Monday, February 12, 2007


I ran out of time in the last blog to tell about Rwanda. The day after our seminar with the members here, we went to visit the Rwandan Genocide Memorial here in Kigali. It was a beautiful, sunny day with the temperature around 28 Celsius. The road to the memorial site is under construction so we walked up a little path in the hillside to the gate. Inside the memorial are the mass graves of thousands of Rwandans murdered during the genocide. There are 4 graves, and each grave holds approximately20,000 bodies. There is still one mass grave open, since more bodies are continually discovered in and around Kigali with the need for more burials. There is a wall behind the mass graves in which they wished to place the names of the dead but so many people were murdered, entire families, neighbourhoods, communities, that it is impossible to find records of who is missing. Inside the memorial building are two floors. The basement floor tells the history of Rwanda pre-genocide, genocide, and post-genocide. It's terrible to read how peaceful Rwanda was before colonisation and the measures which were introduced to keep them under colonial rule which divided the country. The tutsi, hutu differentiations though in existence before the Belgian occupation never caused divisiveness within communities as it did during and after the Belgian occupation. It's so hard to read the events, view the photos, and listen to the documentaries which play throughout. Upstairs there is a section devoted to the children killed during the genocide, and another section which elaborates other genocides which have happened and continue to happen in other parts of the world today. After viewing all these atrocities, I couldn't help but wonder how Rwanda can recover. The genocide was not the case of mercenaries killing a population, or of soldiers killing a population. The genocide was the killing of neighbours by neighbours, of friends by friends, of family by family. There were heroes of course who risked their lives to save both tutsi and hutu, but the great majority of the country was led by evil propaganda and engaged in brutal, vicious killing of those they knew. How can a country regain its trust of each other, after killing each other?

We left the memorial site around 2pm. On the road just above us were hundreds of small children making their way home from school. They were so friendly and smiled and waved. Some were shy initially and just stared until I would smile and then their faces would light up into the most beautiful smiles. After initial eye contact, a number of them would then walk backwards for the next few paces to continue to smile and wave. I was so grateful to the children. Here of course was hope for Rwanda. These children were all so beautiful, so joyous, so friendly. Here was how Rwanda could rebuild, and also why Rwanda had to rebuild. After hours of reading and looking at tragedy, I was unable to smile until the children reached out to me. One little girl came and walked beside me with a number of her friends, and she just smiled and smiled. Then she reached out her hand and took my hand in hers. We continued walking along this way, since she spoke Kinyarwanda and French, and I speak English. Finally we managed to communicate somewhat, her name is Joseline. After her gesture of friendliness, I glanced around and was delighted to see that we'd become a troupe. Around me were a group of probably 15 children, all waving and smiling whenever I looked at them, and when I looked ahead they were happy to just walk along with me on the path in the sunlight. I wanted to reach out to these children in some way and repay them for the happiness they had given to me. I stopped and plucked a blade of grass and showed them how to whistle through it. They were so thrilled and astonished that I could use their grass to whistle. A number of older boys had also joined my troupe temporarily, and one of them was more adventurous than the others. He quickly figured out how to whistle through grass. I tried to teach Joseline, I molded her fingers along the blade of grass and showed her where to blow through it. She tried and succeeded in making a large blowing noise, so we all laughed. We arrived together to the end of the path, and I was so sad to climb into our car to leave. The children each came up to me to shake my hand and a couple of them hugged me. As we drove away, they ran alongide the car for as far as they could keep up, smiling and waving. One little boy ran behind the car for a number of minutes till we reached the main road, and then he just stood and waved and smiled till we were out of sight.

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