14. MOURNING IN MURAMBI
After leaving the palaces in Nyanza we returned to the main road and back south in the direction of Butare until we turned right at the road to the MURAMBI MASSACRE MEMORIAL, which was our next destination, and which I had visited last year. We had alot of miles to cover in the rest of this day - our final destination being Cyangugu - but Murambi was on the way, being near the town of Gikongoro.
During the drive I told Kevin and Oliver a few details of the massacre at Murambi - how 50,000 Tutsis had run to the technical school on the hill there for protection because the priest and the mayor of the town had told them the French soldiers would protect them. Then when they all got there, the electricity and water were cut off and for three days they suffered hunger and thirst, with the French soldiers refusing to let them leave. Then the French disappeared and in their place a gang of local Interahamwe (civilian young Hutu men dressed in wild-coloured shirts weilding hoes, clubs, machetes, handguns etc) attacked them one night.
The Tutsi men put up a good fight in the courtyard in front of the administration building of the school (now empty and housing a genocide museum) throwing stones handed out by the women. Thousands fell to the bullets and were then trampled by their own compatriots who replaced them in throwing stones. They managed to repel the killers that night but they came back with a vengeance the next. A battalion of police and soldiers - sent by Bagosora - came with machine guns and hand grenades and a massive killing spree ensued. The Tutsis who survived the bullets were finished off with machetes - or vice versa.
By the end of that night of killing, 50,000 massacred bodies were lying lifeless on the ground and in the buildings. Only a few survived to tell the tale.
The next day bulldozers and shovels arrived to dig pits to throw in the dead bodies and then cover them up with dirt. The French soldiers came back to offer so-called "humanitarian" aid in a mission named "Operation Turquoise". They planted their flag and played volleyball on some of the graves which had been planted over with grass.
After the genocide was stopped, rumours started circulating around the world that it hadn't really been as bad as was reported and a Tutsi genocide hadn't really happened. That's when the survivors of Murambi agreed to allow the bones of their people to be dug up from the graves and put on display in the classrooms. That way there'd be living dying proof of genocide.
When we arrived I got out of the vehicle outside the front gate so I could take a distance shot of the courtyard of the Murambi stand-off.
The Murambi Genocide Memorial is a National Museum and there are attendants there waiting for visitors. Our guide for the tour was a woman who only spoke Kinyarwanda but Oliver translated for her.
She's a survivor who lost her husband and all her children - except for one who has physical disabilities now. She wasn't at Murambi the night of the massacre, she was in Kigali.
This being my second time to Murambi I disengaged myself somewhat and took on the role of observer and person in charge of the camera. That way I wasn't as personally involved in what Kevin and Oliver were experiencing. Instead I stood back with our guide and the other permanent Murambi group in a mutual mission witnessing others witness the truth.
The photos below need no words:
My favourite tree in Rwanda is still there and I asked Oliver and Kevin to stand beneath it for a ritual photo.
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