Kigali Stories and Tips

Ntarama church

Ntarama Church Photo, Kigali, Rwanda

It feels a bit odd to call this a 'must-see activity', since it's not exactly a tourist spot that I'm talking about, but considering how disaffected the issue was to the world, I think it couldn't go with a better title.

We were aware that the Ntarama church was among the genocide sites. We knew it was going to shock us when we saw it, but weren't prepared for the sights that lay in store.

While we approached the site upon a little hill, there were no pointers to the acts that took place here in April 1994. It seemed like a peaceful part of the countryside, but only till you reach a little board with some statistics, erected just outside the church compound. It read: 'Ntarama church, Genocide site, +-5,000 persons.

When the killings were underway, a large portion of the Tutsi-Christian minority flocked to churches, assuming that their Hutu attackers (the Interehamwe) and fellow Christians would not enter. That, however, was not to be. The killers found their conveniently rounded up and unarmed targets, and what followed was a bloodbath of immense propotions.

The near 5,000 Tutsis taking shelter were hacked to death with machetes and clubs. Soon the attention turned to the children, who were dashed to the walls one by one and killed. The stains from which can still be seen. The few that survived, by hiding amongst the dead, lay beside bodies from their own familes. Mothers, children, brothers...

The curch has been left pretty much as it was in 1994, the bones and belongings of the dead still lying among the aisles and the altar. I was trying to get some shots for the feature we were shooting, and wanted to get myself to a point near the altar, but simply could not make my way past the skulls, bones and the remains of the clothes of the victims from that day. Tattered pieces of cloth that still bore blood stains.

The skulls that are still largely intact, most bearing the distinct machete crack, have been neatly arranged in rows on wooden planks, each one telling a painful story. It's a bizarre reminder of the 100 days that history tried to ignore.

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