Rwandan Genocide

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The Rwandan genocide was the conflict of two Rwandan ethnic groups, the Hutus and the Tutsis, where the Hutus systematically killed the Tutsis because of their political and ethnic differences. Jackson and I believe that this genocide needs a memorial because of the fact that it happened so recently, and it isn’t a very well known event. The Rwandan genocide, as well as many others, need to be memorialized so that future generations can learn about the past. Memorials are also important in the sense that they highlight the complexities of human nature, as well as our obligation to other humans. There are a lot of Rwandans who are still extremely affected by the genocide, and creating a memorial for them will help the citizens of Rwanda move on as a country, and as a unified people. After an event as traumatizing as genocide, many people may feel lost or confused about their identity. We hope to include this theme in our memorial to potentially help victims come to terms with what happened to them, and hopefully have a better sense of how to move on with their lives.

IMG_1491Along with identity, we will include themes such as obligation and human nature in our memorial. Jackson and I feel its important to incorporate these themes because they are complex and thought provoking themes that will ideally make people question their own sense of responsibility and obligation, as well as the responsibilities of larger communities that individuals who come to our memorial belong to.


IMG_2195There are many memorials to the genocide in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. The main memorial, the Kigali Memorial Centre, has a website as well as a building that focuses on remembering and memorializing the events that happened in 1994. On the website, there is an educational section (to teach people about what happened in Rwanda and how to avoid future genocide) as well a page dedicated to survivor stories. Also, in Nyanza-Rebero, there is a cemetery dedicated to victims of the genocide.


Since we have not found any major memorials to the Rwandan Genocide in the US, what will set our memorial apart from the others is that ours will be in the United States. We think that the American people should be more exposed to this genocide, considering how recently it occurred and given the fact that the US government did not attempt to prevent or intervene.

Location: Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. is a very popular area for tourists. It is also a symbol for the US government, which played a very passive role in the genocide when it shouldn’t have. There are a lot of other significant memorials in D.C. and there is no significant Rwandan memorial in the US, so D.C. would be a good place for it to be.

Materials:photo-5

  • 28″x18″ white foam core
  • green paper
  • cardstock: blue, white, brown
  • doll clothes – clothes on ground?
  • printable cardstock – flags (UN, France, Rwanda)
  • Model-size people
  • tiny trees
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  • toothpicks – flags, radio tower
  • hot glue gun
  • fake tiny flowers
  • clay – water feature
  • manila folder – radio tower
  • platform to put memorial on

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Curator Statement

IMG_4773In the mid 90’s, Rwanda’s population was composed of Hutus (85%), Tutsis (14%). Despite being in the minority, the Tutsis had a large presence in the Rwandan government and held significant power. President and Hutu general Juvénal Habyarimana, leader of the extremist Hutu “Coalition for the Defence of the Republic,” strongly favored a Hutu-dominated government. Habyarimana’s authoritarian regime increased the tension between Tutsis and Hutus with political propaganda throughout the 90s. In 1994 tension between the Tutsis and the Hutus reached a climax when President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down.

IMG_4772After the assassination, Hutu extremist groups started wiping out the Tutsi population; raping women and children, brutally murdering anyone who was a part of the Tutsi community. Although the massacre was led by extremist groups and supported by the Rwandan government, much of the genocide was caused by Hutu civilians who often revealed the identity of their Tutsi neighbors or killed them themselves. The massacres continued for weeks, orchestrated by extremist groups with the use of radio stations, almost eliminating the Tutsi population. Despite futile attempts from the United Nations to quell the genocide, inaction from other countries allowed the Hutu rebels to carry out their mission basically uncontended.

IMG_4769We tried to demonstrate a few key points with our memorial: the first is the fear that Tutsis felt during the genocide, and the second is the how the United Nations was so capable of intervening in the genocide but did very little to stop it. We used many elements to illustrate the fear that the Tutsis felt during the genocide. We built a tower to represent the use of the radio by Hutu extremist groups to organize the killings. It looms over the entire memorial and is the first thing visitors would see walking in. It would be playing a recording of a simulated Hutu radio broadcast. IMG_4764The figures that we placed along the path would be Hutus carrying machetes (very difficult to illustrate on a model) and visitors would have to walk among these figures, signifying that neighbors or anyone walking down the street at the time of the genocide could be a killer. We put roadblocks in the memorial because this is something Hutu extremists would do to check for Tutsis. But the roadblocks also serve to make the visitor feel trapped, much like Tutsis felt during the genocide. IMG_4774We also illustrated the ability the United Nations had to stop the genocide by placing U.N. flags amongst all of the evidence of killing, highlighting the U.N.’s lack of involvement despite its proximity to the violence.

Regarding what we can learn from choices big and small, the primary choice that our memorial questions is the U.N.’s decision to remain for the most part uninvolved in the genocide. The U.N. did not stop the genocide despite the anti-genocide legislation that was written for the U.N. to uphold.

IMG_4765The lack of U.S. involvement also became apparent to us both in our research and in our search for Rwandan memorials in the U.S. We could not find any American memorials to the Rwandan genocide, which might very well be due to the fact that the U.S. remained a bystander during the genocide and the U.S. government did not want to sponsor a memorial to it as a result.IMG_4775

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