By Sgt. Maj. Kimberly Williams, U.S. Army AfricaOctober 26, 2009
KIGALI, Rwanda - Learning from the past to ensure a better future defines the Kigali Memorial Center where visitors undertake an emotional journey to understand how genocide nearly destroyed Rwanda.
Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III and Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Bronson, the command team for U.S. Army Africa, visited the memorial center Oct. 19 in order to pay their respects to the victims and to learn more about this dark shadow in African history.
"It was a very moving experience to visit the Kigali Memorial Center and place a wreath there to honor the lives lost to genocide," said Garrett. "The mass graves are a clear reminder of the cost of ignorance."
After Garrett and Bronson placed the wreath and silently honored the victims interred in mass graves on the grounds, they continued on to see the rest of the memorial center. The displays show the history of Rwanda, how the division between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes began and the horrific consequences of genocide as shown through the eyes of the victims by photos, videos, written accounts and personal artifacts.
"It was an eye-opener," said Bronson, who was deeply impacted by the gallery focusing on children killed during the violence. "It really put into perspective the scope and impact of genocide on the country of Rwanda.
Emmanuel Gasana, an administrative assistant at the memorial who led the tour, said he hoped this memorial brings people together. "Education should be the main key in this long struggle to learn from our past," he said. "I hope we are all together in fighting horrible events like this in the future."
Garrett and Bronson, in Rwanda to meet with U.S. Embassy and Rwandan Defence Forces officials, both felt that taking time to visit the memorial was important.
"A lot of people don't like to remember horrific events like this, but it is essential to remember and learn in order to move on," said Bronson.
"It is evident that Rwanda is embracing unity and reconciliation as it moves forward," said Garrett.