Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rwanda: The Genocide Memorial

The following few posts are from my Rwanda blog. They were written at the end of June in 2007, just a couple days after arriving in Rwanda. These are about going to the Rwanda Genocide Memorial Centre with my new friends. It was a hard experience, but one I wouldn't trade for anything.

This is another post that is not for young ones.

The Kigali Genocide Memorial

The map of Africa at the memorial that shows Rwanda

Sunday 6/30/07 11:50 PM

Tim (Immaculee’s friend and agent) talked us into going swimming after dinner. Hilarious. He is such a salesman. The water was cold and we laughed until our faces hurt. Everyone came back, at least part way, from an emotionally wrenching day. I didn’t know what to expect from theGenocide Memorial. Thousands of innocent Rwandans in a mass grave. I took some pictures, just a little video but nothing will be able to describe the power, the sadness. Most of the visitors were Europeans, a few Rwandans, a few Americans besides us. One of the drivers was there in the room with the photographs staring at a picture of his own family.

Outside, large cement slabs – maybe ten yards by twenty yards, covering hundreds (thousands) of bodies each. A large black wall, not marble or obsidian, concrete. Black, stark, simple. Hundreds of names on small plaques were attached to the wall. So many of the ones buried there remain unidentified. A perpetual flame. Simple. There are several mass graves across Rwanda. Official graves. They are still finding bodies. There were some flowers. The black painted wall. A perpetual flame. Many names.

Inside a man told us in a very quiet voice a little about the genocide. He must have said the same things many times. He was reverent. When we entered the memorial we saw an enlarged photo of an unnamed Rwandan child. DSC02674A boy. Maybe ten years old. It was ripped and scratched. Stained with blood. He was just a child. It was found in the pocket of an unidentified victim. His eyes were looking into the lens of the camera. Into our eyes. Just a child.

The guide left us there. As we walked through the maze of stone walls and rough cement or brick floors there were pictures showing the history of Rwanda from the early days before it was a colony throughout its history. Photos of leaders, ordinary people, military. Pictures showing the persecution of the Tutsis. The text was in Kinyrwanda, French and English. It was detailed, honest, brutal. The farther we went the quieter everyone became. We cried softly as we saw the horror of everyday people, simple good people, killed by their neighbors, coerced by their government, betrayed by their friends, their religious leaders. There were videos of survivors telling stories of what happened to their families. To horrific to write now. Rape, physical torture, families made to watch their loved ones brutalized, killed. We cried. Occasionally we stopped to reflect, to talk softly, to pray, to cry.

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