We were last in Rwanda in November 2013. I am back for a few days to support a project which the family has sponsored through an NGO, SURF (the Survivors Fund): the Young Entrepreneurs Training Program (YETP).
It is the “short rains” season. Soft, low clouds sit atop the hills of Kigali. Standing on the balcony of my room at the Mille Collines hotel, on one of the city’s highest hills, feels like standing in a sea of clouds.
The weather is cool in the early morning when I go for a run. I am reminded of how eerily quiet Rwanda can be when I run past hundreds of pupils walking to school in almost complete silence. The blanket of silence which covers Kigali is only broken when a car drives past, reminding me that I can still hear.
I am struck again by the almost supernatural cleanliness of the place. Not even a cigarette butt on the streets. Rwandans are by nature disciplined and respectful of authority. When they were instructed by the government to stop discarding their garbage on the streets (as is the custom in the rest of Africa), they quickly complied, making Kigali one of the cleanest cities in the world.
It is possibly that same unquestioning sense of obedience to authority which explains how the gentle Rwandans were engulfed in the Genocide. Maybe people just picked up their pangas and slaughtered their Tutsi neighbors when ordered to do so by the Hutu extremist government in 1994.
Rwanda’s recovery in the last 20 years, the dignity with which it has worked to overcome the sequels of the Genocide make it a particularly haunting and attractive place.