Today marks the 25th commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. As we lay wreaths on numerous mass graves across the country and light the flame of hope, we pay homage to the victims and express optimism of a better future.
In preparation for this day of reflection and the ensuing commemoration week, I tried to access a couple of genocide memorial sites in the Southern Province in vain. It was Sunday and, as I found out upon arrival, their guides do not work on the day of the Lord. When I returned to the capital, I visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial one more time.
Kigali Genocide Memorial is a center of remembrance and learning. It is a resourceful facility providing first-hand information to researchers, scholars and tourists from around the world. In this building, the genocide is documented, and preceding events are broken down in graphics and audiovisual technology. Last year, the Visual History Archive was added to the mix.
The new hi-tech exhibition contains more than 55,000 testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and similar atrocities around the world. This tool is contributing significantly to the memorial’s mission of learning and genocide prevention.
My tour of the site was prefaced by a short film showing a harmoniously constructed society turning into hell. It looked like a trailer of a horror movie. Unfortunately, this production wasn’t inspired by a fictitious idea. It was a reality show depicting a dark chapter of our own history.
I walked through different sections of the site. It wasn’t my first time there, but once again, I read every text displayed on the walls and played every video. After the pre-genocide sections, subsequent exhibits were even harder to stomach.
The children’s section upstairs is more disturbing. Photos of adorable kids are framed with basic information revealing their favorite toys, food, friends, last words uttered and the kind of death they succumbed to.
At some point during this grievous tour, I read an extract from a survey conducted by UNICEF. 80% of the 3,000 children interviewed experienced death in their families during the genocide. 70% of them witnessed brutal murders. 88% saw dead bodies or body parts, and 90% believed they would also die. You know you have sunk to the bottom of the abyss when 90% of your children believe they will not see tomorrow.
25 years down the line, we are focusing on making the youth more acquainted with the historical context of the genocide and fostering their involvement in shaping a prosperous future.
As we light the flame of hope for the 25th time, we renew our vows and reaffirm our commitment to the process of creating a better tomorrow. While being fueled by the harsh lessons of the past, this flame symbolizes our future aspirations.