I recently traveled to Rwanda as a base of operations for making an expedition
into Uganda and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Flying into the capitol of Kigali,
I was unsure of what to expect. Obviously the world knows the dark history of
Rwanda from the mass genocide that occurred between the Hutus and the Tutsis
in 1994. When I mentioned to most people in the U.S. that I was going to Rwanda,
their initial reply was to "be safe". While Rwanda has experienced a brutal past,
the current truth is, it is one of the cleanest and safest places I've seen in Africa.
As if trying to move on from the violence that has marred the country, Rwanda
has become the poster-child of development. From the orderly taxi system, to the
immaculate flower beds, to the smoothly paved roads, nary a piece of litter could
be found in the entire country. During my travels through Rwanda, I traveled
to the north, through the border of Uganda and back, viewing much of the
fertile farm land. I also took the time to explore the genocide museum and,
while in Kigali, stayed at the Hotel des Milles Collines (Hotel of a Thousand Hills),
which was made famous by the movie Hotel Rwanda. My visit to Rwanda was
marked with both a level of despair at the atrocities that happened well within
my life time and the hope of nation that is pushing past its previous struggles
and becoming a model of modern African society.
It was interesting landing in Kigali's international airport knowing that the president of Rwanda's plane was shot down in this
location, helping to spark the actions of the Hutu extremists.
Waiting for my luggage.
Leaving the airport.
Panettone in a local grocery store. Some things exist EVERYWHERE.
Driving through the streets of Kigali.
On the outskirts of Kigali, looking into the city.
Lots of construction is taking place, helping to build a bigger, brighter future.
A local mall.
Driving north towards the border of Uganda, we leave the city and head into the farm lands.
Bananas are an important crop in Rwanda.
An African long-crested eagle sitting on a telephone line.
I was very excited to see this as we have a pair of these at our facility back in the U.S.
Crowned cranes are an amazing sight. This my first chance to see them in the wild.
Mobile telephones are amazingly big in Africa and every company seems to have their own carrier. The concept of
contracts is almost unheard of throughout the country side as pre-paid is the way to go. There are stands
like these absolutely everywhere selling pre-paid minutes. As one Rwandan explained to me about Africa, "not
everyone has shoes, but everyone has a phone."
A mosque along the highway. Islam is fairly present in central Africa.
African pied crow.
An entire valley of tea. . . . the largest export of Rwanda.
Although Rwanda and Uganda share a common border, their farming techniques differ greatly. In Uganda, the farmers
are planting their crops on steep slopes. In Rwanda, terrace hillsides are the dominant method.
Hotel des Milles Collines
This is the hotel made famous by the film "Hotel Rwanda".
This is where I stayed during my visit to Rwanda. Having my laptop with, I actually watched
the movie "Hotel Rwanda" while staying in the actual Hotel Rwanda.
Kigali Genocide Memorial
While not the most uplifting part of my journey, visiting the genocide museum was a good way to get a better understanding
of what happened to the country in 1994 and the circumstances leading up to the murder of nearly a million people in just a few short months.
The entrance to the Genocide Memorial.
The main building houses the museum and is surrounded by the gardens and mass graves.
These concrete slabs are actually the covers of the mass graves,
giving the unknown dead a final dignified resting place.
A tarp cover the open hole of one of the crypts of the mass graves. The genocide was in such recent history, that unidentified
bodies still regularly show up throughout the country side. Many of the remains are brought to the Genocide Memorial
for proper burial.
Numerous gardens surround the center, each with its own symbolic importance.
This small forest planted on the edge of the property symbolizes the growth and hope for the future.
A glass window into one of the crypts brings home the reality of what you are surrounded by while walking through the gardens.
The remains of genocide victims lie underneath the sign of the cross.
The elephant with the cell phone represents never forgetting and the importance of communication.
This is a partial list of names of people lost.
Perhaps the most impactful part of the exhibit, the thing that expressed the sheer magnitude of the atrocities,
was the room of photos inside the museum. A dozen alcoves had photographs of people that were killed during the genocide.
The families of the victims donated a photo of their lost loved ones. Each photo represents a person and a life lost to tragedy.
Death is no respecter of age. Photos of 70 year old women hung right next to new born children.
The effects found alongside the victims was another gruesome reminder of the personal lives
these people once lived, and not that long ago.