A new museum, Campaign Against Genocide Museum, has opened in Kigali at the parliamentary buildings. This museum tells part of the many Rwanda’s sad stories of the yesteryears, of despair, struggling to free a people from the yoke of subjugation, the efforts and the sacrifices that were suffered and written during the time of rescuing the Tutsi from the strangling hands of Interahamwe; the campaign that was started from the parliament buildings and became successful, a “Campaign Against Genocide ” (CAG Museum) was built in the parliamentary compound.
According to officials from Institute National of Museums in Rwanda (INMR), the new museum is of great historical, educational and inspirational importance.
According to Robert Masozera, the INMR Director General; “It is a very important historical site, that conserves, preserves and exhibits better than anything else, the history of how genocide against the Tutsi was prepared and committed and how it was stopped by men and women of RPA when the International Community had left Rwandans alone under the mercilessness of the Genocidaires.”
This is how the story of CAG Museum begins. The 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, a tragedy that befell Rwanda, left many scars, on bodies, minds and infrastructures. The Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA), the military wing of the RPF-Inkotanyi, officers and men, in the process of stopping the genocide and liberating the country between 1990 and 1994, went through different landscapes, forts and bunkers from where they had to launch assault on the enemy.
One such place was the national parliamentary buildings.
The parliamentary buildings became base to RPA 600-strong battalion that was protecting Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF- Inkotanyi) dignitaries who were monitoring the implementation of the Arusha Peace Accord.
The Arusha Accord signed on 4th August 1993 was intended to establish a mechanism of power sharing between the then government, opposition parties and the RPF Inkotanyi.
However despite the signing, the government, which was led by the then president Juvenal Habyarimana, power sharing was deemed impossible and the accord trashed as a paper, lifeless and powerless.
Fortunately enough, the RPA soldiers who were fighting to liberate the country launched another campaign. It is “The Campaign Against Genocide,”
The campaign began when 600 man protection force the (3BN) were given the order first on April,7 1994 by the RPA Chairman of High Command Major General Paul Kagame to break out from their initial positions, defend themselves and rescue victims of Genocide in their vicinity.
Masozera believes that at the same time, the museum has an educational and an inspirational importance because the place serves as an irreplaceable source of the national pride, inspiring the spirit of heroism, determination, courage and humanity showed by the Rwandan Patriotic Army during the campaign against genocide.
He encouraged Rwandans and other visitors to visit CAG, because there is lot they can learn.
“Visitors come closer and interact freely with the recent past. We have photos, texts, films, monuments and other collections of political and historical importance,” he said.
Inside the Museum
According to officials, CAG Museum contains well researched and documented history of the Campaign Against Genocide whichwould be helpful not only in learning lessons but also for research purposes.
“Visiting CAG helps to understand how the 1994 Genocide Tutsi was executed and how it was stopped when the international community was a mere by stander and even how actively some countries were involved in executing Genocide ,” Masozera says.
Touring the museum is that fascinating just like touring any other museums. At the entrance one is welcomed by a traditional set up such as non-selective hospitality, Rwandan traditional home, Inyambo cows, cattle herdsmen, traditional weapons and fighters, girls and boys dancing among others.
It has the internal and external wings according to Medard Bashana, the CAG Museum manager who guided us through the museum.
And the advantage of CAG, officials say, is that it is located in the City of Kigali, a 10 minute drive from the Genocide Memorial of Gisozi and 10 min drive tothe International Airport of Kanombe and a walking distance from the Kigali Convention Center.
The Internal part
The Internal part, he said has nine main galleries or rooms, the most important one being the
gallery showing Maj. Gen. Paul Kagame in his capacity of Chairman RPA
High Command giving the order to stop the genocide.
Other galleries show exhibition about peace process, Genocide Preparation and Genocide
execution, defeat of Genocidal forces and Rescue Victims of Genocide, enemy defeat and humanity in the face of genocide, among others.
The external part is composed of monuments. The main monument faces the entrance of the parliamentary buildings and narrates the story of rescue missions carried out by the RPA, according to Bashana.
Surprisingly, the monument has a meaning for Rwandans. According to Bashana, it has three soldiers and the first one holds a binocular which means he is giving the vision and the end state of the campaign.
However despite the bigger task, he has also rescued a child to show that there is a brighter future for the nation.
The second soldier on the left side of the monument shows that to stop genocide there might be the need to defeat genocidal forces. It also shows a rescued person who is hungry but celebrating that he got saved.
The monument also shows a dead woman which show that the genocidaires killed everybody and could not think about the future of the country as the woman is the mother of the nation.
The second monument bears a soldier holding a 12.7mm Machine Gun that helped in containing the advancing genocidal forces.
The monument situated below the main parking is in honour of the soldiers who perished during the rescue operations.
The most visible monument is placed on top of the Parliamentary buildings.
It is an imposing statue of two soldiers operating a heavy machine gun and it is an exact replica of their mission then.
At the height of the Genocide, the RPA fighters at Parliament came under sustained gunfire from the then government troops that had surrounded the Parliament and others that were on the strategic positions (mountains) in Kigali and all targets to defeat a few men at the parliament in vain.
For the RPA to contain the fire, they had to place a heavy gun on top of the Parliamentary main building to counter the attackers.
One of the soldiers who operated the gun is still alive.
Like in all other museums, the CAG is open from 8.00am to 6.00pm every day from Monday to Sunday, including in holidays, except on April,7 when the commemoration of Genocide against the Tutsi starts.