Friday, July 4, 2014

Kwibuka: 20 years after the genocide

"If you knew me and you really knew yourself then you would not have killed me" -Felicien Ntagengwa

Kwibuka: Remember. Unite. Renew. That is the motto of Rwanda as it heals from the genocide that ended the lives of 1 million men, women, and children and destroyed a country 20 years ago. This July 4 Rwandans will come together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the end of the genocide. 

Rwanda has made it clear that they will never again be a bystander to genocide. Besides national days of rememberance and celebration, Rwanda has made eduction as means of healing and renewing a priority. As a part of this process memorials of the horrific event that peaked in April of 1994 have been built all across the country. The largest of the memorials is located in Kigali, Rwanda's capitol. Pearched on one of the cities hills, this memorial walks you through the history before, during and after the genocide and is also the resting place of close to 300,000 people who were killed during this time.

Words cannot fully express the emotions that one experiences here. As I walked through the museum and burial grounds I was accompanied by close to one hundred Rwandan secondary school children. As we listened and read through the history together I watched these students hold each other and comfort their wailing peers. As an outsider I have never felt so helpless and completely ashamed of humanity. The lack of international aid is inexcusable and even though I was a child at the time you can only feel a heavy weight of responsibility. The memorial, funded by James and Stephen Smith of the Aegis Trust, is beautifully designed and does a very effective job at pulling on your heart strings and reminding people that regardless of race, ethnicity, or nationality we hold a collective reponsibility to each other to never let events like this happen again.

Kigali Genocide Memorial is free. Audio tours of the museum and grounds are $15. Open daily from 8am-5pm (last admission is at 4pm).

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