Human Rights: Displacement and Global Health: Yetunde Balogun


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Reconciliation in Post-genocide Rwanda: The role of the Kigali Memorial Center

Yetunde Balogun, University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

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Human Rights: Displacement and Global Health: Yetunde Balogun

  1. 1. Yetunde Balogun MS2; University of Rochester School of Medicine and dentistry Reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda: The Role of the Kigali Memorial Center “ It takes two generations to destroy trust. It will take at least the same again to restore it in our society. Trust will not be rushed. Foundations are laid now ” The Kigali Memorial Center Yetunde Balogun MS2 University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
  2. 2. Introduction <ul><li>Genocide is the deliberate and systematic killing of a national, ethnic, cultural or racial group. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1994, the Rwandan genocide, between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups left more than 800,000 people dead and more than two million people displaced and confused in 100 days. Majority of the dead were of the Tutsi tribe, a minority group that have been constantly persecuted since 1959. </li></ul><ul><li>After the genocide, there was a quest for reconciliation and healing for the country to move beyond the conflict that negatively defined it. </li></ul><ul><li>Different approaches to reconciliation were adopted in Rwanda but a key player is the Kigali Memorial Center, a center built in 2004 with collaboration of Aegis Trust and the Kigali City Council. </li></ul><ul><li>Despite the fact that various memorial centers have been built after conflicts, little is known about the role of memorial centers in reconciliation, healing and prevention. </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>Study Aims: </li></ul><ul><li>1) To identify the objectives , aims, and ideas that informed the construction of the Kigali memorial site and how these ideas are reflected in the Center’s design, exhibits, and texts </li></ul><ul><li>2) Explore the role of Kigali memorial center in reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda </li></ul><ul><li>Methods: </li></ul><ul><li>Exhibit content analysis, </li></ul><ul><li>On-site and off-site participant-observation </li></ul><ul><li>In-depth interviews of visitors and employees (13 employees and 7 visitors) </li></ul><ul><li>Off-site interviews (Many informal interviews) </li></ul>
  4. 4. Questions <ul><li>How do we tell our history with openness and sincerity? </li></ul><ul><li>How do we use history to tell a positive story to the future generation? </li></ul><ul><li>How do we use this story to create unity without alienating any group or tribe? </li></ul><ul><li>How do we get the story to our people? </li></ul><ul><li>How do we keep our memories as a reminder that we have no choice but to live together? </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Built by Aegis Trust and KCC </li></ul><ul><li>Different because it is more like a museum </li></ul><ul><li>Visitors are 60% locals and 40% foreigners </li></ul><ul><li>Sections: mass graves, children’s memorial, wasted lives, memorial gardens, National documentation center and educational center (launched on the 15 th June 2008) </li></ul><ul><li>Contains many pictures and names </li></ul>The Kigali Memorial center
  6. 6. Role in reconciliation <ul><li>1) Shared History : </li></ul><ul><li>Pictures, texts and videos detail chronologically the events leading to the genocide. </li></ul><ul><li>Includes Reconciliation as the final path that all Rwandans should achieve </li></ul><ul><li>Historical content : A whole section is devoted to history from pre-colonial era to post-colonial era. This history focuses more on togetherness than division </li></ul><ul><li>“ History inspires people to live together. Also helps people to reconcile memories ” employee </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>2) Minimal display of human remains </li></ul><ul><li>There are many memorial sites in Rwanda but many of them have exposed human remains. </li></ul><ul><li>The KMC decided to display minimal body parts, enough to expose the gravity of the genocide while minimizing exposure to traumatizing images, to avoid inspiring continued hatred </li></ul><ul><li>3) Place of respect and dignity for the dead </li></ul><ul><li>The memorial center contains 14 mass graves. </li></ul><ul><li>To date, about 258000 human remains, collected from latrines and shallow graves after the genocide, have been buried. </li></ul><ul><li>Visitors, both foreign and local visit the center to pay respect to the dead. </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>4) Positive contributions of Hutus during the genocide </li></ul><ul><li>A section of the exhibit is devoted to Hutus who saved children and adults belonging to the Tutsi group </li></ul>“ I was saved by a Hutu family after running for weeks ” visitor
  9. 9. <ul><li>5) “Education has become our way forward” KMC </li></ul><ul><li>An educational program has been started to: </li></ul><ul><li>Target genocide prevention, especially among youths </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage objective thinking, not blame </li></ul><ul><li>Involvement of many channels (books, mobile bus program and involve the media) </li></ul><ul><li>“ It is not about changing everyone, It is about getting a mass of people who can think ” . </li></ul><ul><li>“ An avenue to share our different memories and drive our goals to a common future. Our leaders are not talking about the genocide, but we want to and we have to ” </li></ul>
  10. 10. Participant Observation <ul><li>Rwanda </li></ul><ul><li>I was very surprised by the atmosphere </li></ul><ul><li>I couldn’t tell there was a genocide here 14yrs ago. </li></ul><ul><li>The people are nice and friendly; Strangers welcomed me with smiles. I didn’t see segregation between Hutus and Tutsis </li></ul><ul><li>As I got closer to the people, I came to realize that some of those that smiled at me were people who had survived the genocide </li></ul><ul><li>They had seen a lot; there were orphans and others who lost every member of their family or whose family members are in prison </li></ul><ul><li>As I listened to their stories and accounts of what had happened to them, I was humbled </li></ul><ul><li>I was amazed by the resilience of the Rwandans </li></ul><ul><li>By the time I settled in, I could tell that the memories of the genocide is still very much alive, even in places where you least expect . </li></ul><ul><li>Memorial Center </li></ul><ul><li>This place has become a part of the community. </li></ul><ul><li>Everyday, there are different groups pouring in to view the center. </li></ul><ul><li>This is a place where people relieve their trauma and it is obvious that people are still affected by the genocide. </li></ul><ul><li>The educational program has brought students together. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Interview Summary <ul><li>Many agree that 14 years is a small period for healing and reconciliation but point to the fact that Rwanda has made significant progress in a short amount of time. </li></ul><ul><li>Immediately after the genocide, Tutsis and Hutu couldn’t even sit together, they do now. </li></ul><ul><li>Majority acknowledged that not all Hutus killed Tutsis </li></ul><ul><li>Most people interviewed recognize the role that understanding history can play in preventing retaliation and future re-occurrence, and how the memorial center is facilitating this process. </li></ul><ul><li>Most respondents also agreed that the center not only dignifies the dead, it also helps survivors and perpetrators understand their actions and compel both to reconcile their pasts to forge a common future. </li></ul><ul><li>Most people also believe that the educational efforts targeting the youth of Rwanda are very critical to the future of Rwanda. Education will make the youth more reflective and help to eliminate genocidal ideologies that might endanger them in the future. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Challenges <ul><li>Ideology of hate still exists </li></ul><ul><li>People aren’t free to express themselves </li></ul><ul><li>Some parents are still preaching hate to their children </li></ul><ul><li>Rural vs. urban communities </li></ul>
  13. 13. Conclusion <ul><li>Four years after it was constructed, the Kigali Memorial Center seems to be contributing to the process of reconciliation taking place in Rwanda. </li></ul><ul><li>Though this study was only done in Rwanda, the elements essential for reconciliation described, could be adopted by other countries post conflict. </li></ul>“ Rwanda is determined to work toward reconciliation. First we have to reckon with the past, to make reconciliation a possibility” KMC
  14. 14. Acknowledgements <ul><li>Special thanks to: </li></ul><ul><li>Dr Nancy Chin, my mentor, for her advise and assistance throughout </li></ul><ul><li>Dr Theodore Brown for his invaluable assistance on the project. </li></ul><ul><li>Members of my Humanities Class, Caren Bartosz; Ilana Jacobs; Nurain Fuseini; Tope Oshodi; Stanley Dunn; Naomi Abe; for their inputs and corrections. </li></ul><ul><li>Thanks also to Dr Charles Inboriboon. </li></ul><ul><li>Thanks to Dr James Smith, the amazing staff of the Kigali memorial Center and Sam Boarer. They all made my stay in Rwanda memorable and enjoyable. </li></ul><ul><li>Finally, thanks to Natalia Golub and all of my classmates for their support. </li></ul>