Visiting the Genocide Memorial
“The darkest places of hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in the time of moral crisis” – Dante Alighieri’s Inferno
Dante’s quote came to mind over and over as I walked thru the Kigali Genocide Memorial. How did the world turn a blind eye as over a million people got massacred within a 100 days?
Starting on April 6th, 1994 for the next 100 days a million Tutsis were killed by Hutus using clubs and machetes. There are two major ethnic groups in Rwanda, the Hutu’s and Tutsi’s. Under the Belgian colonial rule, the Belgians decided that the Tutsis were the superior ethic group due to the shape of their nose and the size of their head. About two weeks after the killings started the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously pull all U.N. peacekeeping troops out of Rwanda giving Hutus freedom to engage in genocidal mania, clubbing and hacking to death defenseless Tutsi families.
The Rwandan state radio, controlled by Hutu extremists, further encouraged the killings by broadcasting non-stop hate propaganda and even pinpointed the locations of Tutsis in hiding. The killers were aided by members of the Hutu professional class including journalists, doctors and educators, along with unemployed Hutu youths and peasants who killed Tutsis just to steal their property.
I learned about Hutus and Tutsis who were neighbors, godparents to each other’s children who later killed. In mixed marriages, the Hutu spouse was required to kill the Tutsi spouse and their kids who were half Tutsis. Women were raped by known HIV positive men to ensure they would have a slow and painful death. Wives and daughters were raped in front of family members and then killed. Babies were stabbed to death and children watched their parents being hacked by a machete. Priests would pretend to provide asylum to Tutsis and then lock them in the church so the Hutus can easily kill them in mass numbers.
I heard stories of betrayal of friends, neighbors and church members. I heard stories of lone survivors who watched their parents, spouses, siblings and children being murdered. What is it like to watch your family being clubbed to death by your neighbors? Or what is the emotional impact of killing your neighbors that you have shared many Christmas meals with? How can individuals function emotionally after witnessing such hatred and brutality?
In the past week I’ve witness nothing but kindness, tolerance and acceptance by Rwandans. Is it really that easy to forget and forgive the world for turning a blind-eye in 1994? How do you learn to continue living your life fully when everyone you love is taken away from you at the same time? These are questions that will be answered in time as many of the survivors are now reaching their late 20s and early 30s.