Being a city boy, it was nice for me to be back in the big smoke. I love life at the lodge but it was still great to be able to go into proper supermarkets, laden with a wide range of goods. I watched Arsenal beat Aston Villa, then headed out to explore.
In the evening I sat and ate by myself while immersing myself in my guide book. Not to find out the best nightspots, but to learn more about the harrowing recent past of this country and more specifically the genocide of 1994. I knew a bit, mainly from watching the movie Hotel Rwanda a few months earlier and reading a little about the subject matter. I now realised that the more you learn, the more horrific the story. The culpability of the colonists for propagating division along tribal lines, the lack of intervention from the international community, the sheer brutality of people brainwashed into believing a certain doctrine and the evil that can take place as a result.
I got chatting to a friendly Rwandese guy, Armand – I am unsure whether he was intrigued by the mzungu next to him or was just being friendly as I was sitting alone. Either way, I appreciated his company and was eager to learn more about what I had just read from someone who had experienced it. However, given the extremely delicate subject matter, and probably to the surprise of anyone who knows me, I felt it best on this occasion for tact to prevail.
During our conversation, I mentioned that I would have loved to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo given more time, safety concerns notwithstanding. Armand then told me about his childhood growing up there as a refugee, along with many other Rwandese who had fled their homeland. This naturally led to discussing what had happened and how well the country appeared to have moved on from the atrocities that had taken place such a relatively short time before.
The gist of what Armand told me was something I would hear repeated again and again during my time in Rwanda. You cannot, and must not, forget what happened but you have to try to forgive. Instead of being forced into division based on one’s tribe, everyone now felt Rwandese. This is, as far as I could tell after such a short visit and given my limited knowledge, to the utmost credit of the people of such a beautiful country.