17 years ago, the Rwandan Genocide began. In 100 days, 800,000 people were killed in perhaps the most systematic massacre in history. We did nothing then, but we can do something now. Raise awareness, speak up, stop genocide.
This picture was taken at the Murambi Genocide Memorial in southern Rwanda. Murambi was the site of a brutal massacre during the 1994 genocide in which almost a million people were viciously slaughtered. People in the area were told by the Mayor and Bishop to come to the Murambi Technical School to hide from the genocide perpetrators. They were told they would be safe here, that the French troops would protect them. In actuality, telling people to flock here was part of a plan devised so that there would be a high concentration of Tutsis in one area, making the killing easier for the perpetrators. When people arrived at Murambi Technical School they were counted. They were told that they were counted to allow for the proper allocation of resources. In reality this was done in order for the killers to know how many people they had killed. On April 21, 1994 the Hutu Interahamwe attacked Murambi and the French troops disappeared. The innocent people who sought refuge at Murambi tried to save themselves with bricks, but the Interahamwe had guns and machetes and quickly the school was strewn with nearly 50,000 dead bodies. There were only six survivors of this massacre and most that escaped were quickly found and killed at a nearby church. The 50,000 bodies were thrown into mass graves. A year later survivors returned to the site in hopes of giving a proper burial to those killed. Opening up the grave they found some bodies were fresh and the survivors worked to preserve these bodies with lye. Today these 852 preserved bodies are housed and displayed in 24 rooms on the same site in which they were slaughtered. The Murambi site is the only one like it in the world. Today many people still deny that the Rwandan genocide occurred, Murambi is there to prove that the slaughter and evil of the 1994 genocide were real. In the rooms with the preserved bodies I saw babies clutching onto mothers, screaming expressions, people covering faces and twisting their bodies in a final effort to save their lives. The anguish is frozen in time. Multiple times after walking out of a room where I could see the pain preserved in the faces of these people, I would just stare out at the beauty in utter disbelief. Murambi is utterly beautiful. You look around and are surrounded by lush rolling hillsides. You can see for miles and miles, it is difficult to imagine seeing miles and miles of death. You hear happy sounds of screaming children playing with their friends, it’s difficult to imagine 16 years earlier sounds of innocent screaming children crying out for mercy in pain. It’s difficult to imagine that a place so beautiful could have been home to the most evil act. In the middle of the site there is the stereotypical “tree of life” that is pictured here. The irony here is stupefying. I will never forget my day at Murambi.
Learn more about Murambi: http://www.museum.gov.rw/2_museums/murambi/genocide_memorial/pages_html/page_intro.htm
Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre- Kigali, Rwanda