Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Kigali, Rwanda, December 23, 2015

We had a 5 am start which means breakfast at 4:15-4:45 and I was cook group!  We made it to the Uganda/Rwanda border before all the tour buses and were through both sides, with money changed, in an hour.  That's a record so far.

Rwanda is beautiful with valleys and terraced farming-

where all work, repeat ALL work is done manually, and by that I mean - no animals.  There were quite a few workers hoeing and planting-

Rwanda is very clean - no garbage, a plastic grocery bag ban, perfectly smooth highways (no speed bumps or rumble strips every 500 meters or less) and friendly people.  

We stopped in Kigali to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial.  What a professional, non judgemental, forgiving, modern and informative place!  I learned so much about recent Rwandan history which has been tumultuous, to say the least.  

In 1932, the government determined that if a person had 10 or more cows, they were a Tutsi and if they had fewer than 10 cows, they were a Hutu.  What a crazy way to determine one's fate.

In 1959, the King died, so there was a mass execution of Tutsi.  A new king was elected in 1961 and the persecution and ethnic cleansing continued.  

In 1990, the Hutu were still in power and Belgian colonists encouraged the exile of more Tutsi so the Rwandan Patriarch Front (RPF) invaded, hoping to establish equal rights for the Tutsi.

The massacres continued from 1990-1994.  Naturally, the media fuelled society with hate propaganda to pit neighbour against neighbour and friend against friend.  The government proclaimed 10 commandments - laws against the Tutsi of course.  If a Hutu was married to a Tutsi or did business with a Tutsi, he or she was a traitor.  All teachers had to be Hutu.  The armed forces were Hutu.  Tutsi were called lnyenzi - cockroaches. 

In 1993, because of pressure from the RPF, there were finally plans to have a democratically elected government, even though the Hutu leader - Habyarimana, was busy buying 12 million dollars worth of grain from the French.  

Meanwhile, "Jean Pierre" was an informant who told the UN about the Hutu plans - they were training soldiers to massacre the Tutsi.  The UN was unable to protect him and he 'disappeared'.  

In 1994, President Habyarimana's plane was shot down and shit hit the fan.  In 100 days, 1 million Tutsi were slaughtered.  Women especially were attacked with the idea to stop the next generation of Tutsi.  More than 300,000 children were orphaned.  The UN, rather than bring in more troops, pulled out.  Romeo Dellaire believes that 5000 UN troops could have prevented the slaughter.  Only the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders stayed.  Over 2 million refugees fled to neighbouring countries.  Two thirds of the entire population was displaced.  

80% of all Rwandan kids experienced a family death and 70% saw someone injured or killed.

After the genocide stopped in 1994, the RPF formed the new government.  

In 2002, the government launched Gacaca (grass) which is a restorative justice system to establish the truth and determine consequences.  Confessors received half of their sentence to be served in the community - building roads etc and half in jail.  Those who wouldn't or didn't or won't confess, spend their whole sentence in jail.  

Now for the biggest message - FORGIVENESS.  I spoke to an employee who lost many family members.  Don't forget - neighbors killed neighbors, friends killed friends.  Relatives even killed each other.  Anyone who has come to him and apologized, he's forgiven.  By forgiving, the country has been able to move on.  Today, Tutsi and Hutu no longer exist.  Those left are Rwandan.  

Besides the informative explanation, there are rooms of skulls and bones, photographs of those killed, clothing worn and lots of videos of interviews with survivors.  Upstairs, there are smaller displays of other genocides including Hereros (1904-1905), Armenia (1915-1918), The Holocaust (1939-1945), the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (1975-1979) and The Balkans in the 1990s.  As we all have realized, it is truly unbelievable what one human being can do to another because of racial, tribal, sexual, religious and whatever minute difference someone wants to find fault with.

Pictures were not allowed in the museum but there is a nice memorial rose garden outside-

Over 200,000 bodies were found on the site in mass graves-

It was a sobering place and makes my visit here all the more important.

I am looking forward to seeing the gorillas tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. Very important message, Allison... especially at this time of the year. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas celebration and a safe and Happy New Year!


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