Rebero Memorial

He speaks Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili and English to me; all at different times. He prods asking why I’m interested in Rebero and other follow up questions to his reflexive statement, “You are not allowed here.”

The Rebero Genocide Memorial sits on the slopes of Rebero hill overlooked by a forlorn ramshackle hotel, marked by a blazing orange on the outside. The inside is grey, like chewed-up meat. Its shutters are slanted, hanging off their hinges; wild grasses bowing from the roof. Weather-beaten is the word. A remnant of Juvénal Habyarimana’s time in power.

Recently elevated to national level status to increase its chances of being classified as a UNESCO world heritage site1, Rebero is easy to miss. Getting there requires a 300 RWF moto-taxi ride from the Nyanza-Kicukiro Taxi Park, over a heavily dusty road. 

I sought to kill two birds that day and headed to Rebero straight from the Nyanza-Kicukiro memorial across the road from the Taxi Park. There are new developments coming up so hopefully the dust shall not be as prominent in the near future. New two-story yellow houses stick out over the hillside overlooking Kimisagara and Nyamirambo Sectors in Nyarugenge District, and I got to learn they are under development courtesy of the National Bank of Rwanda.

“This memorial site reminds us how politicians can choose to be bad or good leaders. Very few politicians accepted to sacrifice their lives trying to oppose the Genocide and its ideology.” 

Julienne Uwacu, Minister for Sports and Culture.

Over 14,000 victims of the Genocide are buried there, including 12 politicians who were killed for opposing the inhumane actions of the genocidal government in 1994. Their gravestones stick out, with one adorned by a withering wreath, probably laid there a few days before. 

The guard here speaks Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili and English to me; all at different times. I think he feels more authoritative in his Kiswahili as he asks for my ID – but also, he prods me in English, asking why I’m interested in Rebero; follow up questions to his reflexive statement:

“You are not allowed here.”

He shows me around though, just graves and names and a little about who they were; “Politicians and their families”, he says, clutching his gun like a bow over his back. Personally, I see 3,397 names numbered on the wall of memory.

On my way out I walk over the dusty road, hoping a vacant moto will pass by. Four motos pass, all occupied. My heart sinks. There’s a fork in the road up ahead, I walk myself there trying to fan my waning hope. I even enquire from an old lady walking up the road in Kinyarwanda whether I can find a ride back to the taxi park.

“Ndashaka moto…”​

She points at the wafting dust, mutters many words suggesting yes, I will get a ride and that I should be patient? I think… 

​And there I stand in the scorching heat of the Kigali cityscape, waiting under my turtle hut for a moto… 

1 The four memorial sites that are pending listing on the global heritage centre are; Kigali Genocide Memorial, Nyamata in Bugesera District, Murambi in
Nyamagabe District and Bisesero in Karongi District.

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