Survivor Nation - Rwanda's Genocide
In the spring of 1994, whilst my sister and I were dancing around our bedroom to Whigfield’s ‘Saturday Night’, and sneaking ketchup & crisp sandwiches when mum wasn’t looking; our Rwandan counterparts were forced to watch their mothers being raped and macheted to pieces, then ordered to kill their own siblings. Dogs ate the remains. Tortures were intended to cause maximum pain before death was granted. Learning that humans can kill like wild animals is both terrifying and incomprehensible. My innocent sister and I, along with a large portion of the world, were oblivious to the horrors unfolding in Rwanda as the scale of the genocide went largely unreported at the time.
The Kigali Memorial is a horrific reminder of how cruel, twisted and easily-lead humanity can be. Heaviness hangs in the air. Family members visit relatives that were identified and received a burial in mass graves.
Another haunting memorial site, Nyamata Church, has been completely untouched since the massacre of the 10 000 people that sheltered for safety there. Not hiding the horrors, it shows the blood splatters, bullet-holed walls, piles of torn clothes and open coffins full of fractured skulls and bones.
Once again, I feel a deep sting of shame being from the West..the initiators of many of the world’s worst genocides. The Americans, the German, the British, the French, the Belgian, all caused disrupt and distrust within countries through colonisation, exploiting the natives and claiming resources that were not theirs to take. The Cambodian genocide, the Vietnam war, the colonisation of India & Sri Lanka were born out of western supremacy and left me feeling ancestral guilt after visiting these countries.
The Rwandan genocide is another sharp reminder of how fragile humanity can be: how propaganda controls people’s ideology and actions; how in the end, war is always a waste of life and ultimate destruction of a nation.
Nowadays, every Rwandan face you pass in the street over 24 years old tells a story of their direct involvement in the genocide. It is very common for my peers to have lost at least one parent or sibling. Many were orphaned.
The lily that grows from the dirt is the positive attitude and national pride with which the people now live life. They are using their horrific tragedy to serve as a difficult lesson for the rest of the world: an aspiration to keep the peace, reconcile our differences, and dig deep for forgiveness...proving resilience does triumph after everything has been lost.