The main Genocide Memorial in Kigali has been built beside a mass grave containing 250,000 bodies, which we visited shortly after our arrival in August, and was an unbelievably moving experience. Yesterday we visited two churches that are about 25-30 km south of Kigali and that were the site of some of the most brutal killings during the 1994 genocide. These churches are two of the most powerful and shocking memorials, having on display the bones, skulls and bloodied clothes of those savagely murdered. During the genocide the Tutsis, the persecuted moiety of the population, sought sanctuary in the Catholic churches believing they would be protected and safe. People smuggled food etc. into the churches. It is thought that some of the clergy informed the Hutus of the secret mass of Tutsis that had taken refuge in the churches. Ultimately the Hutus stormed the churches and massacred all the people. What is unbelievable is the savagery, cruelty and atrocious animal behavior of the murderers. How supposedly normal people could have been incited and programmed into committing these brutal, savage atrocities is beyond comprehension.
This is a small church and school 25 km south of Kigali. A total of 5,000 people, many of whom were women and children, were killed in this church. All the people hiding in the separate kitchen building were burned to death. The children were taken into the one room school and systematically killed by smashing their skulls against the wall. As you can see from the pictures, the wall is stained red from this barbaric style of execution. Not only were women raped before being killed, they showed us a long, sharp pointed stick which was then inserted in the vagina, and pushed upward until it exited the head of the woman! The mass rape by HIV positive “interahamwe” or Hutu Militia, was used as a deliberate weapon. What can justify such barbarism? The blood-stained clothes of the dead are draped over the church pews, and the instruments used in the executions are grouped at the front of the church. At the rear of the church are all the skulls and other bones of the victims. The custodian who showed us through the church and out-buildings was 15 at the time of the killings, and is the only surviving member of his large family-the rest were all executed!
A further 5 km south of Ntarama is a larger church memorial site at Nyamata, the Nyamata Parish Catholic Church. Here grenades, rockets and automatic weapons were all used to massacre the people imprisoned inside the church. It is believed that 10,000 were killed inside the church with another 35,000 killed around the church compound between April 10th and April 12th of 1994. Inside this church today are all the bloodied clothing of the victims. The walls of the church show where the grenades blew holes in the walls, and where the doors were blown open.
Beside the church is a large underground crypt. It is totally filled with thousands of skulls, femurs and other bones belonging to the 45,000 people that were so savagely murdered. There are crude wooden coffins filled with bones of whole families (as best they could tell), all draped in purple covers.
You can imagine that on our drive back to Kigali we were neither talkative nor hungry-it was such a sobering experience that words could not describe the atrocities we had just experienced.
As we will be heading to Tanzania and leaving the Genocide Memorials we hope our next post will be more uplifting. Looking forward to seeing the Big 5!