Ruhengeri to Kigali

Woke early as per usual and sorted our stuff. We met the team for breakfast and then set off for Kigali which didn’t take long even with a pit-stop in town to visit the hotel where Hotel Rwanda was filmed. I wouldn’t have recognised it to be honest but we had a coke in the lovely pool bar area. Once we arrived in Kigali we headed to the Genocide Memorial Centre. I (Pheebs) already knew quite a bit about Rwanda’s history so was interested in particular in this part of the trip. We both decided to leave the group who wanted to start outside and do our own thing quietly. So we started inside after collecting our audio guides. We only had about an hour and a half so felt a little pressured to rush around which you should never do in places like this. It could take all day for it all to sink in and even then a lifetime to reconcile what happened. We wondered around the museum listening to and looking at the exhibits. We were horrified at the extent of the violence involved. Very much in brief then – Belgium during colonial times decided to segregate the tribes and make sure their origin was noted on their ID cards. This drove a wedge between the communities. Historically, the Tutsi’s had power over the Hutu’s and took control of the land and most of the industry/services etc. Bitterness crept in as a result of longstanding ethnic competition and tensions between the Tutsi, who had controlled power for centuries, and the Hutu, who had come to power in the rebellion of 1959–62 and overthrown the Tutsi monarchy. In 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a rebel group composed mostly of Tutsi refugees, invaded northern Rwanda from Uganda in an attempt to defeat the Hutu-led government. They began the Rwandan Civil War, fought between the Hutu regime, with support from Francophone Africa and France, and the RPF, with support from Uganda. This exacerbated ethnic tensions in the country. In response, many Hutu gravitated toward the Hutu Power ideology, with the prompting of state-controlled and independent Rwandan media. As an ideology, Hutu Power asserted that the Tutsi intended to enslave the Hutu and must be resisted at all costs. Continuing ethnic strife resulted in the rebels’ displacing large numbers of Hutu in the north, plus periodic localized Hutu killings of Tutsi in the south. International pressure on the Hutu-led government of Juvénal Habyarimana resulted in a cease-fire in 1993. He began to implement the Arusha Accords. The assassination of Habyarimana in April 1994 set off a violent reaction. This took place within an hour – road blocks were erected, lists of names were released resulting in the Hutus’ conducting mass killings of Tutsis and pro-peace Hutus, who were portrayed as “traitors” and “collaborationists”. This genocide had been planned by members of the Hutu power group known as the Akazu and had been discussed in government meetings. Many of these people occupied positions at top levels of the national government; the genocide was supported and coordinated by the national government as well as by local military and civil officials and mass media. Alongside the military, primary responsibility for the killings themselves rests with two Hutu militias that had been organized for this purpose by political parties: the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi, although once the genocide was underway a great number of Hutu civilians took part in the murders. The Rwandan Genocide was the 1994 mass murder of an estimated 800,000 people in Rwanda. Over the course of approximately 100 days (from the assassination of Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira on April 6) through mid-July, over 500,000 people were killed including women, children, infants and the elderly, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate. Estimates of the death toll have ranged between 500,000 and 1,000,000, or as much as 20% of the country’s total population. By the end of the genocide, 85% of the Tutsi population had been murdered. It was the end of the peace agreement. The Tutsi RPF restarted their offensive, defeating the army and seizing control of the country. It is difficult to come to terms with; 1) how people can do such torturous things to another living being (including a 3 year old having her eyes gouged out and a 5 year old boy tortured, women raped repeatedly by known HIV positive men, old ladies dragged from their houses and villages on fire), but also; 2) how they ever managed to become ‘reconciled’. I just don’t know how that is possible, maybe it isn’t and only time will tell. In addition to Rwanda’s genocide, the centre also exhibited the Holocaust, Armenia, The Balkans and Cambodia but there are many more disputed genocides in history. It is shameful to read about how many of the worst genocides were started or at least supported by European nations. And we call ourselves civilized? It is like witnessing Armageddon and an utter tarnish on all humanity especially when the UN and the world stands by and watches as they did with Rwanda. It is so distressing that as a human race we still haven’t been able to stop these situations from re-occurring.
After our somewhat sobering afternoon we made it back to the truck and headed to a craft market, which was just the same stuff as at the gorillas gift shops so we sat in the truck and entertained some kids talking about footie. Eventually, however one older kid asked for money and then decided to board the truck so Charles had to intervene. Finally, at the end of an emotional day we were escorted to the Beaus’ Jour Hotel. Here, we cleared all our stuff from the van to pack properly into our rucksacks for tomorrow. We showered and changed and then met the others for drinks on the balcony bar whilst I (Andy) copied everyone’s photos so that I could put them all on a DVD for everyone. As it was our last night we were taken to a lovely little Italian restaurant for dinner with the crew. We all had starters and then the most enormous pizza’s so we were utterly stuffed. I (Andy) stood and toasted the crew for their hard work and fantastic service. We each then gave our thanks individually. We rewarded the crew with some tips and then headed back to bed (not looking forward to our homeward journey tomorrow). It was super hot in bed so we didn’t sleep easy.