In my dream last night I was in Israel with lots of my friends up here. We were kidnapped by Palestinian extremists. Mitt Romney was the president. We overheard conversations they were having about where they were going to kill us, the place was called Badj. So we wikipedia'd it and then I emailed the info to my Romney contacts as my friends distracted our kidnappers. It was kind of a stressful dream. Why did I dream that?! There are much better things to dream about right now.
Today we started watching a documentary in my civil wars class about the Genocide in Rwanda. Gosh, it's so hard to watch that, especially after being there. Some of my thoughts about it were written in my blog already, so I decided to repost some of those thoughts and experiences I had.
Ok, so Wednesday I decided that I wanted to take one of my vacation days and go to Rwanda. So I came home and told everyone I was going, 3 other girls wanted to go as well. I think the country directors were a little upset with my spontaneous plans, but they ok’d it. So after Parliament we emailed, went to the market, and then to the bus park. Our bus didn’t leave until 3 AM, so we waited on some stairs. I couldn’t sleep, so I just read. I slept til 8:00 on the bus. I had a weird dream about privatization…because of all the government talk I heard that week. We didn’t get to Rwanda until 11:00, but wow, it was an amazing drive. Rwanda is gorilla country and called the “land of a thousand hills.” Uganda is called the “pearl of Africa.” I took several pictures, but the pictures really don’t do justice to the beauty of that country. South Uganda and especially Rwanda is amazingly beautiful. There are lush green mountains, lots of different types of trees and vegetation. There were really low clouds that day. I guess it was mist, but it was so thick and very white. There are all types of green on the mountains in the trees with terraces up the mountains. The valleys are where everything is grown, so the people live up the mountains. Gosh, it’s just such a beautiful country. It’s sad that such a beautiful country has such a bad history.
So we arrived in the capital-Kigali. It was fun switching from driving on the left side of the road (in Uganda) to the right (in Rwanda). We didn’t have plans, so we decided to just go see the things we wanted to see. 2 of the girls spoke French fluently, so I didn’t have to use my little French that much. We went to the Hotel des Milles Collines which was the hotel in the movie “Hotel Rwanda.” I’m going to watch that again when I get back. But during the genocide in 1994, this hotel saved many Tutsis from being killed. We went to the American Embassy to get some adoption information (one of the girls is looking to adopt a Rwandan kid). Then we went to a restaurant called La Sierra that advertised Chinese and Indian Cuisine. There was a supermarket in the back that had some amazingly good pizzas! We talked with the owner, who is of Indian descent, and is Canadian. We had a great chat with him and then he asked if we wanted to stay at his house that night. So we ran to the Genocide Memorial Centre. They had so much info on the history behind the conflicts between the Hutus and Tutsis, the problems the European powers caused, details behind the genocide, and how the country is recovering. They had a room of thousands of pictures and names of people that were killed, a room of just clothes from the people, and a room of skulls, femurs, and other bones. It was weird to see that the clothes had Spiderman, Nike, and other modern things that reminded me how recent the genocide was. Outside they had graves of 250,000 people (I think). The thing is, is that they were mass gravesites cemented over. There was a room with all the genocides that have happened in the past 100 plus years. There are several that are really recent: Darfur, Yugoslavia, Cambodia, and Rwanda. On our way back to the restaurant we talked with Willy. Willy is 26 now. He left Rwanda after the genocide. He is a Tutsi and all of his brothers and sisters (6 I think) and father were killed. He and his mom moved to Uganda until things were safe for them to return.
So Elnoor, our Canadian friend took us to his house. Wow! It was a really nice place. He brought back lots of food, including Indian food, lots of fruit, and European cheese! He went back to his restaurant so us 4 just chilled for several hours. We watched tv (BBC news), skimmed through some books, took showers (hot showers), and slept. I got to sleep in a huge double bed, it was great. Elnoor is such a nice guy, we were a little nervous at first, but everything was perfect. So while we were there, he gave us a tour of his house, there is a lot of important history that happened there. Ok, so in 1994, the Hutu government had been planning this genocide of the Tutsi. President Haryama (sp?) was killed, (we’re not sure who killed him, but some say Hutus planned it to blame the Tutsis). They then stormed the prime minister’s (a Tutsi) house (Elnoor’s house), killed 10 UN guards and killed the prime minister and her husband. The kids were able to escape in the back by climbing the walling into the UN compound. After that they proceeded killing Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The government used much propaganda, especially the radio, to encourage Hutus all over the country to kill their neighbors, friends, and family. Within a week all foreigners were escorted out of the country by soldiers who were flown in to escort them out. I read that if all the soldiers who were brought in would have stayed in the country they could have prevented the genocide. The UN would not allow its peacekeepers to fight and countries refused to do anything about this because there was confusion about what genocide actually is and they considered it to just be internal conflicts and not of their concern. So from April to July 1994 one million people were killed. One Rwandan refugee escaped to the US and tried convincing Congress and the Clinton Administration to do something, one Congressman replied, “The US does not have friends, just interests, Rwanda is not among our interests.” So yeah, we stayed in the same house as the prime minister when she was killed that was a significant event in the conflict.
The next morning we went to Saint Famille Church (the bad church) and Saint Paul’s Pastoral Centre (the good church). It was hard for me to visit the bad church because for me, the absolute worst part of the whole thing was that Tutsis thought they would be safe in the Churches, but many pastors were in agreement with the government, sold out their congregations, and let them be killed. This church was one of the more famous ones because it is right in the center of Kigali, but it happened with many churches all over the country. In the good church the pastor saved his congregation. So after visiting those churches we caught our bus back to Kampala. That was the bumpiest ride ever. Our seats were in the very back which made every bump huge. I was able to read the whole time, so that was nice.
I’ll never forget being in Rwanda, seeing the faces of people who experienced so much. Many had wounds, many had family members and friends who were killed, and many were killers themselves. It was just so terrible, lifelong neighbors, lifelong friends, and even family members killed one another. It is a miracle that the country is still together and is doing as well as it is (the economy is doing better than Uganda’s), Kigali is such a nice big city, scattered over several hills, well ordered, flowers everywhere, very clean…all in such a big contrast to Kampala. I just wish I clearly say all that I was thinking and feeling while I was in Rwanda. I just can’t imagine everything happening like it did, but all the happened was not a movie, it was real life. This was government-sponsored and the rest of the world just let it happened. Shouldn’t that be government’s number one purpose- to protect its people? Genocide should not be allowed to happen. Things like this really make me want to just go out and change the world.
I won’t ever forget Rwanda.