It’s that time of the year again. Time to reflect on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Time to light a flame of hope symbolizing our optimism of a better future. Time to assemble at the premises of the parliament for another edition of Walk to Remember, a march leading our steps to Amahoro Stadium where a night vigil in loving memory of the victims is held annually. Time to engage in sober discussions at grassroots levels and gain a better understanding of what went wrong and what should be done to walk the ’Never Again’ talk.
April 7 marks the beginning of the Genocide commemoration week. I am writing this after visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial to pay tribute to the victims and get more acquainted with details of that dark chapter in the history of humanity.
Kigali Genocide Memorial is a center of remembrance and learning. As a burial place of our beloved ones, the site holds a special place in our hearts. At the facility, the genocide is documented and preceding events are broken down in graphical presentations.
The tour of the site is a history lesson highlighting the divisive colonial experience and the ensuing post-colonial hate propaganda that gave birth to the genocide ideology and, consequently, the atrocities of 1994. More than 250,000 victims are buried here and their names are inscribed on a wall built near their shared graves.
Before embarking on my latest tour of the facility, I sat down in a video room and watched a short film depicting a harmoniously constructed society turning into hell. As I sat there and followed stories told by the survivors, I wished what I was seeing was a mere trailer of a horror movie.
It wasn’t my first time there but once again, I went through every stage of the tour reading everything on those walls and playing every video in a bid to revisit the historical context of the genocide.
After pre-genocide sections, subsequent exhibits were not easy to stomach. As the story of the outbreak of the Genocide unfolded, the emotional onslaught intensified.
The children’s section upstairs was even more disturbing. Photos of adorable kids are framed with basic information revealing their favorite toys, food, friends, last words uttered and the type of death they succumbed to.
At some point during this grievous tour, I read an extract from a survey conducted by UNICEF. According to this survey, 80% of the 3,000 children interviewed experienced death in the family during the genocide. 70% of them witnessed brutal murders. 88% saw dead bodies or body parts and 90% believed they would die. You know you have sunk to the bottom of the abyss when 90% of your children believe they will not see tomorrow.
While paying homage to our beloved ones, I got yet another opportunity to examine circumstances that led to the killings and ponder the country’s healing and reconstruction process. The past cannot be undone. There is no reset button. However, we have what it takes to write the script of our bright future.