CAMP KIGALI MEMORIAL | A Dark Tourism Site That Tells The Horrific Story Of The 1994 Rwanda Genocide 😢 • illuminaija
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CAMP KIGALI MEMORIAL | A Dark Tourism Site That Tells The Horrific Story Of The 1994 Rwanda Genocide 😢

   
   

CAMP KIGALI MEMORIAL | A Dark Tourism Site That Tells The Horrific Story Of The 1994 Rwanda Genocide 😢

Camp Kigali Belgian memorial is the place where ten of the Belgian UN blue beret soldiers were massacred during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The soldiers were deployed to guard the prime minister, Uwilingimana Agatha under the command of General Dallaire. The camp Kigali memorial was established by the Belgian government and opened on the 7th of April 2000.

Background History

CAMP KIGALI MEMORIAL | A Dark Tourism Site That Tells The Horrific Story Of The 1994 Rwanda Genocide 😢

When the UN Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was set up in 1993, the only first-world nation willing to provide professionally equipped soldiers for the peacekeeping effort was Belgium, of all countries.

This was unfortunate in so far as Belgium was also the former colonial power in Rwanda until independence was granted in 1962.

Normally the UN avoids having personnel from former colonial countries involved in the relevant countries, in this case, there wasn’t much choice, given the reluctance of all other developed nations to take part.

   
   

The rest of the mission personnel was eventually comprised of Ghanaians, Tunisians, Bangladeshis, and other nationals from developing countries.

Obviously, Belgian soldiers present in Rwanda posed a certain risk for the overall atmosphere, and also for the Belgian troops themselves, since they could potentially be targets of aggression.

But what happened on the first day after the genocide broke out, on 7 April 1994, was, however, not so much rampaging mob aggression, but rather a very carefully calculated assassination for a very specific purpose.

And there had been a warning. An informer, the ominous “Jean Pierre” (the code name used by the UN), confided, amongst other things, that there was a plan on the part of the Hutu extremists to take out some ten Belgian soldiers with the clear aim of destabilizing the UN mission.

CAMP KIGALI MEMORIAL | A Dark Tourism Site That Tells The Horrific Story Of The 1994 Rwanda Genocide 😢

The plan did indeed work. Shortly after the calculated murder of the ten Belgian soldiers, the rest of their troops were, in fact, pulled out – while at the same time all the Western nations evacuated their expatriate residents from Rwanda, together with a sizeable proportion of the UN mission staff too.

In short: the “international community” decided to leave Rwanda to it, i.e. abandon it to the genocidaires who now had virtually free rein. Ten Belgian soldiers’ lives lost was all it took to make the world run with its tail between its legs and then stand by while nearly a million Rwandans were systematically slaughtered.

The deaths of the soldiers were brutal and despicable. Apparently, they were first taunted, intimidated and beaten, before being executed. Some were killed right away, the rest made a stand and held out in a three-hour siege in one of the buildings at the Rwandan army barracks they had been taken to, but were finally overpowered and killed by grenades and machine-gun fire. 

The mutilated bodies of the Belgian paratroopers were then dumped in a pile at the morgue of a nearby hospital – a further shock for the UN staff and their commander when they finally reached their men.

CAMP KIGALI MEMORIAL | A Dark Tourism Site That Tells The Horrific Story Of The 1994 Rwanda Genocide 😢

The memorial site, set up by the Belgians on 7 April 2000, is thus a doubly dark spot: not just as a commemorative place for the ten dead men, but also a place to mourn the shamefully reflexive reaction by the “international community” – to run away and leave Rwanda in the lurch.  

Sight to visit  

The complex, which used to be part of an army base, can be accessed through a gate, with an old barrier boom now permanently swung 90 degrees out of the way. Beyond is a cluster of single-story buildings and to the right a small memorial garden. 

This is the centre point of the actual memorial and features ten dark grey granite columns, one for each of the soldiers killed. A number of notches on the side indicates how old the respective soldiers were at the time of their death … most were in their twenties. 

Now, the Camp Kigali Memorial pays tribute to each of these victims with 10 solemn stone pillars, jutting up in a circle from a platform of pebbles. The horizontal cuts carved into each column represent the age of each soldier.

CAMP KIGALI MEMORIAL | A Dark Tourism Site That Tells The Horrific Story Of The 1994 Rwanda Genocide 😢

CAMP KIGALI MEMORIAL | A Dark Tourism Site That Tells The Horrific Story Of The 1994 Rwanda Genocide 😢

   
   

The tops of the pillars are broken, symbolizing the soldiers’ brutal end. At the base of each stone, you’ll find the initials of each soldier. Just outside the memorial is a small museum, riddled with bullet holes from this important day.

More than just a dark tourism site, the Camp Kigali Memorial is a sobering space to understand the horrors of what Rwandans went through in 1994.

It gives visitors a more intimate understanding of the genocide and a greater appreciation for the eventual unification of all Rwandans.

   
   

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