I wanted to visit the Genocide Memorial Centre in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, and learn what really happened 21 years ago in 1994. All I had previously learned about the genocide was from what I had seen in the movie Hotel Rwanda. Almost a million people were brutally murdered in less than 2 months, which was 20% of Rwanda’s population. I still have a very hard time comprehending the fact that the genocide and the magnitude of the genocide happened at all, while the world watched, and especially so recently, in my lifetime. The details of the genocide were extremely hard to take and I’m still disturbed by the facts when I think about them. The Genocide Memorial Centre in Kigali is by donation.
Some images from the memorial:
I also visited the Nyamata Genocide Memorial, which is one of the most significant genocide sites in Rwanda because it is a very real image of one of the places where the genocide was carried out. Located 40 minutes outside of Kigali, the memorial is the infamous church where over 10,000 people were killed during the genocide. Also by donation, you can take a short tour of the church and see the victims’ clothing piled on the benches, blood stains, skulls, bones, the roof riddled with bullet holes and the open crypts behind the church that hold the remains of another 40,000 people who were killed.
The genocide facts are hard to swallow and they’ll leave their mark on you.
Facts on a day trip to Rwanda:
- If you’re visiting southwest Uganda and have a free day, you can organize a day trip to Kigali. I was staying at Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda for the gorilla trekking, so a few others and I organized a day trip since we were so close to the border with Rwanda.
- A day trip is likely only worth your while if you already got the East Africa Tourist Visa in Kenya or Uganda. The visa is good for all three countries (Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda) and it can be obtained on arrival in any of these countries for $100US. It’s a multiple entry visa valid for 90 days.
- As with everything in Africa, the journey to and from Kigali took longer than expected. We were told it would take about 3 hours each way from Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda, with the border crossing, but it was more like 5.
- In Rwanda, you drive on the right side of the road (every other country in southern and eastern Africa drives on the left) and the roads are actually real, paved roads in good condition (another foreign concept in most of southern and eastern Africa).
- Just like the countryside of Uganda, the Rwandan countryside is green, lush, mountainous and absolutely stunning.
- The city of Kigali is very pristine, another quality of a city that is unusual in Africa.
- You can practice your French in Rwanda as French is one of its official languages, so there’s more of a chance the people will speak French than English.