June 23, 2018

From Kigali

rwandaAfter the killing has ceased, and order has been restored: How do you make it right again? This is the question addressed in a new film, My Neighbor, My Killer, according to the article about it in the NYT this week.

It’s also the question that I can’t stop thinking about as I walk through the streets of Kigali.

Kigali is a peaceful contrast to the chaos of downtown Nairobi. Physically, it is stunning – green, with hills upon hills rolling across the landscape. Much like I felt recently in Sarajevo, you walk here, talk with people, watch them go about their daily lives, and find that the limitations of human imagination prevent you from being able to reconcile what you see with what you know took place here – a mere 15 years ago. And the knowledge that every Rwandan over 15 years old that you speak to either lived through the genocide, or even if they were out of the country at the time, has relatives, friends, neighbors affected by it, is overwhelming if you let yourself fixate on it. You cannot help but wonder, how is it possible that this society is even functioning at all?

I have spent the bulk of the day at the Kigali Memorial Centre.  I got a cab there this morning. My taxi driver told me he is glad the memorial exists, but it makes him sad to go there – and I wished so much that I had been asking him to take me somewhere else.

Right now I’m picking up free wi-fi at a coffee shop with a few people around my age involved in the Rwandan Initiative (a Canada – Rwanda program on journalism) – also here for the free wi-fi. I’m waiting for one of the AU force commanders to get back to me with a meeting time. The sun is going down and soon I’ll head back to the NGO compound where I’m staying (best mozzie nets I have ever encountered in a guest house) and start working through the audio material I have from the day.

To be honest, I am emotionally drained. It’s not that I heard or saw anything today that I haven’t read about or seen in films 100 times over – but it is still different being here.

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