The 1994 Rwanda Genocide Memorial Museums | Genocide sites

Rwanda genocide memorial museums cropped up in different localities after the 1994 tragedy in Rwanda where thousands and thousands of people were massacred in the war between the Hutu and the Tutsi. We’re now approaching 19 years since the start of one of the most shocking episodes of recent world history, the Rwandan Genocide. Today the genocide memorial sites in Rwanda act as one of the chief tourist attraction as many tourists are seen at visit to any the sites to share the sorry experience. Below are some of the genocide centre:

Gisozi Memorial site: Located in the Gasabo District found in Kigali city. It is where the victims of Tutsi Genocide are buried from the year 2000. It contains a cemetery, a house of exhibition on Genocide section; a library and it has a plan of teaching the history of genocide. There are about 300,000 victims buried there. It is the only memorial site in Kigali. For a real, heart-in-your-throat experience, it is important to visit two other genocide memorials, sites which actually became slaughterhouses in April 1994. Nyamata and Ntarama are about 25 kilometers from Kigali (and only about 1 km apart from each other).

Nyamata memorial site: This is yet another genocide centre situated in the Bugesera district of Rwanda about 35 km from the capital city of Kigali. During the war, thousands of people used the Catholic Church as a refuge. However, according to the testimonies given by survivors, on April 10th 1994 about 10,000 people were killed in and around the area of the Catholic Church. People from all around congregated in the church and locked the iron door with a padlock to protect themselves from the marauding killers. This church and its contents are a reminder of the horrifying violence that took place at this site during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

Ntarama Memorial site: This one is situated about 30 kilometers south of Rwanda capital city. Located in the Bugasera region, this church and its contents are a reminder of the horrifying violence that took place at this site during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Ntarama Church is where most brutal killings of the 1994 Rwandan genocide took place. The floor of the Church at Ntarama has not been completely cleaned since the massacre. There are more bones, intermingled with bits of clothing, shoes, pots, wallets, ID cards among others. The low pew-benches are used to avoid stepping on the bones and detritus. One can easily identify parts of skeletons: vertebrae, mandibles, fibulas, and ribs.

Murambi genocide memorial site: Though the vast majority of tourists visit the Kigali Memorial Centre, very few travels to see the Murambi Memorial Centre in Murambi, Southern Province. The building is well decorated path that leads to the well designed memorial building. At the entrance, which is a long walk from the gate, Gaspard Mukwiye, the main guide at the site, welcomes people.From the introduction he seemed to know a lot about the memorial.

Before genocide, the memorial centre was actually the Murambi Technical School though it was still in the process of completion but when the killings started, Tutsis in the region tried to hide at local churches, hospitals and even nearby bushes. However, the bishop and mayor lured them into a trap by sending them to the technical school, claiming that it was secure for them and that the French troops would protect them there,” Mukwiye said.

With no other option, about 65,000 Tutsis rushed to the school thinking they would be safe. Water and electricity were cut off. Attacks on them started on the 18th of April though a large number of Tutsis managed to defend themselves.  Later, the Genocide leaders visited Butare to empower the Hutu and spread to Gikongoro and that is when a team of Interahamwe attacked the school at 3.00am and killed between 40,000 to 50,000 Tutsi. Almost all of those who managed to escape were killed the next day when they tried to hide in nearby places.

Gisenyi Memorial site: Reaching there, you need to take a taxi to see the grave of Madame Carr, an American who ran an orphanage for genocide orphans called Imbabazi. The road that leads to the orphanage is near the UNHCR Nkamira refugee camp (on the left, if driving away from Gisenyi; on the right, if driving toward Gisenyi).

Bisesero Memorial site: It is found in Karongi District, Western Province of Rwanda where more than 27,000 victims of genocide are buried. They were killed after a brave and long resistance and self defence until they were betrayed by French soldiers. This memorial is composed of nine small buildings which represent the nine communes that formerly made up the province of Kibuye. One should remember that this site, where the memorial has been built, is now called “Hill of Resistance” because of the heroic resistance mounted by the people of Bisesero against their assassins.

Kigali Genocide memorial centre:  opened in 2004, ten years on from the event and photography plays a significant role in depicting the events and victims of the genocide. The faces of numerous victims are shown in the centre’s displays and photos of slain children have heart-rending impact. Without being overly graphic, photography is used to inform and helps personalize and humanise the impact of the killing spree.

In April 1994 reports of systematic mass murder within Rwanda began to circulate around the world. Little, though, was done to halt the killing. To outsiders the genocide was represented as tribal-based ethnic violence, with the Tutsis the victims. Precisely how many people were actually murdered may never be known; estimates vary between 500,000 and over a million. The number of people killed is widely accepted as being somewhere close to 800,000.

That total, whatever it is, is just part of a violent, painful story. Large numbers of women were raped, in some cases by men known to be infected with HIV.  Thousands of people were left maimed. Thousands of children were orphaned.

The subject the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre broaches is clearly emotive. To understand modern Rwanda and how Rwandan people interact with each other today requires knowledge of what happened in that period from April to July 1994.

The centre’s displays and audio guide provide information about the tensions preceding the genocide, the events of 1994 and insights to its legacy. Photographs, videos and the stories of people who were there help convey the message. One of the most powerful sections in the centre is called Tomorrow Lost, highlighting the murders of children and providing insights into the personalities of some of the youngsters killed.
The centre deals with the subject matter sensitively and puts the Rwandan genocide into the context of other genocides of the twentieth century.

The goals of the Aegis Trust, the UK based charity that established this memorial in partnership with Kigali’s city council; include sharing information about genocides with the aim of preventing further such acts and “the elimination of genocide”. The Wasted Lives section of the centre examines other 20th century genocides.

The location of the Kigali Genocide Memorial is significant. The remains of more than a quarter of a million people are buried in the grounds of the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. Today concrete covers the mass graves of victims of the 1994 genocide. Some of the victims’ names are inscribed into black marble on a wall of remembrance. The memorial’s gardens are a place that visitors and survivors can take time to reflect and mourn the loss.