So across the border I crossed in to Rwanda. It was the easiest border crossing i have ever made. Just had a chat with the guy and got the stamp in the passport. A big smile and off i went. There were two British volunteers working in Tanzania having a weeks break to Rwanda. So the three of us went to get on the bus to take us to Kigali. When we asked if we have time to grab a bite to eat, he responded with ‘’the bus leaves at 3:30pm’’ the usual, that normally means any time from 4pm–5pm. At 3:30pm the driver came in to the cafe and demanded that we get on the bus now as he was going to be late. Well that was new to me. Africa transport running to a time schedule? And, the bus only had 20 people on it. There are 20 seats on this bus. Every other country in Africa would have at least 30 people on the bus as a minimum. Its just not right, Its just not Africa!
So we got to Kigali (at the exact time he said we would) at 6pm, sundown. Jump in a taxi and get to the hostel by dark. Camping is $15 per night!!!! in Tanzania i was paying $2-3. I could get a plush (traveller plush, not 5 star) double room with en suite and a view for $10. So i was expecting a nice camping spot. Nope.... When camping without a floor-mat the one thing you want is good ground. Most camping sited rake the big stones and sticks and twigs off the ground. Not here. All in the dark, putting up a tent and then having to move due to a snake lying in the only good camping spot. Rwanda had not made a good first impression on me.
The next day i went in to the centre of the city. It was Sunday so Africa is mainly closed. I was so surprised in the city. It felt like i was back in Europe. Everything was so clean, so modern and efficient. Again, i wasn't impressed. I like the dirty, smelly, littered, dusty African city's. I wanted to get back to Africa. Another night in the tent after a few beers with the girls.
Next day was ‘The Kigali Genocide Memorial’ and then on to the south of the country. I got a ‘boda-boda’ (motorcycle taxi) to the memorial. The memorial was very busy as it was during the 100 days of mourning. Before i had even gone through the front entrance i had seen two hysterical women being carried out the door and one other woman had fainted and been carried outside. This was going to be hard work. I started outside. The gardens had been done beautifully in respect of the lost people. Then the last section of the gardens were the mass graves. Over 250,000 victims body's had been buried here, and every year more are discovered around the country and given a proper burial. Next i moved to the inside. This explained the lead up to the 1994 genocide, during the genocide and the aftermath. The the images and the testimony's were so hard to read and listen to due to the nature of the deaths. People weren't just killed, they were butchered. Men, women and children. There were hundreds of sculls and skeleton in display cabinets, and the clothing and possessions of the dead. The final part of the memorial was dedicated to the children who were killed. This was hard for me. It is actually hard for me to write about this now. There were life size pictures on the walls of the individual children with a small brass note below-
NAME: Odette Ndagijimana
BEST FRIEND: Daddy
FAVOURITE TOY: Red car
LAST WORDS: Who are the men mummy?
HOW THEY WERE KILLED: Thrown and smashed in to a wall.
By the second child i could not control my tears. I made it through to the end, but in a mess. I just could not stop crying.
I left the memorial and headed for the south of the country to go to the national museum and another memorial site. On the bus i met a Rwandan girl called Alys. She was studying at the national university in Huye. She got me a room on the university campus at half the cost of anywhere in town. That night we grabbed a bite to eat in the town and i got an early night as i was getting up early so i could get to Gikongoro Memorial and to the Museum in one day.
Next morning, got up and jumped on a bus to Gikongoro. The scenery along the 26k journey was absolutely beautiful. Rwanda is named ‘The land of a thousand hills’ and i do believe every one of them are stunning. Once off the bus i had the usual ‘’Mazungu!... Taxi!’’ but i decided to walk this time as it was such a beautiful area. It took about one and a half hours to walk through the hills and countryside to the memorial.
At the memorial new main building had been opened just two weeks before. It was much the same info in the memorial as Kigali, but based on the story of this site in particular. Gikongoro was a site of mass genocide murder. 50,000 local Tutsi people were told to go to the school to hide for protection. This was all a well organised massacre. This year, they identified only the 13th survivor of this attack. The second part of this memorial was the bodies of the dead. When the mass graves were exhumed, the non decomposed bodies were treated with lime and appear exactly as they did when the attackers struck in the rooms they were hiding in. There are hundreds of bodies of all ages. Babies to the elderly. You can still see where the machetes had struck them on those few evil nights. I left pretty soon after that and headed back to Huye to look round the museum.
The next day i made my way to the north of Rwanda. I decided i had seen enough death and memorials, so aimed for the Gisenyi beaches on ‘Lake Kivu’. I stayed and relaxed for a few days in the town but it was a bit cold, foggy and wet so didn't get in to the bathing suit this time.
I decided to get out of Rwanda due to the general cost of life here. I would love to come back with a holiday budget, not a traveling budget as it was one of the most beautiful places i have seen. I headed in a coach to the Ugandan border.
Please take one moment to read this final section i have written about what i learnt in Rwanda.
In the 1994 100 days of genocide, 800,000 –1,000,000 people were killed. The population of the whole country at this time was approximately 7.5 million. Over 10%, over 1 in 10 people of this country were killed, brutally, most by machete within 100 days. This was approximately three times the rate of the Jewish dead during the Holocaust. Why, because they were different tribes. The Hutu’s against the Tutsi’s. Looking further in to it, again it all started when the Europeans colonised the country and made a divide between friends. People who had lived in harmony and as family's together for centaury's before colonisation. Please take a moment to think about this.
With this in mind, and thinking it was only as recently as 1994. I'm sure most of the people my age and older remember the time that it had happened, the Rwandan people now all love one another. Hutu or Tutsi, it doesn't matter. There is one phrase everywhere you go and on everyone's lips throughout Rwanda.