Kigali Genocide Memorial - a story of destruction, a prayer for peace

Kigali Genocide museum, located in Kigali, Rwanda is not an easy place to visit. Yet I recommend it to everyone; in fact, it's worth visiting Rwanda just for this. There is so much to be learnt for all of us. This is a story of my experiences there...


In 100 days, more than 1,000,000 people were murdered. By the end of the genocide, 85% of the Tutsi population had been murdered.

But the genocidaires did not kill a million people. They killed one, then another, then another...... day after day, hour after hour, minute by minute. Every minute of the day, someone, somewhere, was being murdered, screaming for mercy.  And receiving none.

I visited the museum on my second day of my stay in Rwanda and it made an impact that I will value for all my life...

Kigali Genocide Museum

My Experience

Black. And red...lots of it. That's all I could see after I came out of Kigali's Genocide Memorial. I was so shaken that I couldn't speak for a while after that. Anyone who goes there would come out a little changed, a little more human, a little more compassionate, and maybe quite guilty as well...

I didn't have my DSLR with me, but still paid $10 to take pics with the iPhone. However, five shots down and I couldn't hold my camera stable. Taking a picture seemed like desecration of a holy place. So there are no pictures that come with the post. But pictures are not at all important, my pictures couldn't have created that space, that sense of helplessness, and sorrow...and finally hope...

The story of the people, events and acts of horror is told in a very simple way, and that's the whole beauty of it. We were a tiny group of three and I still decided to split from the rest and went around by myself. I had no clue what was coming up next and I guess that's why I could feel tears boiling up right when I heard the first story in the voice of one of the survivors. When your see real people and hear real stories, things don't remain alien, they become very personal. It becomes impossible to look away and ignore what happened in a far off country to a population that I didn't know anything about. I was right in the middle of it now and there was no way of getting out.

I started with sobbing, and was even a little embarrassed about it. But as soon as I entered the room with thousands of images of people who were killed, I broke down completely. I had to sit down, cover my face and cry out loud. I no longer cared if anyone saw me like that, I just had to let go of whatever was holding me back and let the emotions take over.

I felt guilty as a race for having let this happen, I felt ashamed of our sins.

There are many exhibits which will break got down to the core, you feel like a victim, and you even feel like a guilty perpetrator of these crimes. However, there is one room on the second floor which hits you like nothing else. It's the Children's room. Children were easy victims and some as young as toddlers were killed with axes, or smashed on the ground or cut in half by their own neighbours  Each picture of a child has a few details - name, age, favorite food, best friend and a few more. When you read these little details, the monstrosity of the crimes become even more apparent. It's not possible to read about a four year old who loved ice-cream and had his elder brother as his best friend. You cry at every child killed, for every family which lost its future and the country which itself killed it's future generation.

The question of forgiveness...

I don't know if crimes like these deserve atonement, and I don't know if it's possible to forgive and move on. Many of the survivors talk about it in the interviews, and I can feel the trauma they feel when a question like this is asked. You might want to forgive, but your heart may not let you. How do you forgive someone who raped you and killed all your children and your husband right in front of you?

The story of Rwandan Genocide

The story of genocide is complex, and what happened in 1994 was largely a culmination of the events of the past century. The colonists had used the two major communities, Hutu and Tutsi, to tighten their grip on the nation. Even after Rwanda became independent, some of the countries continue to support segregation and dehumafication of Tutsis. France's role in the events that led to 1994 is at best shameful, if not outright evil. United Nations failed as well, despite many warnings of the impending doom over the months preceding the genocide.

The Rwandan Genocide was a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority. During the approximate 100-day period from April 7, 1994 to mid-July, an estimated 500,000–1,000,000 Rwandans were killed, constituting as much as 20% of the country's total population and 70% of the Tutsi then living in Rwanda. The genocide was planned by members of the core political elite known as the akazu, many of whom occupied positions at top levels of the national government. Perpetrators came from the ranks of the Rwandan army, the National Police, government-backed militias including the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi, and the Hutu civilian population.

This article by BBC gives a good overview of the history as well as the actual set of events of the genocide.

Details of the Kigali Genocide Memorial

The Centre includes three permanent exhibitions, the largest of which documents the genocide in 1994. There is also a children's memorial, and an exhibition on the history of genocidal violence around the world. The Education Centre, Memorial Gardens and National Documentation Centre of the Genocide all contribute to a meaningful tribute to those who perished, and form a powerful educational tool for the next generation.

Year of establishment: 2004

Address: Gasabo District, Gisozi Sector, Kigali

Timings: The entry starts at 9 am and you can enter till 4pm. Usually visitors can be within the memorial premises till about 5.30 pm.

Entry Fee: Entry is free for all. Audio tour is available for $15

Photography: Photography is permitted after paying a fee of $ 10

More on Genocide from the website

  1. Genocide is never spontaneous. It is an intentional act of multiple murders, aimed at destroying the presence of the victim group. 
  2. Its perpetrators do not respect age, gender, occupation, religion or status.
  3. Not every act of genocidal violence results in genocide itself.
  4. Different types of crisis have different names, such as politicide (murder of political groups) and ethnocide (murder of ethnic groups).
  5. This does not imply that one is 'better' or 'worse' than the other, but that they are different in either motivation or outcome.
  6. Whatever the term used, victims of mass murder feel, often with good reason, that they have suffered a genocidal attempt on their lives.
  7. The exhibition at the Kigali Memorial Centre introduces several genocides and genocidal-type situations.  It does not give examples of all genocidal massacres because of limited space. It can only illustrate a few examples, representing a tragic cross-section of a century of genocide.

What can you do?

Do you live in Rwanda at that time or have a story to tell? I know it's difficult to share something so painful, yet I think sharing would also help in preventing such a genocide in future. I can try and help you make an impact.

Write to me at connect [at] siddharthajoshi [dot] com and we can talk more there. 


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