Knowing Kigali: Kigali Genocide Memorial


Anyone, and I mean anyone, who hears the name Rwanda would immediately think of the genocide of the ’90s. Unless, of course, the person has been living under a rock for the last 20years.

Besides, who goes to a foreign land famous for something or the other — food, music, monument, fashion, event, etc – and doesn’t experience it? Even if your visit is business – related, you’d probably make time no matter how little.

It’s like going to Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower. Or,London and not touring its signature sights – Tower Bridge, the London Eye, Madam Tussauds, etc.

So two days ago, we were at the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Morbid but I couldn’t not visit and see it for myself firsthand, in all its gory details. That’s why it took the week of our departure to go there, and two days to bring myself to write about it. Even now it is taking quite an effort. The visual and verbal content on display flash clearly and relentlessly through my mind as Ndandika. The deluge of the images wane as the days go by but they are there, nonetheless.

This will not be the first time I am being confronted by the graphic depiction of the genocide in Rwanda. Hotel Rwanda was a film I saw after it was released to the public. Books and short stories of the massacre I have devoured years ago. Perhaps the most poignant image, which I have added to the ones I saw at the memorial, was an issue of Time magazine in the early 2000s. The headline read ‘Rwanda Remembered’ and the cover photo was of human skulls very neatly arranged in rows and rows and unending rows.

But when you’re in the city, country where it happened, standing on the grounds where so many bodies were buried, it brings the effect of the event closer to home than any words, previously read about it, can achieve.

Children under the age of 12 are exempted from going inside the museum but can tour the grounds which vegetation and well -thought out structures sort of assures me that, in spite of the gruesome way these people died, they have probably found a measure of peace wherever they are right now. Peace that I hope their families and loved ones, left behind, have found too.

We start off from the reception with a brief history of the museum and the genocide itself. A 10 -minute video, highlighting the beginning and depicting unfolding events of the genocide, some survivors and setting the tone for our tour, was next. At the end of the video was the start of my sobering, reflective mood.

However, I think, the Rwandans have, out of this devastating carnage and the deep grief it brought, made something beautiful out of it for people like me to appreciate and applaud their strength and will to move on from.

That’s an uplifting thought.

Ndandika – I am writing

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