I think visiting genocide memorials is an important thing that everyone should do. Our world is not all sunshine and rainbows and humans are capable of the worst atrocities ever imagined. I’ve visited Auschwitz in Poland and saw the sickening site of a room full of hair taken from the victims of the holocaust. Over in Cambodia, I visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum where I saw remnants of the horrific act of Pol Pot where he systematically killed nearly two million Cambodians. When I went to Rwanda, I made sure to visit several of the genocide museums there including the Kigali, Ntarama, and Nyamata genocide memorial.
It’s important that we see these horrific places to remind us how bad it is to think that another race is inferior to ours. And that other people from different racial backgrounds are just humans at the end of the day. We’re all part of the same race which is the human race. But people often forget that and look for messed up reasons to kill another. But, if you are properly educated and actually see what happens during a genocide, maybe you’ll think twice the next time you have racist thoughts in your head.
Short back story
Between April 7, 1994 to July 15, 2019, an estimated 500,000-1,000,000 Rwandans were killed during the massacre. At least 70% of the Tutsi population was systematically killed during this extremely dark time period. To make it worst, between 250,000-500,000 women were raped during this time period. And many times, the unforgivable crime of rape was purposely committed by HIV positive Hutu individuals.
This is truly one of the worst times in human history, especially since so many have died and suffered in merely three months time.
Thankfully, the Tutsi and Hutu have re-conciliated since then. Today, they don’t label themselves as Tutsi and Hutu, but rather, just Rwandans.
Nyamata Genocide Memorial
Out of all the genocide museums I’ve seen during my trip in Rwanda, the Nyamata Genocide Memorial is the most disturbing one of them all. Upon entering, you see a room full of clothes from the fallen Tutsi people. As you explore the museum, you will see skulls from the victims as well as their coffins.
That sight left me sick to my stomach. It’s one thing to read about the genocide, it’s another to actually see the actual victims on display.
The Nyamata Genocide memorial is located in the Rwandan city of Kinazi, Rwanda. It’s fairly close to the Rwanda-Burundi border crossing.
Ntarama Genocide Memorial
My experience in the the Ntarama Genocide Memorial is a weird one. I’m trying not to be inappropriate here but some events that happened here when I was looking around was…kind of funny. Yes, I like dark humour.
Anyways, when I went to the Ntarama Genocide Memorial, I went to the office to check in and write my name in their guest book. The individual who’s over looking the place told me he can show me around.
He took me around the grounds and briefly explained what each section of the place is suppose to be. Eventually, we get to this room that I think used to be a classroom. He then started to demonstrate to me in a very animated way how the Hutu bashed the skull of the Tutsi victim against the wall of the classroom.
He was doing the bashing motion with such intensity that I wonder if he had practice doing this. I bet he’s a Hutu. Anyways, yeah, this is pretty dark humour.
The Ntarama Genocide Memorial is located in the Kigali district, roughly one hour drive just south of Kigali.
Kigali Genocide Memorial
The last museum I checked out while I was in Rwanda is the Kigali Genocide Memorial. This is the museum that most people visit when they visit Rwanda.
Right when we entered, we went directly to the office and signed up for the audio tour. The audio tour cost $25 USD if you’re wondering. We were also given a map of the museum with the location of the sites where we should listen to the audio tape.
Before we wandered around the museum, Karen, myself, my sister, and a massive group of American teenagers went inside this room where they showed us a documentary of the Rwanda genocide. The documentary was a sad one which left Karen in tears.
After the documentary, we went around the museum grounds listening to the audio tour and reading up on the events leading to the genocide.
As I went through the audio tour and reading on the events, I started feeling angry towards the individuals who orchestrated the massacre. After the tour was done, Karen was thoroughly distraught at all the stuff she just read about. As for me, I mostly felt injustice at what happened. I truly hope that justice was served to the individuals who planned this.
When my girlfriend was in college, she wrote a paper on the Rwanda Genocide. It felt quite surreal for her to finally travel to Rwanda and see in person what she wrote about. I think that’s the power of travel is being able to see and experience places that you’ve studied about or read about.
If you visit Rwanda, you definitely want to check out the various genocide memorials all over the country. The three that I visited are just some of them. The memorials are free to visit, but I think it’s good to support the cause by doing the audio tour.
Finally, it seems to me that the Rwandans have moved on from the genocide and they even joke about it now. They never forgot what happened but they don’t let it dictate how they act today.