Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rwanda's genocide and beyond

When most of us hear the word Rwanda, the next word that comes to mind is genocide. We took the Kigali city tour which focuses on the 1993-1994 genocide and then the future of the city. The first stop on the tour was the building of the Rwandan Prime Minister in '93-'94. Her death, along with 10 UN peacekeepers, represented the beginning of the massive genocide. The memorial contained 10 pillars representing each of the UN peacekeepers killed. Also, the original building where they were killed by the Hutus. This building had hundreds of bullet holes and a few grenade holes where the peacekeepers were killed.

Just outside the city is the Kigali Genocide Memorial. There are over 250,000 bodies just from the city of Kigali buried in mass graves on the grounds of the memorial. One mass grave is yet to be populated and another is only partially full. Since bodies are found frequently during new building, the bodies are brought to the memorial for burial.

The memorial building contains a downstairs describing the events of the genocide. The upstairs contains a history of previous genocides in the world. The memorial is heavily visited by both tourists and Rwandans. The Rwandans go primarily to remember their lost loved ones. The memorial described that 90% of teh Hutus supported the extermination of the Tutsis (the Hutus were about 85% of the total population of Rwanda). That means that more than half the people I was walking by on the street participated and supported the killing of the Tutsis.... just amazing to think I was standing next to people who lived this event. I pushed and prodded the tour guide with questions like:

1) How can you forgive so quickly?
2) Do people still know if they're Tutsi or Hutus?
3) Why did so many people support the genocide?

Although this blog is focusing on the genocide, the guide focused more on how the city and country are recovering. First, educate your children. Second, have multiple media outlets for multiple perspectives. Third, invest in city/country infrastructure. Finally, remove Hutu/Tutsi from ID cards.

Kigali is by far the most beautiful, friendly place we have been in East Africa. The way Rwanda has recovered from the genocide so quickly makes me think that soon this city will explode as a tourist destination. The city is clean. The people have invested in a new airport and large shops for tourists. The city is surrounded by unique national parks. This is what the people of Rwanda want, an African center of business and tourism.

We've now arrived back to Kampala complete with Laura's bag. It did arrive at Kigali airport and we were able to take a buda-buda to pick it up (that's a motorcycle-taxi or mototaxi). Upon our arrival to Kampala, we took both our backpacks and camera pack onto 2 buda-budas... complete with no helmet. I've never been on a better amusement ride. I'm sure my mom's not proud but man, it was fun. On to Murchison Falls tomorrow.

Sorry again for the pictureless blog but it looks like this is going to be the norm. When I find a place to upload pictures, I'll upload pictures to my other blogs and let you know. We've got some great ones of the memorial. I'm off to the Nile for a few days now!


tonyp said...

can,t imagine the feelings you must have had being at this place and knowing you were alive when that tradgedy occurred. hope they are able to continue this recovery and become a truly peaceful country. the buda-buda rides were very neat also--we just had a bunch of canadian motorcyclists collide in a chain reaction crash in st johnsbury the other day--luckly noone badly injured but a lot of bikes and friendships damaged and torn up!!

J. Carrara said...

Crazy stuff that we sometimes forget. We all are lucky we don't face similar challenges and live in a stable country. It must put things into perspective.

Greg said...

Quite interesting. The concept that when they " remove Hutu/Tutsi from ID cards " implies Hutu and Tutsi can not tell Hutu from Tutsi. And yet they thought they had to elimnate Tutsi. Former grudge no doubt .......... how about forgive. Eh? Looking forward to your take on answer to Q#3.

BBQ, cards and dominos with Pallottas and Pettengills last perfect VT evening.

From USA flanks of Mont Bear
Greg 1327 Sat 6-16-07