As a tour guide, I take visitors to the Kigali Genocide Memorial quite often. I usually hand them over to the receptionist upon arrival and retreat to the parking lot but that wasn’t the case during my most recent visit.
The International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi was approaching. In preparation for this day and the ensuing commemoration week, I accompanied my delegation beyond the reception area. In doing so, I had another opportunity to pay tribute to our beloved ones and revisit the historical context of the genocide.
In this centre of remembrance and learning, the genocide is documented and preceding events are presented in graphics and audio-visual technology. Last year, the Visual History Archive was launched.
The new hi-tech platform contains more than 55,000 testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and similar atrocities around the world. This tool is contributing a great deal to the memorial’s mission of learning and genocide prevention.
Our tour started in the video room where we watched a short film showing a harmoniously constructed society turning into hell. It looked like a trailer of a horror movie.
Unfortunately, this production wasn’t inspired by fictitious ideas. It was a reality show depicting a dark chapter of our own history.
When we left the video room, we walked through different sections of the facility. It wasn’t my first time there but once again, I read every text displayed on the walls and played every video. After the pre-genocide sections, subsequent exhibits were even harder to stomach.
The children’s section upstairs is more disturbing. Photos of adorable kids are framed with basic information revealing their favourite toys, food, friends, last words uttered and the type of death they succumbed to.
At some point during this grievous tour, I read an extract from a survey conducted by UNICEF. 80% of the 3,000 children interviewed experienced death in the family during the genocide.
Seventy per cent of them witnessed brutal murders. 88% saw dead bodies or body parts and 90% believed they would die. You know you have sunk to the bottom of the abyss when 90% of your children believe they will not see tomorrow.
Kigali Genocide Memorial is a resourceful site exposing the divisive colonial experience and the post-colonial hate propaganda which in turn, gave birth to the genocide ideology.
More than 250,000 victims are laid to rest there and their names are inscribed on a wall built near their mass graves.
While paying homage to the victims, I examined circumstances that led to
the Genocide against the Tutsi and pondered the country’s healing and reconstruction process.
The past cannot be undone. There is no reset button. However, we have what it takes to write the script of our bright future and walk the never again talk.
The author is an adventurer on a mission to discover what Rwanda has to offer. Follow his awe-inspiring journey on the Sunday Times and