Kigali Memorial Center

Wandering about Kigali the other day, I came across this amazing round about (traffic circle) very near the center of downtown. Although it was off at the time, a beautiful three-tiered fountain is in the center and lowly cropped hedges of different colors, patches of grass and pathways of small rocks create a beautiful star effect around it. Seeing that there was no one on the round about I thought it might be wise to ask a nearby security guard, (there are many, many uniformed security people around) if it would be ok to go and sit near the fountain for awhile….He referred me to the ‘fountain keeper’ standing nearby who said oh yes, of course, I was very welcome to sit there! After some time, he walked by where I sat on one of the rock steps leading down to the fountain. He went over to this door built into the ground and descended steps that disappeared under the fountain. Within seconds water sprayed up into the air and the fountain was fully on in all its glory…it was fantastic! I looked up to the top of the highest peak of water in the center, a rich blue sky as backdrop and there circling directly above were two eagles…WOWOWOW!!! THANKS!!!

From there, all full of joy I took a motorcycle boda (I was handed a helmet with a functioning face shield to wear) to the Kigali Memorial Center I mentioned in my last posting. When I arrived, there was a group of about 50 Rwandan men and women all dressed beautifully, each wearing a piece of purple fabric around their wrist or neck, each carrying a rose and standing quietly in two lines passing through the security gate in front of me. As I made my way around the first part of the memorial inside, the area dedicated to the Rwandan genocide, I learned some history about the country pre-colonialism; what occurred when Europeans arrived; what lead up to the genocide; the 100 days of the genocide that started on April 7, 1994 and the immediate time following, all the while crossing paths several times with the men and women ‘in purple’. Nearing the end, we entered a room where postcard size photos of people who were murdered in the genocide hang on individual clips, row upon row, men, women, teens, children, infants, several hundred people remembered in this one small room. As I sat in the center of the room with so many faces looking out at me, I could hear the soft moans and whispered cries of many of the women in the group as they looked very closely at every photo. Tears filled my eyes… there was exceptional pain in the room, extraordinary compassion and Love too. As she entered the next area, one woman’s pain became more than she could quietly bear when she saw display case after display case of human skulls and bones (the idea of which to display I am told is to ensure that people do not for a moment think that a genocide never happened here) and she collapsed onto her hands and knees sobbing in the door way, her deep and sorrowful cries filling the entire area. It was so incredibly sad, very powerful, and I sat for many moments holding LOVE in the center of my heart, streams of tears flowing down my face.

Yesterday, I met another traveler from Canada and when I asked her what she had thought of the memorial she said she thought it was good, maybe a bit on the impersonal side… when I explained my experience there to her I ended by realizing aloud, amazing, I cannot really say what ‘I’ thought of it… my time there turned out to be completely interconnected, collectively very personal and extremely intimate with the other people I was Blessed to join there.

Even the final moments for me inside the memorial were ones I will not forget… there is an area upstairs where several children who were killed in 1994 are remembered individually… along with a life size photo of each child one can learn their name, age, what their favorite food or toy was, who their best friend was and how they died. Again, when leaving the area, smaller photos of several hundred children hang on individual clips along the wall of a hallway. In an amazing ‘twist’ as I sat and looked at the beautiful faces of so many little ones, a refreshing, gentle yet VERY powerful breeze blew through a nearby open door from outside… the air rippled softly through the rows of photos and it looked and felt to me in that moment as though the children were most present… waving, playing, animated even giggling, if you will… the click-click of the photos blowing one into the other creating a sound so remarkably similar…

And I left the memorial feeling many things but mostly…
Indeed After All, LOVE Prevails
Catherine xoxo

About Catherine Koch

Founder and President of Love Is The Answer, a Canadian registered charity serving orphaned children in Africa.
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