Rwanda: Scarstruck

When Travelstart posed the question:  “Which African Country do you secretly want to explore?” (you can complete this quiz as well – click here:  http://www.travelstart.co.za/blog/africa-quiz), Noble Savage was inspired to dig a little deeper.

Noble Savage (he said): 

1994 was a year of extremes for the African continent. In our southernmost country, the first democratic election gave a nation hope for a new future. A new generation of born-frees will rise through the system, to make sure the injustices of the past will not be repeated. A new start, and a new hope.

But in the East of the continent, something completely different, and much more sinister was taking place. The civil war in Rwanda saw one of the most vicious genocides in modern history play itself out. More than 800 000 people were violently butchered in the span of just 100 days. The rest of the world went quiet, dooming the victims to horrifying and violent deaths. It would take years for the true humanitarian effort to restore some semblance of normality for the affected refugees. Not to mention that previous enemies were now living side-by-side.

Photo Credit: Rwanda Tourism Flickr

So why introduce a country I would love to visit in such a negative way? I think it all follows the old adage that those who forget their history, are doomed to repeat it.There are very clear parallels between Rwanda and South Africa; mainly the result of the baggage of colonialism and minority rule. By most accounts Rwanda is trying to heal itself of this trauma, but it will obviously not happen overnight. But I would like to see how far the nation has come.

Photo credit: Rwanda Tourism Flickr

Widely seen as the cleanest city in Africa, Kigali would be my first stop. Every last Saturday of the month, residents voluntarily participate in Umuganda, where they come together to achieve some common purpose. Most commonly, they clean litter from the streets (sound familiar?). Photos I’ve seen of the city shows a modern metropolis, even if the weather might not be my cup of tea.

Photo Credit: Francisco Anzola Flickr

One of the most famous attractions in Kigali is the Kigali Genocide Memorial. With three permanent exhibitions, and a wall of names, this centre is sure to bring the true cost of war straight home. The memorial teaches on the causes of the genocide, as well as how to avoid such tragedies in future. 

Eco tourism is one of Rwanda’s biggest money spinners. With rapid growth in the metro areas, mostly refugees returning home, it’s a breath of fresh air (pun intended) to find out the country will not endanger their environmental treasures for the sake of rapid economic growth. With many parks that can be visited, Rwanda seems like the ideal place for a South African to experience a different wildlife encounter. Made famous by Gorillas in the Mist, a rendezvous with Rwanda’s famous primates would surely be a highlight.

Photo Credit: Rwanda Tourism Flickr
Photo Credit: Rwanda Tourism Flickr

I’m pretty sure that Rwanda doesn’t pop up as a dream destination very often. And it’s probably due to that horrific event in 1994. The scars will still be there for a long time, but there’s a lesson to learn. As one author notes, instead of finding speed signs, you’ll find signs to remind Rwandans to stand together. Which is probably a lesson that South Africans need a refresher on.   

 

Photo Credit: Rwanda Tourism Flickr

 

Header Photo Credit:  Andy (Hammerhead27) Flickr 

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