On 10 May 2017, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Gisozi, a site for remembrance and learning, where she lay a wreath in memory of the victims of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi of Rwanda.
The memorial was chosen by survivors as a place of dignified burial for nearly 300,000 of the victims of the genocide, during which one million women, men and children were assassinated in just over 100 days.
This is a site where survivors come to recollect and students to learn about the 1994 genocide and the importance of prevention and peacebuilding through educational programmes and tours.
Ms Bokova was taken on a guided tour of the Memorial, which documents the historical roots of the gradual dehumanization of the Tutsis, goes on to describe the planning of the genocide and its execution, the muted response of the international community, the justice and reconciliation process through the international tribunal in Arusha and the local gacaca courts, and educational programmes developed to teach about the genocide and make peace a cross-cutting theme in school curricula. The memory of the savagery is chillingly rendered through life-size photographs of children captioned with their hobbies and the manner in which they were killed, along with belongings and remains of victims, machetes and other weapons used by the killers and testimonies of survivors.
“Here in the Kigali Genocide Memorial, I wish to pay tribute to the memory of the victims of the genocide that targeted the Tutsis of Rwanda in 1994, and to the memory of all children, men and women who perished,” said the Director-General. “I wish to express UNESCO’s commitment to stand by the people of Rwanda in its struggle for truth and justice. This is a struggle to build solidarity with and between victims of all mass atrocities, on all continents, throughout history. This is a struggle to educate, to teach about the genocide, to equip people with skills and knowledge to resist hatred and to prevent other genocides. Never forget, never again”.
During an earlier meeting on the margins of the Transform Africa Summit, she presented President Paul Kagame with UNESCO’s recent guide for policy makers on “Education about the Holocaust and Preventing Genocides”, noting also close cooperation with Rwanda on education to prevent genocide and build a culture of peace.