Of course we heard about Rwanda before going there. The only thing we heard for a long time was about the Genocide. It makes you speechless when you learn more about it - and not in a good way of course. It was really cruel 100 days in the history of mankind. Of course it has it’s history and there were cruelties before - but the 100 days of the Genocide, when the world looked away and the people were left to themselves would change the course of this country forever. In our first blog post we write about all the beautiful things that are happening in the Rwanda. This blog post is about the past and how we can deal with it in the present.
The Genocide - a topic you cannot and should not avoid in Rwanda
It is the topic people have in mind when they think about Rwanda. And of course this is for a reason. It was one of the bloodiest and crucial things that happened in the last decades, in the 20st Century. But how to deal with the Genocide while being in Rwanda? First things first - be humbled. You never know what stories people had. Everybody over the age of 25 lost somebody they knew, often family members or close friends. Everybody is connected to the Genocide in various ways. It changed everything in Rwanda.
We spoke with people in Kigali about the Genocide and this is what we learned
- It is ok to talk about it, but be really humbled and choose your words wisely!
- You should never ask if somebody was a Hutu or Tutsi! It is even forbidden by law to make this differentiation nowadays.
- Everybody is suffering from this tragedy. They will often ask you if you were already to the Memorial. That is often a good start for a conversation.
- Don’t ask personal questions about it - you never know the tragic story of the individual person in front of you. If they want to tell you their story they will do that.
- Be as respectful as possible: People in Rwanda want themselves not to forget about it. It is a huge part of their history and they want to make sure they never forget - so they always know how precious life is.
The Genocide Memorial in kigali
This is the only place you should visit for sure, coming to Kigali in Rwanda. Because in a way we owe it to the country. And because it is a sign of showing your respect. But also to understand the Genocide a bit better. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is a really well conceptualized place with a very very sad topic. It has a beautiful outside area with a little forest, a rose garden, water gardens and more. It also has one of biggest mass graves - around 200.000 people have their last rest here. This number is too big to really understand what it means.
In the inside of the Memorial you will find not only the remains of thousands of people, but also the approach of helping you understand how it came to this mass massacre. There are rooms where you get a glimpse what it means to a society when around a quarter of it gets killed. Hard to walk through the place. We even cried in one room, the children's room. This was the moment, where it was not possible anymore to hold back the sadness and anger. It leaves you speechless and numb. Often you just stand there and trying to understand how we can do such bloody things to other humans. Our recommendation is not to plan something after the visit. At least our mood was not good. A friend told us he had once to hold a laudatio in the afternoon after going there - not a good idea.
If we don’t remember, we forget
From what we heard by locals it is important that we will never forget. We totally agree. How can we shape our future as best as possible, if we deny the bloody moments of our past. It is the responsibility from all of us to learn from these dark times - to become better in our own actions and to help others to find their peace and new hope who really need it. We should not judge, we should listen. We should not point fingers, but rather reflect how we would have reacted. Time will tell how much we learned - we hope it is enough.
Do we recommend going to the Genocide Memorial in Kigali?
Yes, we absolutely do! It is such an important aspect of life and history in this country that we think it is a must do. And we normally never say that about visiting a place somewhere in a foreign city. They are doing an incredible job to share insights about what happened and it really makes sense to support this good cause. We recommend going there during the week and in the morning, because than you have more time for your own thoughts and can go through it in your own pace. If you need a short breakout session go into the forest or one of the sad but beautiful gardens in the outside area. In a way we are grateful for the experience - it made us even more humbled about the beauty of life and how fragile a peaceful society is. We should never take that for granted. Ever.