The Kigali Genocide Memorial Center is perched on one of the many hills that surround Rwanda’s capital city. It’s a pleasant looking modern building surrounded by gardens. After paying the entrance fee, you get a nifty little audio tour handset. You click on number three, and the clipped British accent in your ear reveals that the terracing you are admiring is actually the mass grave of over 250,000 people.
The tour starts with a brief history of pre-Colonial Rwanda, using large display boards, old film footage and audio, to depict a unified Rwandan society with Hutus and Tutsis living in harmony. Moving through the rooms, the Belgian colonial power enters the scene and you’re on your way to following the historic events that led to the 1994 Genocide.
The exhibit gets frightening as it leads up to those fateful three months where over a million people were killed. The exhibit illustrating the propaganda aimed at vilifying Tutsis sets the tone. After this, you see rooms filled with human bones, lots of heart wrenching piles of small skulls and femurs. There’s video footage of rape and slaughter, personal accounts of horrific loss. Glass cases house machetes, clubs and knives used to kill thousands within a mile radius of where you are standing. Just when you think you can’t take anymore, you are shown accounts of heroes who risked their lives to hide people and saved women from getting raped. Phew.
But, the audio tour continues to deliver bad news. After the genocide, the refugee camps where half the population had fled to, were repeatedly attacked. Tutsi’s were still being hacked to death in Rwanda years later, by the Interahamwe from bases in DRC refugee camps.