This is about our past and our future;
Our nightmares and our dreams;
Our fear and our hope;
Which is why we begin where we end…
With the country we love.
After a long flight from Brussels last week, I landed safely in Kigali, Rwanda, ready to begin exploring the next continent on my journey. I was greeted by a friend named Beth Larsen who has been living and working in Kigali for the past year. Given that I also go by Beth, we have had a lot of fun confusing people over the last week.
I spent the first four days in the country exploring the capital with Beth. Kigali is so clean and organized, a shocking difference from Kampala, the nearby capital of Uganda. For example, the easiest and cheapest way to travel around the city is to hop on the back of a motorcycle, called a moto. In Uganda, these motorcycles often packed three or four passengers onto the small seat behind the driver, never had helmets to give to passengers, and were completely unregulated. In Rwanda, it is an entirely different story. Motos are allowed to carry one passenger, they must carry helmets for themselves and the passengers, and they are required to wear a numbered vest to help regulate the system. This is just one example of the differences, but there are many. All of the main roads are nicely paved, street vendors are illegal, so the streets are clean and orderly, and police officers are stationed every few hundred meters in the main parts of town.
One day, I was able to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Gisozi. It is a beautiful museum, built to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of lives that were lost during the 1994 genocide. The memorial opened in April 2004, which marked the tenth anniversary of the genocide. It was designed by the Aegis Trust, an organization that works to prevent genocide around the world.
The memorial is divided into three main exhibitions inside – history and information about the genocide, an exhibit about genocidal violence that has occurred around the world, and a memorial dedicated to the children killed during the genocide. There are also elaborate gardens surrounding the building, lining the mass graves of more than 250,000 victims. Visiting the memorial was a horrifying reminder to me about the recent history of this country, and I left even more amazed about the resilience of the people and the reconstruction that has gone on since.
The entrance to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Gisozi.
Flowers line the mass graves of more than 250,000 individuals that died during the 1994 genocide.