Rwanda: The Special One
Rwanda is a country of many contradictions. Often referred to as “the land of a thousand hills”, a paradise on earth best known for its lush forests, incredible natural diversity and temperate climate that is ideal for tea growers. However, we all know Rwanda became known for something else in 1994. The genocide that killed more than 800,000 of our people in the span of 100 days. Despite all the talk of forgiveness in Rwanda, situations like this are certainly not easy. Because of our unfortunate history, I sometimes feel that a lot is lost of the magic and beauty of this place and of its people. A people who are still struggling to make ends meet but forging a path of reconciliation, social and economic recovery. “Recovery is a journey, and people are at different points along that road” – said one citizen. Through the Gacaca courts that were revived to process the millions of criminal cases that arose following the earlier mentioned genocide – most adults were seen to engage with the public reconciliation processes. Similar programmes were held for the youth through NGO’s working with government institutions. The Gacaca courts officially closed in 2012.* While they were on going, many people found it very difficult as you can imagine, but still, there is a high hope for a much brighter future.
When you think of what Rwanda has gone through and looking at where it is now, you can hardly believe it. Almost twenty four years after the genocide, tourism in particular is rapidly increasing.* The country has embraced its high-end tourism model of development that continues to lure visitors and investors alike. One of the many attractions you can see can see while in Rwanda is the Virunga mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) which are reported to be found in the conservation areas of Parc National des Volcans (Volcanoes National Park). According to Volcano National Park Rwanda , a lot of planning in advance is advised in order to book yourself a spot. An encounter with the gorillas will definitely be mindblowing but it will cost you a small fortune. A single permit costs $1500. I know! Undoubtedly, Rwanda’s decision to pursue a high-end form of tourism instead of the mass one that is practiced in Kenya for example, was because it realised that it was more suitable for the country, but most especially for the engendered species of mountain gorillas, whose numbers continue to grow as a result of this. And if gorrilaa trekking is not for you, then perhaps you can try the cheaper but worthwhile canopy walks in Nyungwe forest, the buzzing capital city of Kigali streets and shops or canoeing on lake Kivu, to mention but a few.
An added bonus to the trip, is Rwanda’s growing reputation in leadership and its safest destination rank that it obtained from the 2015 Gallup Global Law and Order Report. Rwanda’s image to the world is certainly on the up and will continue to look good. Maintaining this image while marketing brand Rwanda (brand Rwanda is its people) is the key marketing tool that Rwanda has for itself. As a people, we have lived through things that are unimaginable. We have seen the worst that human beings can be, but we are determined to replace that with the best.
How do we do that? By acknowledging that Rwanda is far from perfect. By being honest with ourselves and accepting that criticism done in a healthy manner is beneficial to us. Healthy criticism flags up the weakest points of any ‘project’, which then helps you make improvements on the areas that are not being addressed.
Will you visit Rwanda? Before you answer that. Ask yourself this; when was the last time you visited a place that touched your soul? That place is Rwanda. My motherland.
Don’t forget to also look out for some of these things while you are there;
A thousand hills: It’s not known as the ‘land of thousand hills’ for nothing. I actually think there are more because everywhere you walk or drive to, always feels like it’s up or down hill. Might be tiring but adds to the beauty of the place. Makes it very unique.
Rwanda’s male and female traditional dancers:
Ikivuguto: This sour milk might not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ but if you try it you might love it! Delicious served cold.
Ubugali (Cassava Bread): served with a variety of sources.
A woman shielding the child she’s carrying on her back from the sun with an umbrella:
Khaki and Blue Primary School uniforms:
*Revised by author.