Rwanda: 4 days of a thousand
It may shock many, but I perceive that I have been preparing to travel to Rwanda for about ten years now. This sounds like a long time to prepare for a trip, but let’s calmly look at how this interesting fact came about. For about a decade, I have been eagerly reading literature on that country’s 1994 genocide, and watching all the relevant films, including Hotel Rwanda and Sometime in April. The latter film, apart from its gripping story line, drew my attention to Rwanda’s powerful and mesmerizing musical heritage, which I will explore very soon. Early this year I bought Shooting Dogs in Abuja, another film which is a stunning eye opener on Rwanda, and also drew my attention once more to Rwandan music. Hotel Rwanda instantly shocked me to the core, and makes me quite sober whenever I watch it. Somehow, I always want to watch Hotel Rwanda over and over. I guess this must also be due to the excellent acting and the great story captured there. But I have just bought Shaking hands with the Devil, a major award winning work on the events of 1994, as well as 100 days, a film on the same tragic event in that country. I am amazed at how faithfully I have gathered information on Rwanda, with great attention to all the tiny details too, also becoming an admirer of President Kagame in the process, and liking the country of 11 million persons and its 1,000 hills, very much. It was as though having carefully watched films, making notes and reading books, I had been unconsciously preparing for a trip to the country. Some may say that they have read these books, and watched all these films, and that, therefore, they too have been preparing for such a trip. The significant difference, however, is that I did not only prepare which was done in an unconscious manner, I actually made the trip to Rwanda after having done all the reading on the subject.
All of a sudden a few weeks ago, I felt strongly that I should go to Rwanda to do a number of stories relating to the 1994 genocide ,and I wrote a brief memo to Media Trust. After spending one night in Addis Ababa, I finally found myself looking at a number of enchanting hills just outside Kigali, around which clouds floated. They seemed to welcome you as the plane made its final descent into the Kigali airport. Rwanda is described as the land of a thousand hills, and this is a very apt description. I am fond of hills too, and I guess, in this context, I was just going home by travelling to Rwanda. Once done with the airport formalities, I now headed into Kigali and a very impressive sight confronted me. This is a capital set within some of the loveliest hills in Africa, and the capital is carefully built around these high forms. Once you are out of your hotel, you either move up or you go down. You really have no option. This is because of the undulating nature of the landscape, which gives the visitor spectacular views of the capital. You can look down at Kigali from a hilltop, or you could gaze in wonder at the capital up there from one of the many deep valleys. From a height the houses look like specks, and the entire landscape is one unfolding sequence of beauty. I always liked to stand by my hotel gate, and watch the road in front of it slope downwards, and to peer into the nearby valley, and look at the houses on the nearby hill. It is such a marvelous sight when viewed early in the morning, at noon or at twilight. This is a scene replicated all over Kigali, making it a very special capital. When I arrived Nigeria on the morning of the Nyanya bombing, I immediately went back in spirit to those valleys and hills. It was a spontaneous mental flight. This was because the first text I received upon arriving inquired “Where are you? Have you heard of the bombing?” When you gaze at the hills so described, you also shudder when you recall that these friendly hills played host to the genocide which eliminated some 1 million Rwandans in 1994 within a period of 100 days.
Two lady’s surprised me in Kigali ,and this was on account of the different questions they asked me. The first whom I met in a ministry there, suddenly asked me if I am a Rwandan, obviously seeing some similarities. I answered in the negative, and I noticed her surprise. The next lady was a staff of the hotel I resided in. After peeping at me for several days,she found strength and asked if I am the lead character in the film Hotel Rwanda, saying that the resemblance is very close. Of course, I answered in the negative. Later, I wondered if all those books and films I had earlier read or watched so intensely, had now endowed me with Rwandan type features. While in Kigali I quickly learnt to make use of the commercial motorcycles, instead of the taxis while going around the capital. If you travel just a little distance, you may be asked to pay 4,000 Rwandan Francs if you are in a taxi. On a motorcycle, you will pay 600 Francs for exactly the same distance. One thing I never liked while on the motorcycle was when we had to go up a hill, and this was slow and sometimes a bit
This neat city is set within lovely hills.