We hit the road, the very windy road, to Kigali on Sunday morning. We drove through any number of small towns perched on the side of the thousand hills of Rwanda. Everyone was out and about, going to or coming from church or market. More kids yelling, “Muzungu! Muzungu!” as we drove by. All smiles and waves.
Rwanda is a country of contradictions. Plastic grocery bags are strictly prohibited and even confiscated at the border. But trucks chug up hills spewing black exhaust. Hmmm.
One Saturday a month, every citizen, from the President on down, do umuganda. It’s a community work day, where all citizens work to better their communities by cleaning up litter by the road side, re-paint road signs, cut the grass. In addition, there is a law that requires one to replant two trees for each tree cut down. The result of which is an unbelievably clean and super lush country side. The streets in Kigali are immaculate. No leaves, trash or gravelly bits by the curbs. Astonishing.
Our first stop in Kigali was the Kigali Genocide Museum. Situated by the graves of 250,000 victims of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis, it is a sobering testament to the presence of complete evil in the world, as well as the unbelievable resilience of humanity. I am still trying to work through the various emotions I have been experiencing. Despair, disgust, disbelief, sadness, hope, awe at the strength of the survivors. They circle about, repeating and repeating.
We had lunch at the Hotel des Mille Collines, the hotel where Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire set up his headquarters during his post as commander of the UN mission in Rwanda during the months leading up to and during the genocide.
Rwanda has done a lot of hard work to rebuild after the genocide. Reconciliation is not an easy road, but the Rwandese people are committed and don’t dodge the issues related to the genocide. It’s a very present force in the country.
This morning, we visited a women’s cooperative that trains local widows and single mothers in sewing skills, as well as providing classes in reading and writing. The cooperative also set up a library for the neighbourhood kids. It was inspiring to say the very least.
Shortly, I am headed to the airport with a heavy heart. I don’t want to leave. I would love to see more of this amazing and beautiful country. I will be back.