Muraho! That is Kinyarwandan for hello. I had a few days in Kigali, which was actually really nice. It was my first trip to Rwanda, and I was not sure what to expect. But Kigali was pleasant, and the people I met were so friendly. Rwanda is in central and east Africa, with mountains and savannah, and they grow really wonderful coffee and tea. Both of which I brought back, of course.
Kigali is hilly, and very green. The airport is new and very easy to navigate, lots of security. Colleagues mentioned that Kigali is hosting a lot of meetings, as Rwanda is stable and relatively safe compared to Nairobi, for example. Interestingly, plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda, so I’d been warned not to bring any in my luggage. When shopping for groceries, the shops gave me paper bags – a welcome change from the many plastic bags we get in Accra. In Accra, I bring cloth bags for groceries, which some supermarkets do not particularly like, but they have gotten used to eccentrics who insist on that. 😉
So clean! No chickens in the street! Accra has lots of chickens and goats. My Rwandan colleagues said, bemused “But here that is forbidden, chickens in the middle of the city? Do the police not do something about it?” No, I said, I do not think the chickens are there illegally, and the police have bigger problems to deal with than chickens.
I was in Kigali the last Saturday of the month, which is the day for Umuganda, mandatory community work. Really interesting.
“Modern day Umuganda can be described as community work. On the last Saturday of each month, communities come together to do a variety of public works. This often includes infrastructure development and environmental protection. Rwandans between 18 and 65 are obliged to participate in Umuganda. Expatriates living in Rwanda are encouraged to take part. Today close to 80% of Rwandans take part in monthly community work. Successful projects include the building of schools, medical centres and hydro electric plants as well as rehabilitating wetlands and creating highly productive agricultural plots. The value of Umuganda to the country’s development since 2007 has been estimated at more than US $60 million.” (From http://www.rwandapedia.rw/explore/umuganda)
They even have a municipal bus service! And lots of taxis and motorbike taxis, easy to get around. Gender equality is enshrined in the Rwandan constitution, and Rwanda was the first country in the world to have more than 50% female members of Parliament.
One day I managed to get away long enough to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial. I’f recently read A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali which is set during the 1994 genocide. The book is depressing, but so well written. From Wikipedia: “The Rwandan genocide, also known as the genocide against the Tutsi, was a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority government. An estimated more than 800,000 Rwandans were killed during the 100-day period from April 7 to mid-July 1994, constituting as many as 70% of the Tutsi and 20% of Rwanda’s total population.”
The Kigali Genocide Memorial is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. 1994 was not that long ago. Amazing to see Kigali today.