I visited Murambi Genocide Memorial in 2009 as a Peace Corps trainee.
We were taken there as a group with our Rwandan language and cultural trainers. It was for us to learn about the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi and learn about Rwandan history.
Murambi is a memorial site in Nyamagabe District in the Southern Province.
It’s a beautiful school on top of a hill overlooking a hundred other hills. It’s the site of a mass killing, where people were told they were safe. Where people came for refuge and were met with death.
Murambi is one of the most shocking and horrifying places I’ve ever been in my life. Some of the bodies in the mass grave were preserved with lime and then carefully removed and placed inside the building along with other bodies from the surrounding area.
There are tens of thousands of bodies buried at Murambi, and almost a thousand of them are preserved.
Because you can see each body, when I visited I felt I had to look at each person and give them the respect they deserved.
I looked at each of them and told them I was sorry for what happened to them. Many still had their clothing on their body. The machete wounds apparent in their bones. One little boy had on a cartoon t-shirt when he was killed and his head smashed in. That’s when I couldn’t handle any more. I sat down and cried. I cried for the fear they must have felt, I cried for the injustice and cruelty that day had and I cried for the lives that were cut far too short.
One of my trainers came up to me, picked me up with a hearty pat on my back and told me to stop crying. I decided if he can see this and keep it together, who was I to be crying?
Murambi is not an easy place to visit, but it is important.
It’s the only site in Rwanda where you can actually see the bodies of those who were killed. You can spend time with them and tell them you’re sorry. My country did nothing to stop the killing. My country turned their back on Rwanda. We only came in afterwards to help pick up the pieces and act like saviors.
It’s important to never forget the cruelty humanity can cause and to remember what happened here so it never happens again, in Rwanda or elsewhere.
Murambi is a site you will never forget. The beauty of the area is a stark contrast to the ugliness inside those buildings.
Visit Murambi, then go out and restore your faith in the people of Rwanda. See the smiling faces and the joy that is back.
Nyamagabe is one of the most beautiful provinces in Rwanda and the recovery of the people is astonishing.