RWANDA, A COUNTRY OF HILLS AND HISTORY by Ene Abah
Rwanda is a country that suffered tragedy that caught international attention not so long ago. However, the country has done well for itself and is referred to as the cleanest country in Africa.
The people – I was told that the people were somewhat reserved but I found that they were normal and outgoing. It may have taken knowing them more to discover if they had reservations confiding in other people. Living in a place is always different from visiting so who am I to say?
They are law abiding, which helps to keep the country in order. Well, I noticed from going around that people talk comfortably on their phones when driving. The conversations could last a while and it seems like people aren’t bothered by it. While I was in buses, this was usual with the drivers. Back home, someone would be quick to remind the driver that he is driving! This made me notice how drivers speaking on phones contributed to slowing traffic down.
Food – Some things I found everywhere that were typically local were roast goat stick meat and boiled plantain (either in sauce or plain). They eat a lot of rice and irish potatoes, swallow/fufu. Nothing unusual.
On the other hand, I went to a few restaurants. There is a variety of choices from what I learnt.
- Kiseki Authentic Japanese restaurant – The sushi was good. I also tried the Japanese fried chicken which for me was chicken with a light batter over it so there was nothing spectacular about that. I hear this restaurant is one of the top ten in Kigali. I would recommend it for sushi for sure.
- Pili Pili – This restaurant has an amazing view of the city and the ambience was lovely. I went on a Saturday afternoon, there were other people but it was peaceful. The waiter who attended to us was amazing, he paid so much attention to detail. He was an older man and at the end of our meal, he was pleased that we both ate all. He mentioned that it gave him satisfaction each time he saw customers finish their meals. I had a pizza while my friend had a salad.
- Delizia Italiana in Kigali heights – I had been here before so I knew just where to go to satisfy the sweet tooth craving I had. Ice cream is one of my guilty pleasures and the ice cream here is good. I definitely recommend that you try it if you are like me.
- German butchery – My friends took me here for dinner on the Friday night I was there. Every first Saturday of the month, there is usually a special German dish. The dish had potatoes, dumplings, red cabbage and roasted pork. We all enjoyed it.
Kigali is a really quiet and nice city, I imagine it is the kind of place one would enjoy only if they had the right information.
Going down memory lane
Rwanda faced its biggest tragedy in 1994 for a period of 100 days when the genocide happened. We were briefed on the day of arrival that one thing not to do in Rwanda is to engage in political discussions/debates. Especially using the words Hutu and Tutsi following the genocide. The government set some strict laws and went through a lengthy reconciliation process so the people decided that they were all one people, Rwandans. They no longer think of themselves in factions. Those words attract a prison sentence!
Nyamata has one of the genocide memorial sites so I went by. The story was quite unpleasant, the country has done its best to keep souvenirs of the event. The memorial site in Nyamata was formerly a church. People ran to the church for refuge but were massacred. The church was filled with clothes of people who died there. Skulls and bones have been preserved, so we saw a lot of them.
One of the stories that had me sick to my stomach was of a lady who was raped by many of the perpetrators. Like that was not enough, they put a log of wood through her private part and forced it through till it came out of her skull. Her coffin now represents all the women who were raped then killed, as the site guide mentioned that all the women were raped.
In Kigali, I started by going to the site where the Belgian Peace Keepers were killed, then I went to the memorial centre.
The genocide is depicted in films, accounts by victims who are alive and in pictures with notes under them. I understood there that rape was one of the weapons used to harm the Tutsi women or Hutu women who were married to Tutsi men. They were gang raped, brutally, then killed or left to suffer then they were killed slowly. The only crime these people committed was being born into their ethnicity. I had lumps in my throat, I died too many times inside…I thought I had it all together until I walked into the room where photos of children were displayed with their stories. The way one infant was killed…he was smashed on a wall! Good grief!!!!!!!
I took a moment to collect myself before I walked out of the centre. There is a yard and from what I noticed, people came out of the centre sad, some crying, so they would collect themselves on the benches.
A lady beside me was crying, while another one was speaking to her and trying to comfort her. I looked up at some point and the comforter had just stepped away. I walked up to her and asked if I could give her a hug and she held so tightly onto me saying thank you. These connections of us all being human beings warm my heart. When she finally let me go, she asked for my name, then we shook hands laughing. Just then, a young couple of Indian descent walked out, the guy was pacing in circles while the lady walked straight to a bench and started crying. Someone came by to comfort her just as I was leaving. It was hard, it was heavy. My conclusion at the end of the visit was that “we all have it in us to be evil…how we choose to live and the decisions we make have an impact on others”.
Discovering some of these sites was something I knew I had to do while in Rwanda as my trip would be incomplete without seeing these sites. After these two, I was certain that I would not be visiting any more genocide memorial sites, I couldn’t stomach more. Not all stories are pleasant when travelling, but I like to educate myself on how the human mind works, even when it includes finding the good, the bad and the ugly. George Santayana succinctly wrote that “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.
Many people who knew I was in Rwanda mentioned that all they think of when they hear of the country is the genocide. Rwanda has gone past it…
I left Kigali for Lake Kivu the next day.
Rwanda has a few lakes but Lake Kivu happens to be one of the 20 deepest lakes worldwide. This lake flows to the Democratic Republic of Congo (one of the four countries Rwanda shares a border with). The area has such a beautiful scenery from photos I had seen and what I had heard but there is not very much to do.
Author – Ene Abah
Check out her blog and find posts on Rwanda here: http://belletammy.blogspot.ch/2017/09/rwanda-country-of-hills-and-history.html and http://belletammy.blogspot.ch/2018/05/a-delighful-few-days-in-kigali.html
Twitter – @tammyabah
Instagram – @belle.tammy