I hired a taxi driven by a delightful and friendly fellow named
The first site I visited was a Catholic church in the town of
Inside the church, the first room you enter contains the clothing of many of the victims. It also contained large bags of bones. I noticed that some of these bones were contained in USAID food donation sacks.
In the nave of the church, there are a few coffins for the pitifully few victims that were able to be identified by surviving family members. Most of the victims are interred in mass graves beneath the church itself and in two mass graves constructed on the grounds behind the church. To put it mildly, to see graves like this is overwhelming.
After visiting Nyamata, we returned to
I learned quite a bit about the history of
I also learned quite a bit about the ethnic divisions which led to the genocide. For example, when the Germans colonized
So, strictly speaking Hutus and Tutsis aren’t really ethnic groups at all. This was something that my driver explained to me. The driver explained to me that it wasn’t like the difference between, say, Nigerians and Ethiopians, who are strikingly different in appearance. While there are some subtle differences in the physiognomies of Hutus and Tutsis, the differences aren’t as clear cut as in the example I gave earlier in the paragraph.
The designation of Hutu or Tutsi or Twa denoted how wealthy or influential you were in your clan - and social mobility was possible. In other words, if you somehow worked your way up to owning ten or more cows, you could go from being a Hutu to a Tutsi.
This was rare, however, and since allied clans would naturally work together and favor one another, the clan identity gradually gave way to the ethnic identities of Hutu and Tutsi. (Twas are the smallest group, and as near as I could tell didn’t figure in the genocide.) As the Tutsis were the wealthy, they were a minority. And since they were wealthy they were favored by the Belgians. Thus, they maintained their economic status and began to become more educated. Because they were more educated, they gradually came to dominate the civil service under colonization. This is what led to the Hutu resentment of the Tutsis.
The memorial went into great detail about how the timeline of the genocide but it’s much too detailed for me to go into here.
For me the most powerful and most disturbing portion of the exhibit was the one dedicated to the child victims of the Rwandan genocide. It featured pictures of a child killed during the genocide; some short facts about the child (favorite food, favorite subject in school); and how they were killed. Again, mere words can’t really capture the power of this portion of the memorial.
I’ve posted pictures of my visit to these memorials on Kodakgallery.com. Normally, I send out a mass e-mail to all my friends and family inviting them to view my photos. But due to the disturbing nature of the photos from Nyamata, I am not going to do that this time. Instead, I will send an e-mail to everyone. Anyone that wants to see this album can e-mail me back and I will send an invitation to view the album.