RED RWANDA DUST SETTLING
To Orwell Today,
Allow me to greet you in Kinyarwanda, a language that all people of RWANDA speak, our mother tongue:
Muraho! Yezu akuzwe!
I am happy to greet you in that way cause I am aware that you are coming to visit this country and you could use the first word to greet any one you meet on the streets of Kigali or any where you go, because all Rwandese are one people and speaks one language. These two words which can be used either together or just one of them, they are part of many greeting words of Kinyarwanda (our Language). Their meaning is; Are you well! Jesus be praised! Respectively, their answer is Muraho namwe! Iteka ryose! Meaning is; You well too! Forever and ever! This can also show you how our society is deeply religious, more than 98% are Christians.
Rwandan people are one (one culturally) and very religious. You can not find any house in Rwanda, being it in town or in village, which has no religious object (a rosary, Bible or a Picture on the wall) but very unfortunately they were divided and lead to massacre each other with all their religious affiliation and commonness, in fact using most of churches in Rwanda as sanctuary by one side and killing fields by another.
It is such a complicated background of our society that has made many people to know our country not for good of course, but for the bad history. It is also against such and many other complicated situations, which makes the work of our President, your hero, very difficult, but thank God he is managing.
This brings me back to the reason for my writing, which is to give bits of what you should expect during your visit. I am doing it as a friendship gesture to someone who loves my country genuinely like you. And I must say that, We Rwandans, are grateful to have someone like you at our side, as they are very few especially from your part of the world and thank God it is all because of one Man you know him.
I have been following your writings for more than a year now. In fact I came across your writings when using google search engine for any thing concerning our President, H.E P. Kagame. It was during this search that I came upon an article and when I followed its link I came across your website. At first I was really amazed. I couldn't believe that someone could write anything good about our president, like you did, especially a Canadian. My first thought was you are a Rwandan in Diaspora, someone who really knows our complicated history. My amazement was even more when I realized that you were not. This was after your correspondence with USA University regarding Kagames visit and honorary doctorate there.
Dear Jackie, Rwanda is very poor country, with very limited resources to use for its development. The first impression you get on your arrival at Kanombe International Airport, is of a poor Nation with a very friendly people who believe in themselves and respect each other and their visitors as well. However this situation is a tremendous improvement to that of 1990’s. There has been a great change in people’s heart and their way of thinking. We have managed to live the life we want to live and not what others wants. There are many physical changes in Rwanda in terms of Development, sometimes it is very amazing when you compare Rwanda of Today and the Rwanda of just 10-15years ago, but as someone from outside especially in the 1st world you can not see these changes.
In Rwanda, know that you are safe any time, being it during a day or night. I can say there are fewer safer places/cities in the whole world than in Rwanda. In Kigali you can move even at midnight without fearing anything at all. Whether a Rwandan or a foreigner you have nothing to fear in Kigali anytime of the day. Rwandese, though very poor, are very friendly and you will be at home immediately.
I know you are planning to visit Virunga park. Remember to visit Kigali Genocide memorial, Nyamata church (genocide memorial also), and if you can manage go to Gikongoro where the French created their safe haven to stop Kagame’s army, there you will get first hand information on their role and why they hate him and try to convince others to hate him also. The above visits and your movement up country will help you to know more about Kagame and what he has done to this country. For some of us it is just a miracle but an outsider can not notice it, only someone who was here before and during April 1994.
On your way back from Gikongoro pass Butare National University where Nahayo studies if he was who he is. Try to find him, I remember sometimes back you exchanged some correspondence with each other. He even offered to pay for your ticket, if I am not mistaken. But the truth is, he can not pay even for your one day stay at the Hotel in Butare, because the small money he gets from Kagame’s Government, though he doesn't appreciate it, is only enough to sustain his studies alone. Unless he is from a very rich family which is very rare. At this University you will meet students who had joined on the merits only, which is something we all associate with his Government. Sometimes back this was a privilege to very few people.
Also on this area you can measure the improvement I mentioned. Ten years ago we had only one university but today I am telling you, we have more than seven and even more are coming in this country of 23,000 square kilometers. In fact the first batch of graduates from this evolution came out some four years back, and to the moment we have more graduates in four years than we had in the existence of our country. There are those who want to thank him for that, but also those who doesn't want, like Nahayo. They hate him for that.
The secondary schools and primary have also increased enormously. Entrance of Rwandan children in primary school has improved from around 50-60% to 95%. I read this somewhere last week.
I am inviting you to visit one of Gacaca sessions. These are local courts established by Kagame's government to try to solve the problems facing our judicial system in coping with criminal society inherited as a result of Rwanda Genocide. To show how serious this issue is, and its consequence on administering justice, you can read Mamdan's article "When Victims Become Killers". In the history of genocide, however, the Rwandan genocide raises a difficult political question. Unlike the Nazi Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide was not carried out from a distance, in remote concentration camps beyond national borders, in industrial killing camps operated by agents who often did no more than drop Zyklon B crystals into gas chambers from above. The Rwandan genocide was executed with the slash of machetes rather than the drop of crystals, with all the gruesome detail of a street murder rather than the bureaucratic efficiency of a mass extermination. The difference in technology is indicative of a more significant social difference. The technology of the holocaust allowed a few to kill many, but the machete had to be wielded by a single pair of hands. It required not one but many hacks of a machete to kill even one person. With a machete, killing was hard work, that is why there were often several killers for every single victim. Whereas Nazis made every attempt to separate victims from perpetrators, the Rwandan genocide was very much an intimate affair. It was carried out by hundreds of thousands, perhaps even more, and witnessed by millions.
In a private conversation in 1997, a minister in the Rwanda Patriotic Front-led government contrasted the two horrors: "In Germany, the Jews were taken out of their residences, moved to distant far away locations, and killed there, almost anonymously. In Rwanda, the government did not kill. It prepared the population, enraged it and enticed it. Your neighbors killed you." And then he added, "In Germany, if the population participated in the killing, it was not directly but indirectly. If the neighbor's son killed, it is because he joined the army."
Otherwise it is believed that in normal situation it could take us more than 300 years to administer justice to all. These courts are so locally organized that sometimes they are criticized by human right groups and the so called experts from the West. Unfortunately there is fewer or no alternative to it.
You can also watch the latest film on Rwandan Genocide, "Shooting Dogs". Somehow this film tries to show a big percentage of what happened here. Unlike the much famous "Hotel Rwanda" you can visit the location where this Film was staged, which happened to be the exact location of the Film. Like the book you said (By Colin W.), this Film is must see one. Please watch it before your journey. I would like also to give you a copy of this Film as a gift if I happen to meet you here in Kigali, but hope you watch it.
H.E and his Government sometimes make very difficult and bold decisions for the sake of reconciliation, and these are helped by Gacaca courts. I am going to give you a strange example. Back in 1997-8, we had an insecurity problem. A remnant of Genocide forces were still very strong in Congo jungle, and were used to crossing back into Rwanda and continue with their genocide, killing innocent people using the same ideology. When engaged they were always retreating back but after killing some soft target. One day in KIBUYE province these forces entered and attacked a secondary school. They were so many that a group of Kagame soldiers who were guarding the area could not fight them so they ran away, leaving the killers to do what they wanted. They entered the school and ordered the kids to separate into Tutsis and Hutus, but the kids refused. They were butchered there and then, although some survived. Those who were killed are honored every year on heroe's day (INYANGE Children).
The killers were lead by a much known Interahamwe who promoted himself to the rank of Major and was nicknamed Major Ninja throughout his deadly attacks. He was known mainly for such atrocities. But one day the guy, after being cornered in the battle field, surrendered. He confessed all his atrocities which we all knew, of course. In the spirit of the so called reconciliation, he was forgiven and his rank was confirmed by the Government.
Unfortunately that young soldier who was guarding the other school I mentioned, the one who ran away because the attackers were outnumbering his small section by a bigger number, was court martialed and is serving a life imprisonment, while Ninja is free and enjoying. Can you understand this?
All in all Kagame is so much loved by ordinary Rwandans I can't have enough words to describe it. He has a vision for his people, that if we are Lucky and he continues to be around for more 10+ years, you will hear Rwanda among the well-to-do countries.
I live in Kigali, and I just completed my studies at KIST. This is among the new University I mentioned earlier. Before 1994 this compound was a military academy and attached to it was a Barracks. In Romeo's "Shake hands with the Devil", it is the place where Bagosora moved his offices to conduct the Genocide. It is a place where the 10 Belgian soldiers were brought and killed. Kagame has turned it into a very respectable University, KIST and KHI (Kigali Institute of Science & Technology and Kigali Health Institute). You are welcome to pay a visit and see for your self, just opposite these institutions there is a new Five star Hotel (Intercontinental Kigali). In all places around Kigali buildings are emerging with vengeance. Kigali is changing very fast. And we have to thank him for this.
Again welcome to Rwanda. I hope to meet you here face to face. By the way, many people from Rwanda who follow your web site seems to want to meet you. I don't know if we can make it together. It could be really wonderful. I will hear from others. I am sorry if what I wrote is too long and hope I don't offend someone.
Muraho! Yezu akuzwe!
Thank you very much for your warm welcome to Rwanda and for your fascinating description of life in present day Rwanda, and how it has changed so miraculously in the past 12 years, due in large part to the vision of Paul Kagame.
I would have liked to have received your email before I left for Rwanda because then perhaps we could have arranged to meet, but instead it arrived the day after I got home which, in a way, was a nice time to receive it, as it summed up so well my own feelings about Rwanda and its people, and it made me feel welcome even after I'd gone.
I will be writing about my experiences in Rwanda and the story and pictures will appear on Orwell Today in early August - once all the red Rwandan dust has settled and I've sorted out my thoughts and the photos and all the memorabilia I brought home with me.
I'm happy to say that I accomplished much of what you recommended I do, although there is still some left undone. I guess I'll just have to go back to Rwanda some day!
Since I got back I've tried to see the movie "Shooting Dogs" but it hasn't been released yet in North America, just Great Britain. While I was in Rwanda I read the book by Linda Melvern entitled A PEOPLE BETRAYED: THE ROLE OF THE WEST IN RWANDA'S GENOCIDE (which I bought at the Kigali Genocide Memorial which we visited on Sunday, the day after we arrived). The book had excellent maps of different aspects of the civil war and the genocide and their locations in Kigali and the rest of Rwanda, and so I took the book with me wherever we went.
In reply to your question about the young Rwandan Patriotic Army soldier who left his post at the school in Kibuye because he was outnumbered and is now court-martialed and in prison while the Interahamwe leader named Major Ninja is free after confessing to genocidal atrocities, all I can say is that I don't understand it either and wish that his case could be re-evaluated and he be freed.
Once again, thank you very, very much for your warm welcome to Rwanda.
Muraho namwe! Iteka ryose!
RWANDA'S GOOD MAN KAGAME and HOW KAGAME BECAME LEADER and KAGAME'S ARMY RWANDA'S HEROES
Reader sends a link to where people can buy Rwandan coffee in Boston
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