Past and present

It’s easy to notice people convicted of genocide crimes, because they are dressed in bright pink. The irony of prison garb the color of rose petals, soap, and princess dresses is probably not lost on the prisoners.

On the way to the National University of Rwanda Law School in Huye (formerly Butare), we saw such a crew building a new genocide memorial. Memorials generally are placed on sites of significance to the nearby residents, and so often mark where mass murders of entire communities took place. I wonder if to those who carried out the genocide, marking the sites of their crimes bears much meaning. Worse, could participating in building permanent memorials of those acts nurture a perverse sense of pride? I haven’t found any studies on this question. At the law school, we saw the incredible work of their Legal Aid Clinic, which runs every Thursday afternoon. The small group of law students offering free guidance to the most vulnerable members of the community was a starkly different act from that foisted on the prisoners. It was one of building a future rather than simply building upon the past.

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