Kigali Memorial Centre

A phrase I always remember my Mother using was Man’s Inhumanity to Man I never knew where this phrase came from until recently (From a Poem by Robert Burns), but she always uses it with reference to tragedies in the world, she has lived in a period of time in the later half of the 20th Century that has seen some great tragedies in which the phrase becomes very appropriate.

This phrase has remained with me for as long as I can remember and is still relevant, which is shocking. Even more shockingly that genocide still remains a threat in the world in my lifetime. 

As a historian by degree I have always been taught to analyze both sides of the act or event, there are always different views, facts and theories. This has helped me I think have a balanced view on world events and current affairs, whether its right or wrong or for and against the main argument, but every now and then I am hit for six and turned around in what I knew or believed.

17 years ago I recall how the world powers stood still and watched as Rwanda went to war on itself; I stupidly believed that perhaps this was just civil war, a savage at that but a civil war nonetheless. This stagnation by my own government and governments of the major super powers disgusted me and changed perspective and opened my eye’s to just how crooked the world is. But soon the Rwanda story went away I was 17, life moved on, history moved on.

I have not been to Auschwitz or any of the former concentration camps in Poland but I have studied this era of conflict well, so I had a good understanding of Genocide and the steps towards it and its savagery.

We had a planned stop at The Kigali Memorial Centre which was opened on the 10th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, in April 2004, where an estimated 800,000 people were slaughtered in just three weeks. The Centre is built on a site where over 250,000 people are buried, and will continue to be buried as bodies are still uncovered today around the country.

The story that unfolded in front of my eyes was a complete shock to the system. To read and hear about how the Hutu Government systematically trained, organized and unleashed the Interahamwe to execute their plan to eliminate the Tutsi Ethnic group from Rwanda and have the world watch is astounding to me.

What is still astounding me is the fact this was only 17 years ago and when you put this in perspective, what the hell have we learnt!?! I thought as a Historian we were to learn from the atrocities of the Holocaust to never, never let this happen again, what happened?

Rwanda is just one such example of recent times, Bosnia another, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge is another, but we don’t learn, we don’t stop it! I learnt at the museum the one simple fact that stopped any action being taken to stop the atrocities in Rwanda – The world’s leaders refused to use the word ‘Genocide’ at the UN when referring to the events in Rwanda, if they did it meant they would have to act, NO One wanted to help…..Don’t let this happen, you have the power to voice you’re opinion and force politicians to act, We need to learn from our History.

Genocide is never spontaneous. It is an intentional act of multiple murders, aimed at destroying the presence of the victim group. Its perpetrators do not respect age, gender, occupation, religion or status.

The Centre is a permanent memorial to those who fell victim to the genocide and serves as a place for people to grieve those they lost. These graves are a clear reminder of the cost of ignorance. Man’s Inhumanity to Man.

To learn more about the centre you can visit their website . Also very interesting reading and an excellent point of reference to Africa over the last 30 years is British Journalist Richard Dowden’s book Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles.

For further reading and investigation on crimes against humanity and Genocide, you can visit the website of a great organisation the Aegis Trust