We left early the next morning expecting a reasonably lengthy border crossing but as luck may have it the Rwandans and the Ugandans were having a bit of a quarrel so no trucks were crossing the border, making it quite a quick crossing. We thought after half an hour that we were free to go until a policeman came came over and insisted on checking our vehicle including opening the roof top tent which he didn’t even bother getting up and checking in the end!
The Rwandans have totally banned plastic bags in their country and that includes us having any in our vehicle, penalty being a big fine if they even find any. This is a great thing because in our first 10 kilometres of driving in Rwanda we noticed how little rubbish there was.
The other thing that made us very happy was the quality of their roads which were wide well maintained tar roads with excellent drainage on both sides. There are very few vehicles on the roads and even fewer trucks so the roads stand a better chance of being in good condition longer. These roads would be a blast on a road motorcycle so good was the surface and so many were the corners. There is however a massive number of bicycles on the road as they are the main source of transport in the country, carrying people, loads of bananas, milk churns, wood, beds, steel work and in fact anything you can imagine.
Our first stop was for coffee only 20 odd kilometres in and within minutes we had six young children with sacks of fodder on their heads come up and just watch us, communication was difficult because they new very little English but we managed to get some good laughs out of them.
We arrived in the Rwandan capital of Kigali at around noon so decided to go straight to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre but for some reason they were not opening that day until 2pm and closing at 4pm. The Lonely Planet guide recommends at least four hours so we decided to come back the next day and instead go and do some shopping and find somewhere to stay. There are no campsites in Kigali so we found a hotel that was recommended on iOverlander called the New Impala but after staying there one night found it terrible, with no water in the bathroom, and a one hour 45 minute wait for a meal that we ended up cancelling. That’s Africa baby! In the afternoon we went shopping to find amongst other things some more soccer balls and found six so bought the lot. We had walked some considerable distance from the car to find the soccer balls and right when we were to head back to the car the torrential afternoon thunderstorm decided to hit. The water in the gutters was a foot deep and we got quite wet getting back to the car, running in and out of the shop awnings to get back.
The next morning we set off back to the Genocide Memorial Centre and spent four and a half hours going through what is the most confronting, shocking, sad, gut wrenching and unbelievable places I have ever been into. The main part of the memorial is underground and in a circular pattern and as work your way around it starts with how it all lead up to the Genocide, then about the genocide, the aftermath and finally the future of Rwanda. Upstairs there is another gallery detailing other genocides that have occurred around the World and you just wonder how any of these could have occurred. The Rwandan genocide occurred between April and mid July of 1994 and was directed by the Hutu majority government against the Tutsi people. It is estimated that in the 100 day period over one million Tutsi and Hutus who sympathised with the Tutsi were murdered, mostly by weapons like the machete. I remember it happening quite clearly and remember being appalled that the rest of the world turned a blind eye to what was happening rather than sending peace keeping troops in to stop the slaughter. The UN basically failed Rwanda in deplorable ways, they ignored evidence that a genocide was being planned, refused to act once it was under way and finally abandoned the Rwandan people once it was under way. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has revealed that one of his greatest regrets was the fact he was not able to prevent the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, in which more than a million people were killed. It is said that fewer than 5,000 troops could have prevented most of the killings. Most of the killings were carried out by civilian Hutus who even turned on their own friends and neighbours. One can only hope that something like this will never occur again anywhere else in the world.
May an event like this never happen ever again anywhere in the world.