The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall lamented the atrocities committed during the Rwandan genocide as they learnt about the murder of children during the violence.
Charles and Camilla toured the Kigali Genocide Memorial and were shown the personal testimonies of families who donated pictures of smiling children and listed touching personal details about their loved ones.
The couple read intently the comments about the youngsters murdered during the 1994 genocide, and Charles reacted by saying: “Terrible, happens all too often.”
The duchess bonded with one survivor of the genocide during her visit, when she was hugged by Uzamukunda Walida who was gang raped but now openly discusses her experience.
In 1994, hundreds of thousands of members of the Tutsi community were slaughtered in Rwanda by ethnic Hutu extremists.
The remains of an estimated 250,000 victims are buried in the grounds of the memorial, which features an education centre, where the couple laid a wreath of white blooms, with a handwritten card by Charles that read: “In everlasting remembrance of those who died in the genocide against the Tutsi.”
The royal couple were joined by Freddy Mutanguha, executive director of the Aegis Trust, a UK-based organisation working to prevent genocide worldwide, which manages the memorial.
He survived the genocide and, as he told the couple: “If I count my extended family I lost 80 members,” an incredulous duchess repeated the number, “80”.
Mr Mutanguha described how he still hears the “voices” in his nightmares of the people who attacked his mother.
Later the couple sat down for an informal chat with a small group of women survivors of the atrocities and the royals warmly greeted the group and the duchess was embraced.
Mary Balikungeri, founder and director of the Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN), hosted the meeting and afterwards said about the woman hugged by Camilla: “This woman was one of the people who was gang raped and became pregnant.”
She was later supported by a RWN project, the Polyclinic of Hope, a centre for female victims of violence.
Ms Walida said through an interpreter: “The duchess said she was very happy to meet us and my story touched them.”
Before leaving the couple looked at crafts made by the women as part of their healing process as they discuss their issues as they work.
Mr Mutanguha said after the visit that the prince and duchess were “sad” to hear his life history, but were glad he had survived – that was the positive aspect of the story.
He added: “It’s really comforting seeing Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall paying respect to the victims of genocide.
“And this is a very huge sign for us because it’s a message to the world. It’s a message to the world – never again – the fact that this happened, (it) shouldn’t happen anywhere in the world.
“And we know that he has a strong voice that may help to silence denials of genocide.”