The Gisozi Genocide Memorial Site was officially opened on April 7th, 2004 (on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide). This site was built to commemorate the 250,000 Tutsis murdered during the genocide. Special tribute goes to the Aegis Trust, a UK based charity organization in collaboration with the Kigali High Council. Aegis signifies “shield” or “trust”. This organization campaigns against crimes against humanity and genocide. It was established in 2000.
The memorial site has the following: the main historical exhibition, a Children’s Memorial exhibition and an exhibition on comparative genocide – called Wasted Lives. The 4-acre memorial gardens contain 10 mass graves and the National Genocide Documentation Centre. The magnificent principal building was designed to represent three historical eras: – pre-genocide, during genocide and post genocide. There are 3 exhibitions: – the 1st room entitled – “Our History” introducing the world to the history of Rwanda demonstrated in the big pictures of people in different age groups, different cultural lifestyles prior to the genocide, breastfeeding mothers, old men playing traditional games and a Rwandan King Yuhi V Musinga with a handsome stature. On the wall is a big note: – ‘this is about our past and our future, our nightmares and our dreams, our fear and our hope, which is why we begin where we end, with the country we love.’
As you transit from one room to another, several notes along the corridors tell it all. Original and unedited videos of people being massacred, testimonies of survivors and perpetrators; Gacaca court proceedings are mounted on the walls.
As you leave “Our History Room”, you enter another room entitled “Descent to genocide” with a dim light and graphic pictures of bones and dead bodies collected from all over Rwanda. On another side of the wall stands a 3ft image of a mass grave at Kigali’s Saint Famille, where over 30,000 people were burnt alive, with detailed information of how Rwandan priests, meant to be custodians, were responsible for the killing of millions of Tutsi’s, who had sought refuge in their churches.
At Gisozi Genocide Memorial, the atrocity of the genocide is truly on display here. What you see in this museum makes you wonder how mankind is capable of sending someone to the moon, and at the same time … repeating atrocities on the basis of ethnicity. It is hard to absorb…! The bloody history is very painful, and the clothes and belongings of the victims are ominous.
The genocide sites in Rwanda are of critical importance as there one can reflect on human tragedy, see in black and white what some human beings are capable of doing to others, and mourn the fact that, when there is no strategic or political interest, the world powers stand by and allow genocide to occur. Rwanda is a spectacularly beautiful country with a very tragic past. It is making a remarkable recovery, honoring its dead, and paying tribute to them in these remarkably well conceived sites.