Camp Kigali Memorial
Camp Kigali Memorial is dedicated to the 10 Belgian soldiers who were murdered on 7th April 1994 while guarding Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana during the start of the Rwanda Genocide. Camp Kigali is located in Kigali City and it is a 22-minute drive from Kigali International Airport.
HISTORY OF CAMP KIGALI
In 1993, the UN mission for Rwanda was set up, having Belgium as the only foreign power to provide professional and highly trained soldiers as a peacekeeping force in Rwanda. The rest of the peacekeeping mission included soldiers from Ghana, Tunisia, Bangladesh, and other developing countries.
Belgium acting as a peace keeping force in Rwanda posed a great threat to its soldiers given the fact there was still bad blood between Rwandans, especially those from the Hutu tribe, and the Belgian forces.
There was an informant who went by the UN code name ‘Jean- Pierre’. He told his superiors at the UN base of a plot, by the Hutu extremists, to kill 10 Belgian peacekeeping commandos. This was in an effort to destabilize the Belgium peacekeeping mission and have it withdraw from UNAMIR [United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda].
The background to this assassination plan was the case of Somalia wherein 1993, American soldiers were killed and their bodies dragged along the streets of the capital city, Mogadishu. This was done with the aim of forcing the US to pull out its forces from Somalia. The Hutu extremists in Rwanda used this as a basis or rather motivation of some kind in order to start a full-scale genocide.
On 7th April 1994, while assuring the security of the Rwandan Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, 10 Belgian soldiers were surrounded by members of FAR [Forces Armees Rwandese].
The 10 Belgian soldiers were ordered to surrender themselves and disarm in exchange for safe passage to a UN base. However, upon their surrender, they were taken to a military camp where they were ambushed by a hundred soldiers from the camp.
Despite the overwhelming force, the 10 Belgian soldiers took refuge in a building at the campsite where they put up strong resistance for several hours. Here, they fought till their death, hoping for help that never arrived.
Before the 10 Belgian soldiers were executed, they were first tortured, taunted and intimidated to the point where their will power was broken to the core by their executors. In short, they were at the mercy of the Hutu soldiers up until a time when they were killed.
Shortly after the murder of the 10 Belgian soldiers, the Belgium government pulled out its forces from Rwanda with other western countries evacuating their nationals from the country.
These brave Belgian troopers had their bodies dismembered and later dumped in a pile at a nearby hospital morgue.
The massacre of the 10 Belgian soldiers at Camp Kigali and the genocide killings in Rwanda, in general, sent waves of shock through millions of people in the world, who could not help but watch how thousands of people lost their lives to an unjust cause.
WHAT TO SEE WHILE AT CAMP KIGALI
Tourists visiting Camp Kigali will see the 10 granite stone columns which each representing a Belgian soldier who was murdered on that fateful day.
On each granite stone is written the initials of each of the 10 Belgian soldiers in their remembrance.
Also, each stone has horizontal cuts curved into it marking the age of the solider at the time of their death.
Camp Kigali also houses the building where the 10 Belgian soldiers to refugee and made their stand till the time they were killed.
The building is characterized by bullet-ridden walls marking the spot where they were gunned down. The building also has a memoir with the names of each soldier who was killed.
HOW TO GET TO CAMP KIGALI.
Camp Kigali is located in Kigali City and is about 8 miles from Kigali International Airport. It takes approximately 25- 22 minutes to reach the campsite by road from the airport.
Camp Kigali Memorial is a historical site dedicated in remembrance and honor of the 10 Belgian soldiers who lost their lives in Kigali, Rwanda on the fateful day of 7th April 1994.
It is one historical place that I would recommend any tourist to visit while on their tour of Kigali City.