Gisozi Genocide Memorial
September 12, 2010

Yesterday, Saturday, we were taken to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. It was a very sobering experience.

The memorial was opened in April 2004 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the genocide. It stands upon the hillside, across the valley from Kigali city centre, in an area called Gisozi.

It is a large white modern building surrounded by a rose garden, in memory of the dead, a quite area for contemplation with wonderful views back across to Kigali.

Gisozi is the burial site of over 250,000 people killed in a three-month period during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Victims are still being located in and around Kigali, as new evidence continues to emerge from the trials of those accused of genocide.

Along side the mass graves a Wall of Names is under construction which will eventually display the names of thousands of victims.

Inside the building is an exhibition with audio-visual presentations, in Kinyarwanda, French and English, that tells the story of Rwanda from the pre-colonial days through to the genocide and up to present times.

The section on the genocide is extremely graphic. There is a moving collection of photos of the victims, including many children, and a room displaying skulls and bones. The purpose of the latter is to prevent any denial, in the years to come, that the genocide ever happened.

The centre is not just a mass grave and exhibition but in collaboration with the UK-based Aegis Trust (a non-sectarian, non-governmental organisation) it runs an education programme for students and operates a social programme which helps support the widows and orphans of the genocide.

The construction of the centre was funded with revenue from the Kigali City Council which means that the citizens of one of the poorest countries in the world are paying, through their taxes, to give dignity to family and friends who were murdered while the international community stood by and watched, failing to respond until it was too late.

There will be no humanity without forgiveness, there will be no forgiveness without justice, but justice will be impossible without humanity.

Yolande Mukagasana