Greek race/tribe Cide=Latin killing
But the act can be traced back to the Old Testament.
The centre has lovely gardens where contemplation is possible and while I spent three hours there I noted a large school group ; not just on a school excursion as we know them – a day out of school and a bit of fun . Rather an intense visit which included a long session in the Peace Room of interactive discussion. There were guides talking to them through each area and conversation appeared two way and deep.
2 mill dead in two months and it is believed that the number of foreign troops used to evacuate foreign workers could have stopped the attacks which they knew were planned. Communal guilt?
Gacaca (grass) courts were set up throughout the country post the killings – these were not ‘kangaroo’ courts but serious attempts to seek the truth and sentences ranged from prison to community work – those who found it possible to confess and asked forgiveness of relevant victims were generally given community work as ‘punishment’ 12000 courts in 10 years did much to bring some kind of resolution and these courts have been called the finest post conflict justice courts in the world – I wonder how many of us had heard of them?
Rwandans may be defined by their history in others minds but they are working through education to ensure it never happens again – (as can be seen by the two posters I copied.).
They also seem to know that without forgiveness moving forward is not possible