So UGblogWeek begins on Thursday and I figured I should get this Rwanda post out of the way..
Prior to Kigali I said I wanted to know the story of Rwanda outside of the genocide. When I got there as it turns out, you can’t fully capture what Rwanda is about minus those 100 days of terror in 1994.
The day we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center ,changed something for me. (Read that as dramatically as you can)
Most times, I come across historical places, I try and search within to solicit for some depth. Not this time though, some unsettling feeling descended upon me, the minute we got to the entrance.
My friend Mercy, took it a notch higher and shade a few tears.
We first toured the serene and beautiful gardens that play host to the mass graves.
They are the final resting place of over 250000 victims of the genocide.
It wasn’t so much the thought of the dead, but the lesson, “all that glitters ain’t gold,” that was disturbing.
It however didn’t prepare me for the actual tour of the museum.
A place full of stories of before, during and after the genocide.
I kid you not, the movies and books haven’t conveyed it accurately.
I read the writings on the wall, I stared at the images, I gawked at the videos, I got chills from the descriptions of how people were killed and I learned.
I promised that I would focus on the positive of the experience.
So in typical me mode, here are my lessons from the ruins.
1. “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family”
The circumstances that led Rwanda to such a dark place may not be known to me, but something I know for sure is that someone was sad and broken.
It wasn’t killing of millions of people, it was killing of individuals, millions of times.
There was, death by shooting, by hacking, by torture, by hitting children on walls, by stabbing, by strangulation. The list is long but I will stop there, my point being, there was personal participation to end life.
Of course there is a political explanation, but I believe there is always enough love to avert evil.
So love your family, otherwise,the human heart can manufacture enough hate to wipe out an entire generation.
2. There is beauty in ashes.
After the genocide in 1994, researchers wrote Rwanda off as a failed state.
Not just because it was very inconceivable that hearts would recover and work together, but also because the national treasury had been robbed clean.
First forward to 2016, 22 years later, Kigali is the cleanest city in Africa, and the 7th fastest growing economy in the world.
We were staying near the Kigali International airport, and nearly every 15minutes there was a take off and a landing of a RwandaAir plane.
We also learned that almost 70% of Rwandan citizens are on medical insurance.
The public transport system is so on point that there is free access to Wi-Fi on the Kigali Bus Services, shuttles.
Like every country it has its flaws and its slums but,Rwanda deserves a pat on the back for relentless resilience, picking herself up and getting her life back from the most horrendous of situations.
If that isn’t inspiring I don’t know what is.
3.A compulsory monthly cleaning exercise surely does wonders.
As you may already know, every last Saturday of the month, every Rwandan citizen is expected to spend the first half of their day cleaning their community a.k.a “UMUGANDA” and attending a community meeting thereafter.
Oh and it’s mandatory.
We happened to participate in this exercise and a quick chat with one of the locals revealed that, missing this exercise invites a fine of 5000francs( that’s a whole lot of cash) or a jail sentence.
Pretty harsh right? It works though, so well you could eat food off of the streets of Kigali.(Refer to picture ab
4. It’s definitely possible to wear a helmet when you take a boda boda ride.
This year more than ever we have registered the highest number of deaths by boda boda in Uganda
(Incase you don’t know ,a boda boda is a risky means of transport in Uganda where you trust your life with a motor bike rider, more often than not because you hate Kampala traffic and he has enough insanity to cut corners and get you through it.)
Where were we?
Yes helmet wearing, in Kigali is a must, a helmet is the first thing a rider will hand you after you negotiate terms.
And no you will not quarrel that it has been used by so many people or that it will mess your hair. (Ugandan excuses)
You will shut up, enjoy a safe ride and of course
5. Never leave a town without finding out what their coffee /ice cream places are like.