Murambi Genocide Memorial

Memorial in Southwestern Rwanda

Nyamagabe (formerly called Gikongoro) and the satellite town of Murambi was the site of one of the most unforgettable horrors of the 1994 genocide. Refugees flocked to Murambi, the location of a half-built technical college, after being told that they would be safe there. It was merely a ploy though and on 21 April the army and Interahamwe militia moved in and, depending on whose doing the counting, between 27,000 and 40,000 people were murdered here.

This is by far the most graphic of the many genocide memorials in Rwanda, as hundreds of bodies have been exhumed and preserved with powdered lime, and appear as they did when the killers struck.

A visit starts with well-presented museum-style information panels (many of which seem to lay the blame for it all on the French) and short films. You then walk through rooms with larger than life photographs of some of the victims and accounts from some of the few who survived.

Heading outside, you pass by some mass graves and then over to what were once planned to be classrooms. Many of these contain wooden racks filled with hundreds of preserved bodies. Wandering through these rooms the scene becomes more and more macabre, with many of the displayed corpses – men, women and children – still contorted in the manner in which they died. The last rooms are perhaps the most moving of all. These contain the toddlers and babies and, just as with the adults, you can sometimes get a good guess as to their final moments: some, presumably calling for their mothers, are still holding their arms out; another covers his or her eyes in what might be a vain attempt to hide from the killers. Many others have fractures in their skulls from the machetes.

As you can imagine from this description, Murambi can be overwhelming, and not everyone can stomach it. It is, however, another poignant reminder to us all of what came to pass here, and why it must never be allowed to happen again.

Nyamagabe is 28km west of Huye, and there are regular buses running between the two (RFr510, 50 minutes). The memorial is 2km beyond the town at Murambi. Moto-taxis can run you there for RFr500 if you don’t fancy the walk.