The Gisozi Genocide Museum
We set off and found the genocide museum easily. After attempting to go in the wrong entrance and having to back up awkwardly into traffic to then get to the right entrance, we were golden. The museum was just that, a museum. In ways, I had heard most of the information before due to all the research I’ve done on the genocide. There were parts that I had not seen and understood. There were pictures of people that I had only heard their names. Knowing that Bagosora was one of the instrumental organizers of the genocide, I anticipated seeing his face for the first time. I looked at the picture, stared at his eyes and wondered how any man could do such horrific things. There were some pictures of the dead. I stared at their cut up bodies and mourned. There was one particular picture that I could not take my eyes from. In ways, it sounds so morbid. However, it was staring at everything I had read. I had seen the words but even through that, could not visualize this horror. The museum put pictures to the words. It put faces to those who were slaughtered and to those who slaughtered.
At the end of the informational part of the museum, they had a room of pictures. The pictures were of those who had died in the genocide, brought by their family and friends. They had five or so sections that had picture after picture lined. Pictures that were full of life. A husband and wife on their wedding day. A large family celebrating over a feast of food. A family picture filled with the smiles of children. The pictures were full of LIFE being lived out. And that life was taken away.
It was there that I broke down. They had little chairs in each section. I sat in one, rocking back and forth, tears filling my eyes, silently asking, “why God why God why God WHY?” Why did You let this happen? Why were these beautiful people so horribly killed? It makes no sense. Though I’m sure I’m sounding like a broken record about this, it was then that I went back to my readings from “The Shack”. I had to rest in my knowledge of God. I had to rest in His purpose. I could not be the judge of God for He is the judge, not me. I worked through a lot in that little room. Though there were thousands, I wanted to look at every single picture. Each picture represented a life. I wanted them to be seen. I wanted to see them.
After that part of the museum, you head upstairs to the children’s section. It makes me want to throw up remembering. There, they would have a picture of a child. There would be a placard below listing their name, their favorite food, their favorite thing to do and finally, how they were killed. It was truly unthinkable. You look into their faces, into their eyes, and wonder, “how could anyone do such a thing to you?”.
At the end of that exhibit, you can walk outside and enter into these beautiful gardens. Also outside is a mass grave of, get this, approximately 258,000. Two hundred fifty eight thousand human beings, all slaughtered to death. For what? For what purpose were they tortured and killed? Because, as we learned in the museum, at one point, their ancestors either had more than ten cows or less than ten cows. When the Germans came to colonize Rwanda, it was they who split the people into two groups. Prior to colonization, there was no distinction. The Germans came and proclaimed that whoever had more than ten cows was a Tutsi and those who had less than ten cows was a Hutu. And that was that. Though the Tutsi’s ruled for awhile, they were the minority and were thrown over by the majority. Ever since the 1960’s, there have been mass killings of Tutsi’s. Genocide was attempted long before April of 1994 and was tried many times. This time, they were almost successful of completely wiping out the Tutsi’s. Almost.
100 days. 1 million people.
Kacie and I talked about this a lot: we were alive. 1994. I mean, where were you? I was in what, 5th grade? I was alive. My grandparents can talk about World War 2 but I have no memories. I was alive during this genocide and knew nothing about it. Even more tragic, the country I lived in knew all about it and did absolutely nothing to help or stop it.
As I mentioned before, if ever I were in trouble in the States, I would call the police. But, if the US were ever in a mass killing scenario controlled by the government, I would think, ‘but surely, other countries will come and help us! They see that we’re all getting killed here, need help and they will come! Surely, Britain! Other countries that we have helped, they will come. We’ll be saved!”
I can’t imagine what it’s like for Rwandans today. The thing is, they know the truth. They know that even if this all happens again, no one will come. How? Because no one came before. No one came to save them. The UN presence was crippled by the lack of world support and was reduced to being attacked and watching the slaughter happen before their eyes (read “Shake Hands With The Devil” by Romeo Dallaire, the UN Commander there at the time. Stunning.). The world watched them be slaughtered and did nothing. Can you imagine the hopelessness they have today? I can’t even begin to imagine it.
After the heaviness of the museum, we could handle no more genocide. We navigated our way to the Union Trade Center, a shopping mall in Kigali using our handy dandy drawn map.
We parked there and walked in the torrential downpour that began to a restaurant that we had heard about. We took a wrong turn (always a plus in the rain) and happened upon the Hotel des Milles Collines, aka THE Hotel Rwanda.
I had a mix of emotions. I forget if I mentioned this before and it’s far too late for me to double check so bear with me if this is a repeat. When we asked about visiting Hotel Rwanda, we were informed by our hostess that all was not as it seemed. The infamous hotel manager, Paul, is currently in America. He couldn’t come back to Rwanda if he wanted to as, if he did, he would be arrested and charged with genocide crimes. Though he did save some people in the hotel, he also allowed others to be killed instead of his family and took place in the killings as well.
I KNOW! I was totally heartbroken. Rwandans apparently can’t stand him, especially as he’s presented himself to be so incredible when, in fact, he wasn’t.
Since it was pouring, we passed the hotel in search of Shokola, a delicious Mediterranean restaurant which would be our retreat in the rain. A block later, we discovered our oasis and relaxed. We read some, discussed and processed the past two days of overwhelming genocide overload, ate delicious food and waited for the rain to pass.
Once it did, we went back to the hotel where I was determined to take a picture and go inside. A lot happened at that hotel, no matter what truth Paul told or not. The hotel was beautiful inside. I looked around the upscale lobby and wondered how it all went down. By the way, it looks nothing like the movie. They should have filmed it there though since it is truly beautiful. I wonder if they’ve remodeled. Anyway, Kacie was NOT about being a tourist at this place so we headed out quickly. It’s a good thing the guards ignored the two random white girls just walking around.
We headed back towards the Union Trade Center and attempted to find Rwandan crafts, particularly the pottery that they are known for. We searched to no avail. We wandered the Union Trade Center, which was much less exciting than I anticipated. We then headed back home to make dinner, relax and read. Our time in Rwanda was such a great time to just READ. I made my way through “Redeeming Love” each day and saw myself in Angel while overwhelmed by God’s pursuing and faithful love. I needed to grasp His love during this trip…and He knew it.
I also made some of the best white sauce I’ve ever made that night. Mm…