|2012||Tentative list||Submitted as tentative site by State Party|Paul Tanner (UK):
We visited Gisozi (then just called Kigali Genocide Memorial) and Murambi during a visit to Rwanda in Sept 2006. Like most tourists we were in Rwanda primarily to see Gorillas and other wild life but the “Genocide-related” sites were also of interest including places like the “Mille Collines” (aka “Hotel Rwanda”) and the Gacaca courts whose sessions in a village clearing we would often pass. Though whether these 4 sites deserve inscription is another matter!
The Kigali Memorial consists of a pleasant, but not particularly striking, modern building completed in 2004 (photo) , a surrounding cemetery and rose garden, together with a black stone memorial containing the names of up to 250000 victims buried in mass graves in the surrounding cemetery (as far as I am aware the deceased were brought there from surrounding areas rather than this being the site of a specific “massacre”). The building houses an exhibition about the Genocide as well as education and documentation centres (and a café!). It is on the list for every tourist to Rwanda but claims to be aimed at Rwandans as well, for education, remembrance, research and reconciliation purposes. I found the exhibition interesting and not too tendentious in its assignment of blame both long term (though Belgium does take a “bit of a beating” for developing the Hutu/Tutsi split!) and at the time, but the location and structure failed to generate, in me at least, any great impression.
Murambi was another matter altogether. The site consists of a school and surrounding fields where some 27000 people had gathered for “safety” only to be murdered. An exhibition centre had been built but stood unopened when we were there (and is, I believe, still not opened for reason of disputes whose nature hasn’t been made clear to me by any Web sites I have managed to find). The most “shocking” aspect of the site lies within the rows of cabins which formed the classrooms and dormitories of the technical school built as recently as 1990 (the genocide took place in 1994). Whilst some contain personal objects and clothes, and others piles and rows of bones/skulls, yet others contain complete mummified bodies preserved in quicklime but still displaying, wholly or partly, skin and hair. These are “laid out” in each room on simple wooden trestles. When we visited there were no restrictions on photography (I believe this may have changed since) but I could not bring myself to point a camera at corpses in such a voyeuristic act and restricted myself to the outside (photo). We have visited the “Killing Fields” memorials at Pnom Penh and Tuol Sleng and I would regard myself as pretty “rational” when it comes to photographing the realities of life around the World – but the seemingly “careless” way in which these victims’ bodies were laid out for exhibit pushed at my personal and cultural “acceptability boundary” in a way that (somewhat illogically!) bones and skeletons alone do not. Not so far as to say it shouldn’t be done but far enough to “disturb” – and that is possibly the reason for doing it? If anyone wants to see the sort of thing on display look at
There are other Genocide memorials around Rwanda which have not been included – we saw one at Kibuye Church which was less oriented at tourists than the above 2 sites were – quite how these 4 have been chosen I couldn’t say. The Kigali site seems particularly problematical, lacking any physical “authenticity” other than via the graves. Of course the entire concept of inscribing such a site is problematic and is perhaps the inevitable result of the earlier inclusion of Auschwitz and Genbaku Dome. China is thinking of the ruins of Unit 731 – Japan’s germ warfare experimental site. Where might it all end? The Rwandan sites can perhaps more easily be presented as a “non nationalistic” unarguably “humanist” nomination propounding universal values. But such sites can never be entirely apolitical - the Rwandan T List introduction rather unnecessarily and, maybe, unwisely, refers to the French “Operation Turquoise” centred on Murambi whose role in not protecting those being massacred is, of course “controversial” and is regarded by the Rwandan government as indicative of French support for the Hutus. On which point, it is rather surprising to note that this T List entry is provided in French despite the policy currently being implemented in Rwanda to switch from French to English as the main non-African language in schools, government and business!!
Date posted: September 2012
Have you been to Sites mémoriaux du génocide : Nyamata, Murambi, Bisesero et Gisozi? Share your experiences!