Sunday, March 21, 2010

Genocide Memorial

This afternoon we visited the Genocide Memorial in Kigali. There are several genocide memorial sites in Rwanda: Nyamata is the location of a church where 5000 people were slaughtered, and Gikongoro, where over 1800 bodies from the 27 000 that were exhumed from the mass graves have been placed on display in the old technical school. The memorial in Kigali was set up in 2001, mostly as a site of burial for some 250 000 bodies that had been recovered from the 1994 genocide. One of the mass graves is pictured on the left. As perpetrators come forward and identify locations of those they have killed, and as remains continue to be discovered, these are added to the mass graves, and their identities recorded on the Wall of Names (below).
The Kigali Memorial is a much more sterilized experience than the Nyamata and Gikorongo sites mentioned above, which have been preserved in the state they were left following the massacres. Some have blood still on the walls, clothes of the victims, or parts of bodies preserved in lime. I haven't seen either of these. Apparently it is a grim and shocking experience.
The memorial did an excellent job, however, of exhibiting the pre-existing remnants of colonialism and racial tension that set the stage for the genocide, as well as involvement of UN, Belgian, and French troops. Lt Romeo Dallaire knew that the Hutu majority wer
e stockpiling weapons, but the UN security council refused to take action. Belgian UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda) withdrew from the Gikorongo technical school where they had been providing protection for thousands of Tutsis - they were all subsequently massacred. All in all, approximately 1 million people were killed, about 1/9 of the population, with many more victims of war rape, injuries, and amputations. Almost everyone in this country has known or is related to either a perpetrator or victim of genocide. One of our residents is the sole survivor from his entire family.

In many towns and villages you see painted on signs or on houses a reference to the genocide (the rest is in Kinyarwanda), with the English words: Never Again.

No comments:

Post a Comment