‘I didn’t make myself an orphan’

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Africa » Rwanda » Ville de Kigali » Kigali
November 13th 2011
Published: November 13th 2011
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Kigali, like the whole of Rwanda has been known as a dangerous place and not many tourists have made to this small county in East Africa. In fact the recent and tragic history has been washed out and everyone is struggling to forget the consequences of the 94 genocide. Unfortunately this incident has left deep wounds and anxiety not just in Rwandans but in the rest of the world as well. When you are in the place where it all happened just few years ago, you are facing this history in absolute different way and you’ll be touched deeply.

Kigali streets are overcrowded and people passing by you, and then you realize that all the adults would have witnessed the genocide and everyone has been scared more or less by this horrible tragedy. You never know, maybe you are talking with a person who was murdering and you have to be really careful what you are saying since it is really sensitive topic. It will take at least one-two generation to recover from this coldblooded killing. Actually people try not to mention what has happened in Rwanda and they are living here and now, and concentrating into the future.

But some Rwandans are angry that everyone is trying to forget what has happened because it easy to try to forget that approximate two million of Rwandans were killed directly or indirectly for nothing. Many have survived but wish they were killed, like the rest of their family because the life doesn’t have meaning any more. The majority of survivors are still living with posttraumatic memories, survivor’s guilt and many will carry this baggage of tragedy through the lifetime.

Many children lost their mother, father or both, sisters, brothers, friends… and every Rwandan knows someone who has lost a relative in this genocide. Many children become an orphan and never got know their parents since they were babies when the family was killed. All photos and evidences of the family have been destroyed and they will live through the lifetime without knowing who his/her family is. Many women were raped and killed brutally, or survived but carrying HIV+ today and/or got a child who reminds this tragedy. They were specially targeting the children and women and made sure that the men who were raping the females were carrying HIV, they had intent to wipe out the next generation.

Year 1994 has left many physical and psychological scars in Rwanda which will never be unseen. Often on the streets you will notice people without an arm, a leg, with big scars over the body or mentally ill. These sights show that it is impossible to hide the history and reality, and it doesn’t matter that the society is doing a great job to cover over the past and in fact the developing in Rwanda is surprisingly successful so far.

The genocide has occurred between two tribes (Hutu and Tutsi) and it has been quite intense between these two groups. But somehow some people blame Western countries that they didn’t help when it happened. Now days it is less intense between Hutu and Tutsi tribes; of course the majority has remained Hutu tribe. Today Rwandans try to avoid talking about the history and the best information you’ll find in Kigali Memorial Centre. As well if you have seen the movie “Hotel Rwanda” so it is almost a must to visit Hotel des Mille Collines which is the inspiration of the film and based in the city center of Kigali. Over whole country you’ll find many memorials of genocide and these memorials show what has happened in Rwanda.

This small country has a big population which is reaching 11-12 million people and is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa (if not in the world). Actually, Western countries have been a great help under the difficult years and until now, and Rwanda becomes very westernized. It is impressive how organized and clean it is in Rwanda. We noticed already on the border between Uganda and Rwanda that they checked in the computer if Chris has applied for the visa (Diana gets a free visa since she is Swedish)… well this has never happened in other African countries so far. When we entered Kigali we noticed that all motorcycles drivers have a west and helmet (and a helmet for passenger as well), and just one passenger per motorcycle… well we couldn’t believe our eyes.

As well when we booked a bus ticket in Uganda or Kenya so usually we are waiting until the bus is full (or overfull) of passengers, and up and go… but in Rwanda the bus had a fixed time and it left on the time and doesn’t matter that some seats were still free. Diana needed health care and she was placed into a clinic for one day to recover, and the medicine help was equal like at home (but much more expensive). We met few independent travelers in Rwanda who has been surprised in a good way as well. So small country but extreme organized (compare other Africa countries) and it is a pleasure to travel through this wonderful corner of the world. Since Rwanda was a Belgium colony it is hard to speak in English which makes your stay a little more complicated but not impossible.

Kigali is based on few hills and it isn’t a big city at all. Everything is reachable in 10-20 minutes by motorbike which is a best option for the public transportation. Unfortunately it isn’t a big deal in the city except Kigali Memorial Centre which is really interesting but really intense. It shows the reality and gives the understanding of the past situation in Rwanda. Some exhibitions are really horrible and not recommended to see for everyone. At Kigali Memorial Centre have been buried many offers of genocide and you witness what has happened then. It isn’t a pleasure to mingle around but it is necessary to face the reality which placed just 17 years ago.

Unfortunately there are many street children and it is hard not to notice them. Overall the children are asking for money all the time and we got a feeling that they have a subject in the school or parents taught: “How to get money of mzungu?”. They know a sentence in English: “Good morning! Give me money!” and it doesn’t matter what time of the day is. In general people are quite nice and helpful but some really intolerant and annoying. It is really depends on who you will bump into in the streets.

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13th November 2011

Very interesting blog about Kigali, and some great photos too. I am going to Kigali in April next year, and your blog has given me some idea of things to see. Happy travels!

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