Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Genocide Museum

Today I made time to go to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. It's tastefully done. I feel like I've visited all the awful museum's in the world : Aushwitz, the Holocaust Museums' in DC and Israel; the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. We humans do a good job of documenting our hatred of each other. I understand that it is so that we never forget our cruelty, so as we're not bound to repeat it again, but that doesn't seem to be working. Couldn't we start making museums to fluffy bunnies and kitten kisses? The world might be a better place.

Interestingly enough, I was patted down for firearms and made to go through a metal detector before entering. I asked the security guard if that was a problem and he just shrugged "You'd be surprised." Sadly, I'm not really surprised. From what I hear and read, there is still much healing going on within the government and among civilians. Few individuals have been convicted of perpetrating the mass slaughter of 800,000; most live in the same area, same region as those they tried or supported killing. There's still alot of work to do.

The museum itself walks through the history of the region, of Rwandan colonialisation and the activities leading up to, during and after the genocide (including the inaction of the UN). Done in three languages, it was informative without being overtly graphic, and factual without inciting futher debate.

The most difficult room for me was the children's memorial. Here they had chosen to larger poster size photos of beautiful children affected by the genocide, under which was listed:

Name: Claude
Age: 10
Likes: chocolate milk
Personality: Outgoing, smiley
Last words: UNAMIR will come for us
Died: Tortured to death

(PS UNAMIR came too late)

Name: Odette
Age: 5
Likes: butterflies
Personality: shy, kind
Best friend: her sister, Antoinette
Died: machete to head

Imagine a whole room of that, accompanied by smiling faces, shy smiles and chubby cheeks. I was in despair. I went outside to the surrounding gardens to catch a breath of fresh air. Each gardne has their own meaning. A rose garden stands to commemorate the victims, three gardens outlined Rwandan Unity, Discord and Reconciliation, respectively.

Further on, below the main hall, are large slabs of concrete and a wall of every growing names. These are the mass graves. Over 250,000 people are buried at this museum. As they are exhumed from other places, they are brought here. Some are identified, some not. The museum is a tribute to educate, but also to honor those who were so disquietingly dishonored.

I left with a heavy heart, needing a hug, but glad I came to pay my respects.

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