Rwandering Through Kigali – The EPIC 10 Part Miniseries

Part 9: The Genocide Museum

Intense.

Here’s the short version (and I’m going to do the best I can to get this as accurate as possible but forgive my poor memory if I mess it up): Rwanda was a German then a Belgian colony. I think the Belgians had control by 1932 when they decided to institute the distinction of Tutsis and Hutus. It was based not on ethnicity but on socioeconomic status: if you had 10 or more head of cattle, you were a Tutsi. The Belgians used the Tutsis to rule and control the country. They tried to defend the distinction by doing extensive studies of facial structure and other physical measures but ultimately there was no genetic difference. Then they felt guilty and took power away from the Tutsis and gave it to the Hutus in order to make up for their past indiscretions. A crazy Hutu guy took power and built an army trained in genocide. He carried out a few smaller scale killings. The French government, despite knowing he was crazy, gave him weapons. He wasn’t quite to the point of declaring an all out civil war / genocide of the Tutsis. The U.N. received reports that some crazy stuff was about to go down but no one did anything. Crazy guy’s plane was shot down (no one knows by whom) which was the impetuous for the large scale genocide which mostly took place in 1994. Between 1.6 and 2.2 million men, women, and children were slaughtered during the genocide, often with machetes or blunt objects like clubs. This included not only anyone who was a Tutsi, but anyone who was married to a Tutsi, helped them, or did business with them.

Outside the museum is a fountain with an eternal flame. The flame represents death, the water represents life, and there are two elephants which represent memory – never forgetting what happened to ensure that it never happens again. There are several beautiful gardens which represent the people of Rwanda, their history, their culture, their industry, and the events of the genocide.

There is also a large mass grave of 250,000 genocide victims who could not be identified. Inside there is a timeline of the history of Rwandan colonization, the events leading up to the genocide, the genocide, and the repercussions after. There are rooms dedicated to the victims including clothes and personal items found on victim’s bodies and even skulls and bones of the victims. The upstairs area is dedicated to other genocides throughout history and the child victims of the genocide. There are many pictures of children with their likes, personality, and how they died.

This was a really intense experience. I encourage anyone who visits Kigali to check out this museum and memorial. I can’t even put into words how moved I was as I went through the museum. It really puts your life in perspective hearing the stories of these people and what they went through. Sometimes it is hard to see how good you have it, but experiences like this really adapt how you see the world and your place in it.

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