Rwanda Genocide: In the Words of the Survivors

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View over Kigali from the Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda
View over Kigali from the Genocide Memorial Centre

What can you say about the Rwandan genocide? What do you say when  500,000 – 1 million people were killed in 100 days?

On my Rwanda Adventure, I visited the Genocide Memorial Centre in Kigali. The site where 250,000 were murdered is definitely eye-opening. But being an outsider, I feel that anything I say will be trite. It’s the same reasons why I haven’t written about the concentration camps in Germany.

Beyond the usual “horrific” “unbelievable” “tragic” descriptions. I have no real meaningful adjectives that provide any new insights to describe the horrific events of 1994. Instead, I will share the words of some Rwandan genocide survivors. Who can speak more  meaningful and powerful than I ever could:

Rwanda Genocide survivor plague at the Memorial Centre in Kigali
Quote from a survivor at the Genocide Memorial Centre
Rwandan Genocide Survivor quote at the Kigali Memorial Centre
Quote for a survivor at the Genocide Memorial Centre

I also highly recommend reading the book We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories From Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch.  Needless to say, it’s not the most uplifting book you’ll ever read, but I realized how ignorant I was about the Rwandan genocide.

 The world really did turn a blind eye. It also made my time in Rwanda much more meaningful as I gained insights into what has made Rwanda, Rwanda.  And how a mere 10 years later no one discusses Hutu or Tutsi descent and everyone refers to themselves as united Rwandans instead.

Memorial rose garden at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Rwanda
Memorial rose garden
Flowers left in remembrance of a loved one at the Kigali Memorial Genocide Center
Flowers left in remembrance of a loved one


Know Before You Go to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre:

  • Admission to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre is by donation only. Donations are also accepted online as well.
  • Opening Hours: 8 pm to 5 pm daily (must enter by 4 pm). Opens at 2 pm on Umuganda Saturdays.
  • You can choose an audio guide or just walk through the centre and just read the signage, which is what I did. There are a lot of very informative displays and I felt the exhibits were very powerful.
  • Warning:  The Children’s Memorial is one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.  If you are bringing children, ensure they are old enough/mature enough to handle it.  It might be a good idea to have a look yourself first before deciding to bring your children into this part of the centre.
  • You can arrange your visit by yourself, just show up, no reservations required.  My guide from Amahoro Tours dropped me off and waited until I was finished my visit.

I left Rwanda in awe – because of both the atrocities that people can commit on neighbours and friends but also at the same time in awe of the incredible strength the survivors have to forge ahead and create a new Rwanda – one where everyone is safe. 

Rwanda Genocide Memorial Centre

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16 thoughts on “Rwanda Genocide: In the Words of the Survivors”

  1. Such a horrific tragedy – even more so knowing that nothing was done to try and halt the genocide for far too long. The words of the children are indeed heartbreaking and I’m not sure that I could visit the Children’s Memorial – it’s far too easy for me to imagine my own children in the place of the Rwandan children and wonder how anyone could have committed such atrocities against them.

    • @Lisa – Completely agree. The Children’s Memorial was the most powerful memorial I’ve ever seen and I don’t even have kids yet. Several months later I still remember my visit vividly.

  2. What a profoundly moving article my friend and those pics of the survivors’ quotes made me cry! To witness such horror is unimaginable! Thank you for opening up my eyes to this oh so tragic event. The numbers are staggering!

  3. I was 14 when the Rwanda genocide happened and a freshman in high school. We haven’t been to Rwanda, but had a very powerful experience talking with people that lived through the seize of Sarajevo, which was also as recent as the ’90s. I only realize now traveling to such places how absolutely naive I was as a high schooler reading newspaper clippings and thinking I could accurately discuss what was happening in my world history class. Travel truly enriches our lives and is seriously eye opening.

  4. It really is challenging to write about these kinds of places without sounding banal. Sometimes pictures really speak 1000 words. I’ve read the book you mention and seen the film Hotel Rwanda – so horrible it doesn’t seem real.

  5. I completely understand that it is hard to describe a place like this, so thank you for still sharing it. I think it is so important to visit places like this, or read about them, so we can all remember what has happened and be reminded to do whatever we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening in the future.

  6. This was such a heartbreaking post and those quotes from those children gave me chills. I can’t even begin to imagine what impact a visit to such a powerful and emotional memorial can do to a person. Thinking about the Children’s Memorial just brings me to tears. Thanks for sharing your memories and bringing this to light. You’re right, there really are no adjectives to describe these atrocities. It’s also amazing to think how the survivors have gathered enough strength to rebuild.

    • @Mary – It was the children’s quotes that really got me. It was a difficult place to visit, but I’m so glad I did. It definitely left a lasting impression and gave me so much respect for the survivors.

  7. Pingback: Rwanda Genocide: In the Words of the Survivors by Laurel Robbins | Traveling Holland and the World on the Camino of Life

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