06.07.2009 - 07.07.2009
Rwanda is beautiful. There is no doubt about it. And whilst so far i would say that Burundi has the upper hand, Rwanda is not far behind at all, something that might come a a surprise to all those whose only knowledge of Rwanda is solely its horrific civil war fought in the early 1990's, and particularly the genocide atrocities of 1994. Paul Kagale seems to have done a very good job in rebuilding, reuniting and modernising this small country that suffered so much, and the people seem to be very positive for the future: Rwanda certainly seems very well placed. Interestingly though, Burundians that i talked to were a lot more pessimistic about Rwanda's future (expecting another civil war, probably sooner rather than later) than there own, despite the fact that their own horrific civil war – which receive significantly less attention in the west - lasted longer and ended much more recently
Kigali as a city is also quite pretty and forward thinking: I've already mentioned small touches like the plastic bag ban and the motorcycle helmet law, and the city itself feels very un-African like (eg: much of the friendly chaos is missing) and more European in a way.
Though I had spent a day here before my unexpected side trip to Burundi, I had cunningly arrived just before the 'Peace and National Unity Day' holiday, meaning everything was shut. I hadn't realised this beforehand (and the only guidebook I managed to glance at has it the following day anyway) and it was only wandering around the almost spooky deserted ghost town that Kigali, happily refreshed and ready for the world on that Saturday morning that I made this discovery. Thus it was that I hadn't been able to do either of the 2 things that I actually wanted to do it Kigali before i left. So i was glad to come back and try again. Even though i knew it would be horrific.
Sometimes you just have to do things that you really know you will not enjoy.