what will you do to remember?

About 6 months ago, a short time before I was set to leave Rwanda, Divine and I spent a couple of hours at the Kigali Memorial Center. This is a memorial in Gisozi, a short ride away from the heart of the city, where over 200,00 Rwandans have been laid to rest as a result of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.

stained glass art in the memorial representing life and death.

I had been to this memorial three times prior – within my first month of arriving in the country, on a visit with my mother, and on a visit with my father. This fourth time was slightly different – it was just Divine and I. I had never been with only a Rwandan.

I gave her a lot of space to try and process what she was seeing, feeling, and experiencing. We said very little as we trudged through the historical explanations, the rows of old, crushed skulls from machetes, and the blood-stained clothes kept safe within glass boxes. They showed a picture of an old Catholic church, not far from where Divine lives, where a major massacre had taken place. This place is called Nyarabuye.

I could see her eyes get heavy and her body get tired. This was a lot to handle. She’s 20 and was a young child in 1994, but like anyone in Rwanda, she was affected in some kind of way. She spent the first part of her young life in a forest, weaving in and out of Tanzania – she was even born there. She knows survivors, perpetrators, and people in between. And when she tried telling me some of these things, it was clear that I could never understand. Most of all, especially after we saw the memorial, Divine was concerned that if I knew some her story – and the stories of others – I would tell people back in America and it could bring back “trouble”. I reassured her; her story is sacred with me and ultimately, I can never have any claim to even the smallest experience that so many Rwandans went through – on both sides.

So, when it comes to reflecting during April, as it always is at this time of the year, it’s hard to know what to think or what to say. This year, I’m not in Rwanda. But, I  am speaking with my friends back in the country and asking about Kwibuka – literally translated as “to remember” – and what they are doing to reflect on the 20 year anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide.

You know, they ask me too.

They say, “teacher. What will you do on Monday to remember?”

I pause.

And I sigh deeply and tell them,

“I’m going to tell people about Rwanda. About what I know. About what I learned. And about the time to remember for everyone in Rwanda. It is important to share.”

They tell me, “Super. You must tell them. You must also tell them that Rwanda is a strong country.”

“I will.”



Below are some links that I have enjoyed reading. Additionally, I have added 3 videos that are important rememberance songs for a lot of people in the country. Right now, for the month of April, the only music that is supposed to be played is rememberance music and so this is the kind of stuff you would be hearing on the radios currently. The first song I will post, “Ijoro Ribara Uwariraye” is one of the most beautiful songs I heard in April and it’s particularly stirring and moving. I hope this helps you learn a little more and reflect on how precious humanity really is.


Six Lessons To Remember

Rwanda Genocide Anniversary


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Heather Newell Oglesby

Hi! I'm Heather. I am a writer and counselor in-training. I share stories so we can keep the magic of being human alive. I spend a great deal of time going on long walks with my wife, rollerblading, learning, and traveling to find new adventures. By day, I work as an Education and Employment Specialist for Jefferson Center for Mental Health, working with adolescents who have experienced their first episode of psychosis. A Colorado native, I love dark-roasted coffee, sunshine, and succulents. Enthusiasm, passion, and possibility: that's me at my best.

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