When we think of Rwanda, the first thing that we will think about is either, The Genocide and Terror, or Poverty and repression.
Very few are those who are able to dismiss this images and see Rwanda for what it is now; The safest country in Central Africa. A place of repentance, redemption and peace, in which the people will greet you with a down-to-earth modesty that will make you believe again in the power of forgiveness.
Before the Massacre of ’94, Rwanda was known as the land
of the warring tribes. Even though the country was ethnically divided between Hutu,<largely agricultural>, Tuti<cattle herders> and Twa< hunter-gatherers>, all Rwandans were living in harmony, speaking the same language< Kinyarwandan> and with no significant differences in religion and culture.
The division between the tribes started around 1860 s during the Rwaburiri dominance, who raised the Tuti tribe to an “elite/aristocracy” level, and constricted Hutu tribe< which by that time was dominant in number> to a lower social level.
Regardless of the social status, hostility between the tribes was in-existent until 1916 when after being colonized by Germans for 20 years, Rwanda succumbed to Belgian domination.
Together with the Belgian colonization, the relative harmony between Tuti and Hutu has vanished. The anthropologist launched the idea of Tutis being genetically superior to Hutu, taller and thinner, and resembling more to the European race.
This statement was the Big Bang of the atrocity!!!
Having the roots of discrimination and frustration berried deep into the culture, by 1957, following the ‘Hutu Manifesto’, sustained by the church, Violent up-spring of Hutu radicals, started a series of killings in an intent of dominating the Tuti tribe. Therefore, in 1962, with the Rwandan independence and having a Hutu extremist as a governor, the emancipation of Hutu has taken higher dimensions, same did the killings and the torture of Tuti reached thousands.
For the liberation of Tuti was created The Rwandan Patriotic Front <RPF>, which invaded Rwanda giving birth to a civil war. Every Tuti was now considered as part of RPF and became a public enemy of the Hutu dominated estate.
Media propaganda and the rumor that Tutis are planning a War for regaining the supremacy, together with the assassination of Hutu president Habyarimana, in April 1994, set the ground for the mass massacre. Within hours Hutu militia mobilized and already existent ‘Death Lists’ were fallowed starting the Tuti extermination.
The Hutu rage got as far as braying the victims alive, mutilation and rape, terror was spread all over the country, peoples were killing their own family members if those were blood-connected with Tuti, children were forced in killing their own parents and vice versa.
By the end of the 100 days of Terror, more than 1 million Tutis were tortured and killed, while Europe was a passive spectator.
By the time UN came in help, The Rwandan Patriotic Army, succeeded already to liberate Kigali of Killings.
After the Genocide
Walking down the streets of Rwanda, one can feel the quiet mourning; 20 years later, people have learned to forgive but forgetting its a near to impossible task.
No one will claim it’s tribe anymore, and the Genocide Memorial has become “the place of reunion” with the love ones. As a Tuti survivor attests, ” its now a place of peace and joy, where we can reunite with our families, we are happy for having at least berried them in a decent way”.
Rwanda has evolved into one of the most peaceful African countries, and security guards, are standing every step, as a reminder and a warning.
People have dedicated themselves mostly to agriculture and handcrafting, as the economy slowly recovered.
The first time I arrived in Rwanda I was strike by the beautiful reminder that “whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”.
Fascinated by the Tribal stories and having poor knowledge about the Genocide impact, I have tried in vain to get to see traditional dances and cultural manifestation. Soon I have realised that I was arriving into Kigali on the Commemoration period. Starting on 7 April and continuing on May, any Tribe manifestation it’s forbidden. Nyungue National Park, where I could have experienced the local culture, was now giving away just an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful nature.
A bit disappointing but knowing that the interest I now grown into, will bring me back, I direct my research towerds the new side of Kigali . A city, drawing it’s way into modernity but, preserving a down to earth attitude and respect for tradition.
Therefore, the Handcraft market” Caplaki Craft Village” was the best place to start.
My thirst for traditional and culture was rejoicing between handmade masks, paintings, jewelry, and even musical instruments; wich were paying testimony to a beautiful culture, otherwise, doomed to silence.
Everything in Rwanda it’s very cheep but it’s allways place for a good bargain. People are enjoying it and you can even have a nice talk and get to know the locals after the negotiations are over.
Taxy in Rowanda it’s whoever affords to have a car, and there should be no concern for your safety. However for a true Rwandan experience, a motorbike ride will offer you foe a quarter of the price, double the excitement.
After a city tor on foot, and a self-esteem boast from the countless compliments regarding the traditional costume I was wearing, I decided to call it a day.
None of the motorbike drivers Knew any English or the name of My hotel, and I was just about to give up on my motorbike ride when making its way trough the other bikes, someone claimed to know the way.
What maked me trust his good hearted nature was the world map helmet he was carrying. He was a dreamer, and so do I.
The peacefulness and the modesty of the place, has attracted on the past years, thousands of foreigners, receiving them regardless of their past nightmare, caused in major part by the Belgian ignorance, and maybe this is why I feel like home, in a country that faced the worst but taken the best possible out of it.
Rwanda forgave but never forgot!!!