|The Kigali Genocide Memorial|
by Ryan Twaddle
Today was the beginning of our experience with Genocide while in Rwanda. Jen, Serge, and David, the leader of the street kid's camp, took us to the Kigali Memorial Center this afternoon.
As we entered the memorial, we saw a stand with a flame on the top. This flame is lit during the 100 days of Remembrance. The inside of the memorial was split into two floors. The first floor took us through the history of Rwanda, while the other explained genocide and showed us the effects on the children.
The first floor started in the colonial period, transitioned to the catalyst of the genocide, explained the genocide, and showed how Rwanda is working towards justice. Along with the history of Rwanda there were three exhibits on the first floor. The first contained hundreds of pictures of people that family members had brought to hang up. Some of these pictures were the only picture that people had of their loved ones; whereas, some family members would come to the memorial heart broken that they had no pictures just to realize that someone else had brought a picture of their loved one. The second exhibit displayed glass cases: each holding bones from individuals who had been killed. There were cases of skulls alone and other cases had stacks of arm and leg bones. While walking in this exhibit, a speaker read off names of people who had lost their lives. The third exhibit had clothes that were dug up from mass graves. Some pieces were traditional clothing and other pieces were shirts from Ottawa and Cornel University and Superman bed sheets.
As we continued upstairs, we traveled through exhibits from other genocides. Each genocide was a different type either social, ethnic, or party genocides. This showed us that genocide has happened throughout the world and still continues today. The other part of the upstairs showed the children of the genocide. There were giant pictures of individual children and each was accompanied with the child's name and some characteristics such as their favorite food, favorite color, favorite activity or sport, best friend, there last words, and the way they were murdered. This included everything from being shot to being thrown into a wall. This exhibit made the genocide feel more real. It created really people who we can all relate to through their favorite things and explained how they were eventually killed.
The outside of the museum was a giant garden. The garden represented life and peace. There were all kinds of flowers, pools of water, and a wonderful view of the hills of Kigali. At one point, we were blessed with a hawk that seemed to be watching out for us. The gardens were surrounding twelve different mass graves. We do not know how many people have been buried in these graves, but there was a list at the end of hundreds of names of people who had lost their lives, but not all the names were listed. Because we are in Rwanda during the 100 days of Remembrance, we saw a procession of a family who was paying their respects to a member who had been killed seventeen years ago. Watching this made me realize that seventeen years ago, on the day I was born, hundreds of people were being killed an ocean away.
All together, this memorial aided in the explanation of the history of Rwanda. It helped improve our Knowledge CQ of what happened during the 100 days. It reminded us of the children in the ESL program at Faith: these kids are refugees. It pains us to think that they could have been like Patrick who was hacked to death in his mother's arms at the age of two. Finally, it made the genocide seem even more real as we saw the pictures, the clothes, the dull weapons, and the shattered bones of the Rwandans who were killed during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.