Opinion: Genocide Memorial: Encountering the dead


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Sue Horton, Op-Ed and Sunday Opinion editor of The Times, is in Rwanda on a two-week Gatekeeper Editor fact-finding trip organized by the International Reporting Project. She is chronicling her trip on the Opinion L.A. blog.

Wednesday, Nov. 9: ‘The country smelled of the stench of death … Rwanda was dead.’


Those words are from a display at Kigali’s Genocide Memorial, and they describe the country’s state after 100 days of carnage in 1994.

Outside the memorial, in 14 mass graves more than 20 feet deep, thousands of people killed in the genocide are buried. Inside, the story is told in a series of displays. Most chilling is how much warning there was, and how it was ignored. As the so-called Hutu power movement was building, there were half a dozen sporadic outbreaks of killing, starting in 1990. But the world ignored them.

Then, in 1994, the airplane of Rwanda’s then-president, Juvenal Habyarimana, was shot down, and within an hour the genocide began. Hutus involved in the massacres set up roadblocks and butchered Tutsis who stopped. They went door to door, killing their neighbors and friends.

Reading about what happened is overwhelming. Then, at the end of the circular memorial, is a room filled with pictures of the dead. Today, we are told by a health official, more than a quarter of Rwandans have post-traumatic stress syndrome.


Sunday, Nov. 6: Journey to Rwanda

Sunday, Nov. 6/Monday, Nov. 7: Two views of President Kagame

Monday night, Nov. 7: First impressions

Tuesday, Nov. 8: Law of the land in Kigali

Tuesday, Nov. 8: Capital growth, for good and ill

Wednesday, Nov. 9: The master plan in action

--Sue Horton

Photos, top to bottom: The faces of the dead at the Kigali Genocide Memorial; mass graves contain the bodies of thousands of people killed in the genocide.