Resilient Rwanda

In 1994, cameras and reporters descended on Rwanda to show graphic images of a nation haemorrhaging from ethnic cleansing. Unfortunately, 17 years after a unilateral ceasefire was enforced, the absence of coverage on  the heroic progress of Rwanda explains why most people still think of Rwanda as a hazard zone. Determined to uncover the truth about the 21st century Rwanda, I booked a ticket, landed in Kigali International Airport and got the shock of my life.

“Madam you cannot enter Rwanda.” Reading the fear stricken look on my face, the customs officer offered an explanation. “You don’t have a visa to enter this country”. “Officer”, I replied, “I thought I could apply for a visa at the port of entry.” “No, that is not how it is done. Wait here.”  With that, the stern customs officer walked towards a senior official. I watched nervously as they conferred in a corner. African protocol I thought sardonically, all they want is money. “That will be $60.”  He said on his return. I handed him the money and waited for him to stuff the 20 dollar bills into his starched trousers. To my surprise, he placed the notes in a cash till, handed me an official receipt and stamped my passport. I was stupefied. Living in Africa, I had come to expect corruption as an integral part of doing business.  Rwanda is the exception.

The country is organized, efficient and clean. I wish I could string together the words that can fully describe the high definition beauty of blue skies and green mountains cohabiting with the cleanest streets you have ever seen. On the last Saturday of each month, all citizens, President Kagame included, spend hours cleaning their neighbourhoods. This should give you a glimpse of the level of commitment and togetherness driving the country.

The Rwandese are gentle people. The sheer warmth and kindness they exhude makes them particularly undeserving of the evil that was heaped on them in 1994. I observed that when they discussed the details of their painful past, their words surprisingly gravitate towards the liberating power of forgiveness and reconciliation. I remain in awe of the beauty of this nation. I tell you, their roads are coated with resilience, their skies painted with courage; the dignity of her people and the moral fortitude of the land is what makes Rwanda the true rising star of Africa.

Leave Comment