#CongoWomenSpeak report: Faces of genocide

By — February 19, 2014

These are some of the faces of the 800,000 people killed in just 100 days in 1994 in Rwanda. The photos are hanging in Kigali’s genocide museum—a terrifying place that actually contains the remains of some 249,000 people murdered.

After my visit to the museum, I spoke with a woman in Kigali today. She’s 28, which would have made her 8 years old during the genocide. Her experience was this:

“Three men came to my house and killed my father and two brothers and shot my mother. My mother survived, bleeding alone in the house for days. I was at my godmother’s house. She took me on foot to Bukavu [Democratic Republic of Congo]—it took weeks. We stayed wherever: on the streets, in the bush, wherever. I met my mother and sister finally in the refugee camp in Bukavu. Yes, it was incredible. A coincidence. But what I went through was not so bad. Not compared to others.”

 

This is a photo of Ariane that is hanging in the museum. She was 4 years old when she was killed in an utterly unspeakable way in the genocide—it is so terrible I cannot bring myself to write it. Her favorite food was cake. She loved singing and dancing. Her family described her as a “neat little girl.”

 

This grave is ongoing, as strange as that may sound. It is part of the museum’s 14 layers of burial plots, each of which are sealed when they contain the remains of 90 people. Bodies are still being brought to this memorial, despite there already being 249,000 people buried here. Bones are still being found throughout the city and moved from places where they are not safe. That there can still be so many, many remains scattered throughout Rwanda speaks to how concentrated the killing was, and how quickly it happened.

It also speaks to the living memory that is so deeply palpable in this country. I have not met anyone over 25 who did not lose a family member or was raped, or more.

How a country’s people move forward from horror of this magnitude is something that feels unknowable here. Yet somehow, every day, one by one, they are.

 

Photos by Lauren Wolfe. Follow the Nobel Women’s delegation through Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo on Twitter and Instagram at #CongoWomenSpeak and Wolfe’s tweets from the trip at @Wolfe321To read Wolfe's last #CongoWomenSpeak report from the ground, click here.