One of the saddest places on earth is the Kigali Genocide Memorial managed by the Aegis Trust. Here, 250,000 or so victims of the Rwanda genocide in 1994 are buried together, alongside an exhibition and permanent memorial to their memory. A flame is lit each year by President Kagame to burn at the entrance as a sign of life and hope. Smaller memorials exist in towns and villages across this country.
I have been here before and it is an emotional experience. The displays in the exhibition explain the background and then the scale of what took place. The pictures are awful. The lists of people to be exterminated that were given to gangs with clubs and machetes are chilling. The deception of Priests and others who led people to their death is disgusting. And the section on the children who died is heartbreaking.
Others on the delegation were here for the first time. We were introduced to the site by Freddie the Memorial Manager, and a young genocide survivor who now acts as a guide. He was the only child in his family to survive, having been hidden by his late mother and then protected by a moderate ‘Hutu’ – an experience he says gives him hope in reconciliation and the future.
Places like this remind us of the capacity of human beings to do terrible things, balanced by the reality of the resilience of the human spirit and the message of hope in reconciliation and rebuilding in Rwanda since.
We were delighted to hear that the work of the Memorial Centre will become mobile soon. The Aegis Trust have developed an education outreach programme to ensure the next generation learn from the past. As we approach the 20th Anniversary of 1994 this is important work.
While we visited, various local school groups passed through. When leaving, young people were holding on to each other, comforting those who no doubt had memories they may rarely mention. These were poignant sights, reminding us that while we say ‘never forget’, others don’t have any choice.