An hour after landing at Kigali International Airport, I am flying through the night, down a wide paved road on the back of a moto. The air is cool and smoky, as the Rwandan air always seems to be, and I smile at the feeling of freedom from behind the scratched plastic visor of the well-worn helmet. I wonder if my 15-year old driver realizes that his passenger-issued helmet will fly off in a crash without a chin strap… such is life in Africa.
Dark and quiet, a bit eerie as Rwanda always feels for me. Thoughts of the genocide creep into my mind, were there bodies on this road? What atrocities did my driver experience? Estimates are 90% of all Rwandans are traumatized, 30% severely so, unable to work full time and function normally in society. All signs point to a country trying desperately to forget its past, but only 15 years ago Hutus and Tutsis were slaughtering each other. Can the people really forget?
Apparently the ex-pat community can… I arrive at my destination, the Heaven Restaurant in Kiovu. An elegantly appointed, open air restaurant on a hill overlooking a valley and the city below. Soft music and lighting, hard woods and colorful fabrics, clinking glasses, low laughter, a table of diplomats, another of Western NGO workers. Were any of them present? I look at the waiter who gives a big smile and takes my order… was he a part of the genocide? Did he take a machete to his neighbors or was he a survivor?
The rifts of the Great Lake Region run deep and wide.