Rwanda's warning to the world

Friday 08 March 2013 19.20
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The school on Murumbai Hill houses a memorial to victims of a massacre
The school on Murumbai Hill houses a memorial to victims of a massacre
It was never called genocide, until it was too late
It was never called genocide, until it was too late

RTÉ's Ray Kennedy continues his blogs from Africa with this report on a visit to a genocide memorial museum in Rwanda (Report includes graphic image)

Their classrooms never hosted lessons, nor did they ever see any school children.

But you can visit them at their school now, and you can learn the crucial lesson the world learned too late back in the mid-90s.

The school is on Murumbai Hill, in a now tranquil valley of Rwanda in the heart of central Africa and not far from war torn Congo.

The school buildings were unfinished when Tutsi were sent there for their safety as the genocide against their tribe swept across the country.

It turned out to be a trap.

They were surrounded on all sides. Men, women and young children were killed in nights of sustained attack here, and in surrounding villages.

50,000 victims .

They were buried by their attackers in mass graves, many of which still surround the school building.

When the war ended though, bodies were exhumed. Their preserved remains now laid out on special tables in every class room.

Their agonised expressions are still visible. The visitor is encouraged to walk in silence, amongst them.

It is one of the most shocking and moving monuments of its kind.

But inside one of the former admin buildings that would have served the school, had it ever opened its doors to students, is an interactive tour taking you through the history of what happened. It is done in a style familiar to many museums around the world.

Except, here the beginning is what stands out. Just as much as the horrific details of when the genocide reached its climax and was eventually put down. Through internal resistance and finally a reluctant foreign intervention.

At the beginning of the display, though, you are reminded about the people who failed to stop this. We all did, it turns out.

It points the finger at foreign governments, international observers and journalists.

Deciding it was civil war or ethnic rivalry and a fight organisations like the UN did not want to take on.

It was never called genocide, until it was too late. The language in the museum holds nothing back.

But the point the museum wished to make was that sometimes the world must listen to what it is being told.

Today, Rwanda has been united through the efforts of President Kigame, and the people living there.

It is a country like few in Africa, with a stable economy, health and education systems – although it still requires large amounts of international aid.

Next door is the Congo, a country in freefall. With AK47 toting youngsters marauding through the countryside.

There are so many different wars being fought is this stricken land, it is hard to now how each one should be described or classified as.

The point the Rwandan museum made was that really, the descriptions of war matter little, when a group of people anywhere in the world are in dire need of help, the world should listen when they request it.