Land Of A Thousand Hills

Volcanic mountains, dense forests and tranquil lakes show off a different side to Africa, which is Rwanda

7/5/2016 5:11:59 PM
written By : Basabi Banerjee Print

If an astrologer had predicted that we would visit Rwanda in 2016, I would have been incredulous.  However, when our son announced early this year that he planned to do an eight-week post-MBBS elective in a hospital there, the temptation to visit him proved too strong to resist; so armed with yellow fever jabs, anti-malaria pills and good quality trekking equipment, we set off for Kigali in April, filled with the excited anticipation that exploring an unknown country evokes.

Rwanda is a small landlocked country in the centre of Africa, its lush hillsides and beautiful scenery at odds with its history of unspeakably dark times just over two decades ago when around a million people, mostly Tutsis, were brutally massacred in a genocide that was the culmination of a tragic civil war.  Hotel de Milles Collines, called Hotel Rwanda in the famous movie of the same name, was a short walk from Kigali Serena where we were staying. The water in its swimming pool was used to slake the thirst of hundreds of people who sought refuge there during the hellish three months in 1994 when the dreaded Interahamwe militia went on the rampage, slaughtering people mercilessly, most of them with primitive machetes.

Today, the determined pursuit of peaceful co-existence is visible everywhere, whether in the large signboards scattered around the country exhorting Rwandans to ‘remember, unite and renew’ as they fight genocide ideology, or in the media.  Press coverage of a memorial service in April to honour women and child victims of the genocide, quoted a Governor as saying, “ The ugly testimonies of hatred and massacre of the vulnerable is shocking… it must, however, give us the courage to fight any re-emergence of such evil.”  Most Rwandans will tell you with a quiet certainty that the genocide memorial should top your list of places to visit. Identity cards labelling people as Hutu or Tutsi are a thing of the past; in a country intent on moving forward, every citizen is a Rwandan.

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