Genocide memorial sites live to tell story

A very big number of Rwandans remain ignorant about the way the 1994 Genocide was committed. It is surprising but true that a Rwandan living in Rwanda is only superficially informed about the horrendous experience the country and its people went through.

A very big number of Rwandans remain ignorant about the way the 1994 Genocide was committed. It is surprising but true that a Rwandan living in Rwanda is only superficially informed about the horrendous experience the country and its people went through. 

I noticed this reality in the year 2000 when I joined some researchers from Kenya who were studying the genesis of the Genocide. It was humbling on my side to discover that foreigners actually knew much more than I did.

They did not only know how it all started, but also could tell some Kinyarwanda utterances that were meant to dehumanise the Tutsi. They could give a connotative definition of the word Inyenzi (cockroach) and put it in its proper context.

The foreigners also had enough knowledge on the history of the country and in some cases could explain to me how regionalism had great influence in the politics of the Rwanda.

However, when I stayed with them for a couple of years in the research, I discovered that what they knew was only based on surface findings. 

They were limited in all areas whenever they tried to get information. In some cases they were given wrong information that was completely biased.

And biased information, though accommodated, has negative implications in research.

In fact all foreign researchers are limited by language and the country’s social cultural background, which is why most of their findings in the Genocide are disputed.

They only rely on translated, second-hand information, which does not give them the whole truth. Fortunately the people I worked with realised the weakness and had to rely on me for the translation and some interpretation.

They thus had to give me the benefit of doubt because I could have been biased too. This is how I took the advantage and got to know all concerning the 1994 Tutsi Genocide in Rwanda.

I used to listen to stories from survivors and the radio, and that was all. Unfortunately that is how many of our people are living. They hence remain ignorant about what happened in the country.

For anyone to claim to be living a reality of the Genocide, he or she must have visited a number of genocide memorial sites. You may be staying just a meter away from a memorial site, but if you never visit it, be sure that you cannot tell any reliable and valid story.

I therefore urge Rwandans of all walks of life to visit at least the memorial sites that are near to them, so that we avoid the shame of such ignorance.

The families of survivors,  relatives of those who committed the Genocide and Rwandans who were not in Rwanda, should all visit the sites. Of course the former two are more informed than the latter, but they share some commonalties in the general ignorance.

When the bereaved families and friends are burying the victims for example, they do not get time to internalise the past. Nonetheless, I am encouraged by the fact that some people have started visiting Gisozi Memorial Site.

Never mind the reality that some Rwandans may visit the site due to group influence, or a sense of duty; at the end of the day a lesson is learnt for the better of our futurAe coexistence.

The site is well organised and leaves all visitors with full information about the genocide in question. The site includes three permanent exhibitions, the largest of which documents the Genocide in 1994.

There is also a children’s memorial, and an exhibition on the history of genocide around the world.

The Education Centre, Memorial Gardens and National Documentation Centre of the Genocide do not only contribute to a meaningful tribute to those who perished, but also form a powerful educational tool for the future posterity.

There are also some important areas that any Rwandan who wants to live the reality, should not fail to visit. Take your precious time and visit some churches that were used as killing grounds during the Genocide and you will be astonished by your discoveries.

The close interrelationship between churches and the Genocide offers much for a Rwandan to learn.

As we continue to ask ourselves a number of questions, we must at the same time take initiatives to get their answers.

For example, if you visited the churches you would ask questions like; why do good people ignore mass murder and genocide? Unfortunately there are no simple answers to such questions. 

We cannot only depend on our intuitive feelings about these atrocities but, in addition, we must create and commit ourselves to institutional and political responses based upon reasoned analysis of our moral obligations to stop the mass annihilation of innocent people.

The genocide memorial sites, offer the best environment for this to happen. You cannot get a solution to an issue you do not properly understand. We therefore need to live to tell the genocide story.


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