Rwanda: the genocide memorial museum
Today we went to the genocide memorial museum in Kigali before meeting the country director, Wyndham James for a briefing.
Naturally, the museum is an eerie place. 250,000 people from Kigali are buried here and the museum displays are similar to what I imagine the WW2 holocaust museums to be like – photos of loved ones, items of clothing, possessions, weapons, video testimonials from survivors.
And then it struck me – the only reason I am here today with Save the Children is because of the genocide, and that makes me uncomfortable.
We started working here in 1994, in the aftermath, reuniting children who had been separated from their families in the chaos.
Listening to the testimony of survivors, who now have to live alongside their family’s killers, who have been pardoned or since released from prison, it is clear that they have only two options: to tolerate their presence (and if possible reconcile with or even forgive them) or to become murderers themselves in acts of revenge.
I have done a fair amount of reading about what happened and I had mentally prepared myself for the museum.
However, there are three images that I am already trying to forget: a video of young children alive but with machete wounds to the head, a survivor’s account of how she saw a young baby feeding from its dead mother’s breast, and the children’s room: a winding corridor of huge photos of smiling, cherished babies and children who were brutally murdered.
I had to run out of it trying not to catch their eyes, as the walls were closing in with the weight of emotion they evoked.
I feel despair and hatred – despair at what human beings are capable of and hatred for the governments who stood by and let it happen.