Kigali: the genocide story of Rwanda
Русская версия Going to Rwanda, we were quite scared. Only 20 years before 500000 to 1000000 people were killed due to genocide here, and neither Europe nor the US could stop the violence. Entering the country, we were feeling pressure, similar to what we had felt in Burundi.
Yet, right after crossing the border it turned out that among the passengers of the bus Bujumbura – Kigali there was one very nice fellow. The problem was that we did not have Rwandan money yet, and when the driver stopped at the road café, we could not buy food. This fellow shared his grilled meat with us, congratulating us with Christmas.
Hotels in Kigali.
We started to talk and the passenger also promised to help us to find a guesthouse in Kigali. As it was quite dark when we entered the city, this help could be quite useful. The new friend assured us that he knew the city and its guesthouses perfectly well, being involved in tourism. Together we took the bus 112 from the bus station, it took a while for it to get full and an hour for us to get to the airport (this area more safer). We recommend to take dala-dalas in Kigali, as they are much faster than usual buses.
When arriving, we saw a lot of policemen with guns on trucks, and it looked especially dangerous in the dark. The new friend brought us to the promised guesthouse which turned out to be a luxurious hotel at the façade with terrible rooms inside. Yet, the rooms cost 30 dollars per person per night – a huge amount of money for Africa. The friend brought us here even though he knew we were looking for a cheap place. Then he brought us to another hotel with even uglier, but little cheaper rooms. At this point of time we decided to say goodbye to him: as it turned out, he kept bringing us to the hotels of his friends. As it was late, we decided to stay in the first hotel, High Hills, having a deal to pay for one person only.
We refused from the crazily expensive dinner in the hotel and went to the nearby café to have excellent grilled meat with onions, potatoes, and cold beer.
When we came back to the hotel, it turned out that there was no hot water. The personnel decided to repair the boiler in our room, but after our indignation (it was midnight) they settled us in another room.
In the morning we took a dala-dala to Kacyiru road (even though the personnel tried really hard to put us on the taxi) and reached the main sight of Kigali – the Genocide Memorial (the official page: http://www.kgm.rw/)
The address: intersection KG14 Ave and KG689 st. The Memorial is open from 8 to 17. We really recommend to rent an audio guide – 5 dollars for students and 10 dollars for grown-ups; you may take one per two people, but without the audio guide you will not be able to understand much.
The Memorial was established in 1999 and opened for general public in 2001; since then more than 250000 victims were buried there, and the bodies still found all over Rwanda are brought here to the mass graves.
Being the burial place, the memorial was also founded to inform about the genocide, document the reports of its witnesses and support the survivors.
There are many landscape monuments in the memorial: the fruit garden to commemorate child victims, the statues of elephants as a symbol of never-forgetting, the Flower of Life garden dedicated to female deaths. In the self-protection garden, the cacti are planted to remind of those who had to cope with violence on their own, without international support.
Eight gardens with different kind of roses symbolize individuality and simultaneous multiplicity of the genocide victims. The forest of memory is planted nearby by the relatives of the victims to remind of genocide longer that roses would.
Another garden with a hexagon in its center is created to remind of integrity of Rwanda and its six provinces (symbolized by different plants set around the hexagon), living in peace despite differences.
The Garden of Unity set on several levels has a similar symbolic load. The water peacefully flows from the first level symbolizing the initial unity of the country. On the second level, the water gets to the Garden of Division, showing the split of the Rwandan society. Yet, the palm trees in the garden demonstrate the beauty of Rwanda, existing despite conflicts. The Garden of Reconciliation with a stone in its center symbolizes resurrected Rwanda. The monkey with a mobile in the garden is to show the connection with the world and the necessity to inform about what happened.
The Wall of Names is still being filled in.
Hutu and Tutsi.
The genocide in Rwanda did not happen out of the blue and, according to the memorial, its major reason is the colonization of Rwanda. The Germans were the first to colonize the territory, meanwhile obsessed with the physical differences of Rwandan tribes – Tutsi (the largest in number), Hutu and Twa. Indeed, the tribes were different. Tutsis were cattle-breeders coming from the north of Africa, Hutus were the farmers of Bantu origin, and Twas populated Rwanda originally, being closer to Pygmies. Yet, the Germans strengthened the differences. For instance, if a Rwandan had more than ten heads of cattle they were automatically identified as Hutu. Also, Hutu ethnicity was ascribed to those who had a longer nose (and the noses were measured) and a lighter skin and were taller.
Little by little, Hutus became an elite minor tribe, and their elitist essence was promoted on a higher level: they were given high positions as the better once. The same politics was supported by Belgians who came to exchange Germans. In 1932 they invented ID cards where the ethnical belonging was inscribed. The diferences were re-emphasized. According to the statistics, Tutsis comprised 84%, Hutus – 15% and Twas – 1%. The continuing politics of giving better positions and education to Hutus became the matter of conflict between the tribes.
The first wave of genocide happened in 1959 and brought thousands of victims, mainly among Tutsis. Many Tutsis also fled to Uganda, Burundi, and Tanzania, even though ethnic clashes took place there too.
In spite of getting independence in 1962, ethnic differences continued to define the Rwandan lifestyle. Instead of colonizers, the established dictatorship became very repressive and held ethnic cleansings. From 1959 to 1973 700000 people died in ethnic conflicts.
The hatred towards Tutsis was stimulated by the government of Hutus through the official propaganda and radio. Tutsis were called cockroaches (inyenzi) and killing them was officially encouraged. Being aware of the violence of the Rwandan regime, Europe, in particular, the French government, continuef to support the regime of president Habyarimana. In turn, he disseminated 10 commandments of Hutus, condemning any Hutu who is related to Tutsis in any possible way.
By 1990s, the conflict became extremely hot, and former colonizers continued to pretend they do not notice it. Ethnnic cleansings took place during the daytime, and on April 6 1994 occasional clashes turned into full-strenght genocide. On this day, another president was killed, which triggered the conflict – the government started to give out guns to Tutsis to make them kill Hutus. Tutsis blocked the roads to catch and kill the imagined enemies, neighbors killed each other, women were raped (purposefully by the HIV carriers to destroy further generation of Tutsi), children were violently murdered. Hutus also killed their moderate tribe members in case they refused to kill Tutsis. The members of the family killed those relatives who were married to Tutsis. For the three months of violence, European peacekeepers were fleeding from the country. At least ten of them were killed. More peacekeepers were not sent. Tutsis tried to hide in the churches, but by this they made the task of Hutus even easier: the churches were burnt together with people inside. Some priests even helped Hutus in this. Those Hutus who did not get guns, killed Tutsis with machete or threw off the cliff to make their death long and agonizing. Under the cliffs, there were piles of corps and dying Tutsis. 80% of children lost at least one family member in 1994.
The memorial also tells the story of those who did not flee, but tried to stop the bloodshed. The only American who stayed was Carl Wilkens. The healer Sula Karuhimbu used her reputation of a witch to hide Tutsis in her place: afraid of her power, Hutus did not dare to enter it.
The war ended by a miracle.
When in 1997 in one of the colleges the teacher tried to make the students in the class stand along different walls according to their tribe belonging, they answered: “We are all Rwandans here”. Yet, the conflict emerged again with 6 students killed and 20 injured. The extremist Hutus still try to kill Tutsis. International court cases are still held to punish those who triggered the genocide, but all of them can be hardly punished.
The most terrifying in the memorial were the Memory Gallery with 2000 photos of victims and their belongings and the gallery Tomorrow Lost dedicated to the dead children. The photo of each child is attended by his or her name, favorite food or hobbies – typical for the child albums all over the world. At the end, the death of the child and his or her last words are described.
The last gallery is about genocide cases all over the world: Namibia, Armenia, Cambodia, the Balkans, the Holocaust.
Hotel des Mille Collines.
Another genocide monument in Kigali is Hotel des Mille Collines. We really recommend watching the movie “Hotel Rwanda” about this place, which became the epicenter of conflict in 1994. Despite the life threat, the hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina was hiding Tutsis and Europeans inside.
Today the heroes and victims are commemorated by a monument at the hotel.
This is the unlucky history of Kigali, the capital with sights all related to one of the most dreadful parts of the human history. Yet, having learned about Rwandan genocide, we had to move further. The buses to Gisenyi – our next destination – departed every hour, so we did not have to wait long to depart for the new adventures through the mountains.
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