East Africa Day 14 – Rwanda (Kigali)

Rwanda — By on October 11, 2009 11:59 am

Sunday.  Decided to visit the Kigali Memorial Centre today.  I left feeling deeply moved, and with a new respect and admiration for the Rwandan people.  The horrors that many of them have gone through are unspeakable.  Horrific.  Rwanda at the time was split into 2 main tribes, the darker-skinned Hutu, and the Tutsi.  Hutu dominated government sent armed (though mostly with machetes) militia known as the Interahamwe out and they ruthlessly slaughtered Tutsis and moderate Hutus, in a well-planned act discussed openly in cabinet meetings.  The government thought ridding the country of Tutsis would solve Rwanda’s problems.  1 million dead in 100 days.  Some of the photographs in the memorial, which is well-planned and also features an interesting ‘history of genocides’ section, including Jews, Bosnian-Serbs, Cambodians, and some in other areas of Africa, which were all shocking and depicted graphic scenes of bodies littering the streets.  People are the cruelest of all animals.  Outside, in the Memorial Garden, 250,000 people are buried.

Various messages from various aid organizations, who are only here and in work because of the genocide, state generalized ‘Never Again’ signs.  Hardly comforting words, I imagine, for the countless Rwandans affected by a genocide which the international community ignored and did nothing to prevent.  The UN stood by and watched the massacre happen, hands tied by politicians.  There were only 250 of them.  It must have been terrible to have such a feeling of powelessness.  The world ignored Rwanda.  It’s easy to say ‘Never Again’.  That’s not helpful at all.  ‘Deeply sorry’ or ‘Please Forgive us..’ might have been more apt.  Still, the UN and other NGOs have really had a positive effect on Kigali and its infrastructure and development….they’re doing something right now.

Unsettled, I remained in the grounds for a while, before heading to Bourbon Coffee to meet Tabitha, the American-Rwandese girl I had met the night before, for a drink.  Tabitha had a good chat with me, she was bubbly and nice to talk to, and very informed about the genocide.  She told me that, even though it was now ‘illegal’ to belong to a tribe, you can still tell who is a Hutu and who is a Tutsi, by their face and skin, and that, underneath, there are still rumblings of resentment.  That, of course, is only natural.  She works in a centre for children with AIDS.  I have a lot of respect for people like her.   After a nice chat, I went to Okapi hotel alone for a drink and to something to eat – a bottle of Primus and Schezuan rice.  I met a fellow Primus drinker, a local girl, and we shared a few bottles and had a chat.  I’d had an eye-opening, educational, and emotional day.  I was ready for bed.

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