Visits to genocide memorials
Trip Start Mar 26, 2012
32Trip End Apr 29, 2012
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We first drove into town to where some of the best exchange rates can be found, although that seems to be evening out now, and changed some dollars for Rwandan Francs. Then we headed out to two moving genocide memorial about which I have written before.
I guide walked around with us and explained what happened in various areas. About 5000 people were murdered here mostly during two days in April 1994.
The guide showed us the mud-brick kitchen where huddled people were burned alive, burning mattresses and other flammable materials having been thrown on top of them through the windows. Nearby was a room normally used for children’s Sunday school classes. The guide pointed out a dark stain on the wall left by the blood of children who were swung by their feet in order to smash their heads on the bricks to kill them. 5000 people.
We drove a few miles farther to the larger town of Nyamata, where another church was also a memorial, this time to approximately 10,000 people who were murdered. The church is partly filled now with the decomposing clothing of the victims; the roof is perforated with many holes from bullets and grenade fragments. In the crypt are stacks of skulls and other bones and one unmarked coffin.
To the side of the church one finds the marked grave of an Italian aid worker who attempted to alert the world to the organized nature of the anti-Tutsi violence. She was shot at the front door of her home in order to silence her.
Having seen all this and reflected on it, we drove back to Kigali to see the national genocide memorial which contains a museum explain the origins of the hatred and political manipulations that lead to the genocide. The museum is quite straight forward in naming names and assigning responsibility including to some western powers, and the UN, who were in some cases complicit or who practiced the policy of the ostrich during the crisis – refusing to acknowledge what was truly occurring. Since this is the week of the commemoration there were a number people visiting, more local people than expats. Young people walked through the museum with tissues in their hands wiping their eyes. One young woman was carrying a roll of toilet paper (used in Africa for many things beyond its intended use), sharing it with people who didn’t have tissues of their own.
On the way to the next place we would visit, we stopped for bowl of soup and a salad at the hotel that used to be called the Diplomat. It was the Rwandan manager of this hotel, Paul Rusesabagina, who moved to the more upscale Hotel des Mille Collines when the Belgian manager moved out to safety, and who became a hero by hiding and saving over 1200 Tutsis. That story is told in the film Hotel Rwanda. I vaguely remember walking through the empty looted hulk of this hotel in 1996 on my first trip to Rwanda. Now it’s been rebuilt and transformed into the nicest hotel in Kigali, part of the luxury Serena chain.
It was mid-afternoon by this time so we headed back to Chez Lando to get some office work done. Jim Franks always has work waiting for him, and I had the weekly French update to prepare a day early because of the high day this week.
For dinner went to Indian restaurant I really like for dinner, over which we were able to discuss many things some personal, some concerning our church association as developmental plans are prepared for many activities.
We will turn in early tonight, since tomorrow will require an early start.