After we had done all our laundry over the past two days we were ready for the capital of Rwanda, Kigali. We had read a lot about Kigali before we arrived. All the books and sites were right: it’s a huge and highly developed city with big modern buildings where you can walk the streets on one of the sidewalks (unique for Africa) or eat something at one of the many fancy restaurants.
The Western and Eastern world
The Simba Supermarket with its Belgian products (Rwanda used to be a Belgian colony) was a funny experience. While you’re in the heart of Africa they offer speculaas, chocolate cookies and frozen salmon with Dutch texts on the products. After stocking up on all these nice things we drove on towards our guesthouse. There were plenty of Chinese flags along the way. We soon found out that the Chinese president was visiting Rwanda while we were there. Just like a lot of other African countries we’ve visited Rwanda also have their fair share of Chinese infrastructural and building projects. I reckon it’s a good investment by the Chinese with all the natural resources in Africa.
From Dim Sum to Haute Cuisine in Kigali
Our guesthouse The Nest was situated in a fancy part of town full of embassies. One big advantage was that there were plenty of good restaurants to be found. This resulted in having Dim Sum for lunch with a lovely view on Kigali and having dinner in a pretty little French restaurant called l’Epicurién. Smoked fish, shrimp salad, steak with bearnaise sauce, it couldn’t get better! It’s good to mention though that after spending six months in Africa your standards change a bit ;-)!
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A way more serious subject and something you simply have to visit while in Kigali is the Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum. In April 1994 Rwanda’s presidential plane was shot near Kigali Airport. The president died and this marked the beginning of the horrible genocide where Tutsis and moderate Hutus were targeted, stopped and slaughtered by extremist Hutus. Within 100 days they murdered between 800.000 and 1 million (!) people.
The Belgians introduced an identity card decades before 1994 to mark the difference between a Hutu and a Tutsi. The minority of Tutsis were ruling the monarchy supported by the Belgians. Hutus saw this as unfair and when Rwanda became independent in the sixties the Belgians quickly supported the Hutus. In the years that followed the political climate became more and more hostile towards the Tutsis and the extremist Hutus formed a militia. The above-mentioned plane crash was what started the genocide.
That same night roadblocks were initiated and everyone with a ‘Tutsi identity card’ was murdered. Neighbours killed neighbours due to the fear of being murdered themselves. Churches were targeted or they were bulldozed while there were people inside. And stadiums were surrounded and grenades were thrown in. Simply horrible.
What makes the museum even more impressive is the fact that there are more than 250.000 people buried at the site. This number increased due to the fact that every year new bodies are found throughout Rwanda. The museum also has some skulls and bones from people that cannot be identified. It’s really lugubrious but makes you think as well.
If you take all this in mind it’s even more bizarre to see how the county is developing right now. Of course it’s difficult to say something about this when you’re ‘just visiting’. But if you see the people living together and the developments the country is making I was quite amazed.