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Kigali Genocide Memorial - A view from our expert author
This dignified yet sobering museum and memorial marks the site of one of the largest massacres that took place during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
This dignified memorial has been constructed in Gisozi, the burial site of over 250,000 people killed in a three-month period during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. It opened fully for the tenth anniversary of the genocide in April 2004. You can see it across the valley – a large, white, modern building with terraces in front – on the right as you go downhill on Boulevard de Nyabugogo (KN 1 Rd). To drive there is easy as it’s in sight for much of the way – take a right turn halfway down Boulevard de Nyabugogo onto KN 8 Ave, continue downwards into the valley onto KG 14 Ave, and when you’re a little way past the memorial take a left turn across the valley, then (at a T-junction) go sharp left (staying on KG 14 Ave) along a short dirt road and you’ll come to the gate.
Importantly, the memorial centre is not just a mass grave and exhibition. At the request of Kigali City Council, it was created – and is managed today – by the UK-based Aegis Trust (a non-sectarian, non-governmental genocide prevention organisation; www.aegistrust.org). Aegis operates a Rebuilding Lives programme to help widows and orphans of the genocide, and a peace-building education programme (hosted at the Memorial) educating a new generation about the dangers of prejudice and helping to establish trust between the children of survivors and perpetrators.
The memorial centre is now also home to the Genocide Archive of Rwanda, which is open to the public. The purpose of the archive centre is to illuminate genocidal ideologies and their impact. The archive collection includes photographs, official documents and geographical data.
Entry is free but contributions are very much welcomed because the centre relies on proceeds for the upkeep of the mass graves and the exhibitions. Recently it has developed an audio tour which costs Rfr9,000 (less for residents/students/etc). The audio tour is currently available in English, French, Dutch and German. Italian and Spanish versions are coming soon. It is comprehensive, and is particularly helpful for understanding the outside exhibits such as the gardens and mass graves.
There is also a bookshop that sells a good selection of films, music and books on the theme of genocide and prevention. Further to this, there’s now a café on site selling a good range of snacks, sandwiches and drinks (including Rwandan coffee) from about Rfr2,000, and proceeds from this also go towards the upkeep of the museum and its educational outreach work.