One hundred days. One hundred days the genocide in Rwanda continued. One hundred days to kill between 800.000 and 1.000.000 people. 8.000 to 10.000 people died a day. Not by chemical weapons, large scale bombing or destruction camps, but with simple machetes, clubs or sharp pointed sticks and an occasional grenade. Not in a huge coutry with a large population, but in a country the size of Belgium with 8 million inhabitants in those days. 1 in every 8 to 10 people didn’t survive the genocide, most of them Tutsis, but also moderate Hutus.
The genocide was not a sudden burst of violence, no unexpected phenomenon, but carefully planned and prepared for years. Even before the Rwandan independence in 1962, there were outbursts of violence against Tutsis, stimulated by extremist Hutu factions. Later, under an extremist Hutu government, civilian militias, the Interahamwe, were trained and indoctrinated, armed and set ready. The crash of the plane of the President was the spark that lit the torch in a carefully prepared gun-barrel and where it didn’t explode immediately, measures were taken to poke up the fire. Locations that people thought to be hiding places and where they sought shelter from the violence, churches, schools, places protected by international troops, were attacked and changed into massacres. Whole communities didn’t survive these hundred days, were completely wiped away.
Sometimes the victims were left by their murderers at the spot where they were killed, sometimes they were dumped into mass graves. Because whole communities have disappeared, a lot of the victims have not been found or could not be identified, adding to the difficulties of the survivors. During trials (especially in the traditional “gacaca” courts), some perpetrators tell where they have hidden their victims. They then will be re-buried to give them a decent resting place, often at Genocide Memorial sites. The largest of those sites is in Kigali, simply called the Kigali Genocide Memorial. By now, there are more than 250.000 victims of the genocide buried there, and every year that number increases. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is not just a burial place, it is also, and mainly, a place for memorials and mourning for the survivors. Besides that, the site contains a museum about the history of the genocide in Rwanda and various other genocides elsewhere. It is an impressive exhibition of the horrors people can do to each other. The message is “it should never happen again”… but will that message ever be received? One hundred days changed Rwanda forever, but there are so many more place where people see the “other” as the enemy and murder as the solution. How long will it take?