Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Les Journaux Africains: One Love Bar, Kigali, Rwanda - 20.01 03/04/2010

Another thought provoking day, as every moment in Rwanda seems to end up being. To avoid clichés about devastation, horror and disbelief is impossible. To use the word 'another' in front of 'thought provoking' seems unfair and seems to debase the point - this isn't my intention at all.
The coaster at Nymata.

We have visited two different Genocide memorial sites today. Both of these are a long stretch from the sanitised environment if the main Genocide museum, in all its government- and internationally-sponsored glory overlooking the the dust and murk of L'Avenue de la Gendarmerie. These were time capsules.

The first site that we came to was Ntarama Church, about an hour outside of Kigali. The building, upon first glance, looks intact, but it is upon closer observation that one sees the hallmarks of war; a grenade hole in the wall, missing windows, bloodstained shirts and, finally, a glimpse of row upon row of human remains.

Inside, there is a strange smell, sweeter than the musky smell of an English church. This smell, you soon realise, is the smell of death. Death on clothes, on bones, on the floor. Death in the very molecules of clay that constitute this building that has long since ceased to be holy. The students are startled. One runs from the main building, covering his eyes, shouting. There is silence.

One of my students meets some locals.
A few rumbles of thunder roll in from the distance and the wind picks up. Some raggedly dressed kids come begging The heavens open in a great act of pathetic fallacy. Its time to leave. The rain continues all the way Nymata.

In Nymata, leafs are still heavy from the rain but life is starting to return to the muddy streets as Chris, a friend of Peter's, introduces us to Charles Mugabe - suddenly the Genocide's victims have a face and voice.

With Chris' soft tones translating Charles' even softer Kinyarwandan words, we are taken around the church building. Every scratch, shrapnel scar, row of stained clothes, broken door, cut on a leg, has a strong and shocking story.

Home of a sister murdered by Interahamwe.
Charles recounts how, as the Interahamwe Genocidaires systematically toyed with and killed all of those taking refuge in this House of God, he eventually had to hide, covered in the blood of his family members and the limbs of dead strangers, playing 'dead', in order to survive. He eventually escaped, but not before 2,000 other Tutsis and moderate Hutus had died immediately around him. How did that little boy recover from that? The tours must only be a mild form of catharsis as an adult. He eventually found a grandparent to care for him.

In the darkness and back in Kigali having procured an MTN sim card, I'll call Jeannie. The night is destined to take us to the One Love Bar - a Marley-esque evening of dancing and music with a slightly tipsy guide will help to take the edge of the afternoon for all of us.

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