Once, a while back now, I scrounged on a study tour to Rwanda. It included trips to Rwanda’s Ministry of Defence, the genocide memorials and even Rwanda’s Liberation Day celebrations in Kigali Stadium. We got invitation cards from Kagame, like those ones you get for a Harambee, inviting us to the celebration and also a drinks reception at the state house that evening. We did go for the celebrations at Kigali Stadium, but voted to ditch the reception in favor of a club with women of tight waists and loser morals. (just kidding :D)
Driving through Uganda, our bus stopped for the usual distractions, ie barabara Kenchic just into the the border of UG. I don’t know about you, but I have never seen a chicken that big. I long-ago concluded that it’s crane-meat, their national bird. But then again, the chicks in UG don’t come small around the thighs. ( I know someone is frowning at all these references, it’s part of the reason I didn’t tell you about the blog, haha)
Into Kampala traffic, and into Wandegeya, the 24-hour student street apparently.
We were spending the night in College Hotel or College Inn, I don’t remember the exact name. All I remember is that someone’s toilet had a MASSIVE floater going on, it was phenomenal. I/We had to fish it out with a paper bag for gloves. (interesting the things I volunteer for, because last year I just remembered I had to fish out a dame’s phone from a public toilet in the middle of nowhere…shitty experience…and then there was another time I had to work with pigs, it also involved stinky fingers…anyway…)
So yes, Wandegeya for the night, and UG’s club scene is indeed 24/7/365. It was a Monday but the clubs were full, and we were the only under-dressed Kenyans there. I remember this one club, that had 3 really hot girls I assumed (imagined?) were dying for some Kenyan company. Basically, at some point, rather than endure my small-talk and shabby ways (t-shirt and trackpants against Dr.Mitch’s brothers all dolled up like Lucy Kibaki) they switched language. It was one of those moments you shuffle away like you have better things to do on the dancefloor. Btw, Bell is the worst beer in the world.
I got over my heartache and eventually ended up in Rwanda, which was a lot hotter – in temperature and eh, landscape… you guy.
But onto more serious things, you probably know about the genocide that happened there in 1994 – not a long time ago considering 800,000 people were killed (officially), but the numbers, we heard were probably reaching towards 1.2 million. Like I said, we went to a lot of genocide memorials, and throughout our 9/10 days there, it was very clear that they considered and labelled the genocide a Tutsi genocide thought they also recognize the moderate Hutus that died defending their fellow countrymen. In retrospect, what struck me most about what happened in Rwanda (especially when compared Kenya’s Post Election Violence) was the fact that the violence happened even in universities. This evil had gone beyond social class, imagine your lecturer or fellow student turning on you in your dorm or class..
Kagame, fought back rebel style, leading the RPF- Rwandan Patriotic Front. He eventually became the president, and still is the president right now. Off course this isn’t the whole story, and the situation there was much more complicated than Kenya’s PEV, and there were numerous other people and countries involved including Museveni who was backing Kagame’s rebels. He seems well loved in Rwanda to this day, because at the Liberation Day we got to attend, the crowd literally erupted in cheers when he came into the stadium.
We also made a trip to their parliament, which was super-modern, beating Kenya’s in looks, investment and most importantly, probably effectiveness as well. They were already electronically voting on decisions back then, and each seat had a mic. The young parliamentarians we met/saw were seemingly quite modest with their RAV 4’s, tax-paying habits and praise for Kenya.
It was a really interesting trip, quite romantic in the sense that Rwanda was a country with so much hope and positivity, you couldn’t help but get caught up in it. So much beauty too, so many resources, and such a seemingly strong sense of fellowship that we felt in some of the bundus we visited. Bundus we got to after long slow drives into the sunset (there was a speed limit of 60kph or something ridiculous), up winding hills that overlooked major construction projects in the valleys below from collaborations of the government and a lot of foreign investment. Off course hospitality, too much food and Mutzig (their 1 litre beer) had a part to play in how romanced we felt during our time there.
Naturally it seems, since then I’m always pretty interested to hear/find out what’s going on in Rwanda. Things that stood out include the 1-laptop per child policy. Basically all school kids get a laptop as a government initiative- though it’s a partnership with an NGO that already exists. France finally admitting (but not really) their role in the genocide, it all seems like sunny days to me.
But Kagame has also been often accused of dictatorship tendencies. There was this interview with Fareed Zakaria of CNN (who was since fired for other reasons).
I remember watching that interview, and the one thing I thought Kagame brought out strongly, was that coming from where Rwanda had come from when he took power, there was no room for democracy- I agree with that philosophy. Singapore and Kenya were on the same level in the mid 70’s. The founder of modern Singapore-kicking-Kenya’s-ass- Lee Kuan Yew’s thoughts on democracy are that first you need to sort out your basic issues like getting rid of malaria before you talk about the lofty idea of democracy…and that to me makes a lot of sense.
But still, there have been uncomfortable stories, like the one about the Rwandan army chief who fell out with Kagame accusing him evils including corruption and then exiled himself to South Africa. He was shot while in South Africa and his family accused the Kagame administration of an assassination attempt; the Rwandese government in turn claim to have linked him with terrorist activity in Kigali. Terror here being possible links with the FDLR- the guys who started the genocide back in 1994, who though were defeated (hence the genocide ended) are just hanging about allegedly waiting to strike again, from nearby DRCongo. It’s not a crystal clear situation, a lot seems to be going on behind the scenes.
But I suppose the most nagging thing for me is Victoire Ingabire . Victoire was set to run against Kagame for president back in 2010, she didn’t cause she was placed under house arrest in the run-up, and has since been investigated and interrogated over links with the FDLR. She’s also been accused of belittling the genocide that happened, because she asked for the Hutus that were killed at the time to also be officially remembered. It is a fact that so-called ‘moderate Hutus’ were also killed in the genocide, so considering in the same speech she was reportedly asking for reconciliation and justice for the Tutsi that suffered, I think there’s clearly more at play.
Last year, Victoire was arrested and sentenced to 8 years in prison on suspicion of “threatening national security and public order” and of “buying and distributing arms and ammunitions” to the FDLR.
I don’t know what’s true and what’s not, but all this sounds unpleasantly familiar.