The Belgian Memorial site is located in the Town of Kigali. Click on the image for a slideshow of photographs. All photographs © 2002-2008 Jens Meierhenrich.

Aside from an estimated one million Tutsi and so-called moderate Hutu, fourteen United Nations peacekeepers also died during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Serving under the command of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), the fate of ten of these—Belgians all—is commemorated in the neighborhood of Nyarugenge in the capital city of Kigali, where they were massacred in the early days of the genocide.

On April 7, 2000, six years after a mob of angry Rwandan soldiers had beaten and shot the paratroopers to death, the Belgian Government of Guy Verhofstadt unveiled a memorial in their honor. Located on the grounds of the former military camp where the violence was unleashed, the memorial site comprises a three-room building and a mini-garden of pillars of stone. Each of the pillars represents a life lost; each horizontal notch on the pillars recalls a year lived. The right side of the adjacent building commemorates the space where a few Belgian survivors managed to fight back—sporadically and temporarily—for a few hours. Soldiers of the Forces Armées Rwandaises (FAR) sprayed the hideout with bullets, eventually killing everyone inside. The marks of the attackers’ shells have been left untouched. A few plaques and a flag—and yet more bullet holes—recall April 7 and the individuals who found death here.

On July 5, 2007, a Belgian jury convicted Bernard Ntuyahaga, a former army major, of manslaughter for his involvement in the killings of the Belgian paratroopers. He was sentenced to twenty years in prison—coda to the commemoration of Belgian suffering in Kigali.

Copyright © 2010 Jens Meierhenrich. All rights reserved.