The word “genocide” was first coined by Polish lawyer Raphäel Lemkin in 1944 in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. The hybrid word consists of the Greek prefix genos, meaning race or tribe, and the Latin suffix cide, meaning killing. Genocide is intentional action to destroy a people in whole or in part.
It is sad that on 7 April 1994, the Rwandan genocide, also known as the genocide against the Tutsi, was a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority government. Men hacked with machetes like cattle at the butcher. Women were forced to kill their husbands before being raped and killed themselves. Children were clubbed to death.
Towards the beginning of July, the genocide had resulted in the loss of about 259,000 to 800,000 lives. In 2001, the Aegis Trust raised over $2 million to build the Kigali Genocide Memorial. This project was also assisted by the Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG). The center was officially opened on 7 April 2004 at Gisozi to mark the tenth commemoration of the sad history.
The place also serves other purposes such as serves an avenue for people to grieve their lost loved ones and remember them. It also serves as a museum where both local and international visitors can learn about the history, implementation and consequences of the genocide. It is not surprising that people pose alot of questions about the 1994 history, how they imagine the pain it left, how the citizens had over the years move through the black holes, what could have caused the slaughter.
One could only have an open mind to the new and refined Rwanda. As a means of fulfilling its purpose, Kigali Genocide Memorial opens by 8:00am and closes 5:00pm where their last entrance is at 4:00pm. On the last Saturday of each month, the memorial is open from 1:00pm to 5:00pm due to Umuganda community work. Visitors can choose to be guided by one of the staff or purchase the KGM digital guide which provides an audio-visual tour. KGM as it is fondly called consists of a museum, giant wall displays, archival documents, photos, video footage and weapons encased in glass, the indoor exhibit which also delves into the sinister ideologies and outdoor exhibit.
The Indoor Exhibit
There room is filled with human skulls and bones which is considered chilling but not until one walks down to the children’s memorial room. There are details displayed which give a clear biodata of the children with their photos. From a visitor’s experience, he regarded it as “viewing a family album — except it abruptly ends with how the youngster’s life was violently snuffed out”. The indoor exhibit that delves into the sinister ideologies gives a historical perspective of the 1994 genocide that provoked the world’s largest genocidal massacres from the Namibian genocide to the Holocaust. The experience lives a burning question: is ethnical cleansing best applied through genocidal action?
The Outdoor Exhibit
Having passed through the journey of history in the indoor exhibit, one will only wish to see the remains. The outdoor exhibit is at its best, a place to share your condolences too. It is surrounded by the most astonishing garden, tombs. The tombs are covered by giant plates of concrete which are mass graves for over 250,000 victims. This place serves as a place for visitors to honor those lost, and for the loved ones of the victims to grieve and remember 1994. A further walk leads to a black marble wall etched with the names of those who were lost.
The knowledge gained from your visit will provide valuable historical, social and cultural meaning as you explore the country further. Rwanda as a beauty lies upon the people to walk past this phase showing that the victims matters, our time and visit matters too.
Entrance is free but there is a voluntary donation of 10USD to the centre, managed by the UK-based Aegis Trust. The money is used for maintenance of the memorial, educate the world about the dangers of racism and support survivors of the genocide. The audio aids cost 15USD. Photography inside the building is not permitted but you’re free to take photos outside.