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Fourteen years, nearly a generation, have passed. From America, we can only know what we read or hear how things are going from the media and others. Necessarily, such accounts are limited at best, biased at worst. So when the opportunity arrived we decided to visit and find out for ourselves. We interviewed dozens of individuals: subsistence farmers, diplomats, business people, physicians, students, cab drivers, public servants, hospital administrators, office clerks, hotel keepers, research scientists, corrections officers and housewives. Not all were employed. A common consensus emerged. "Things are better, we are healing." The Germans and Belgians were blamed for setting up the social conditions that led to disparities that eventually led to the genocide. No one blamed either Hutu or Tutsi in particular, though violence obviously came from each quarter. Overpopulation was recognized by some as a strong contributing factor.

Recovery From Genocide

Ethnic distinctions are fading in response to new personal ID cards issued by the government. A Rwandan is no longer, Hutu, Tutsi, or Twa. S/he is Rwandan, period. Discrimination survives in pockets, but in the large it too is fading. The genocide prehistory is generally well known by the populace, as is the genocide itself. Healing is enhanced by the several memorials created in the major cities.

We visited the one in Kigali. We found it to be extremely well done; nothing is hidden, machete marks on skulls among hundreds of skulls and bones are in prominent display. The Memorial is accurate in another sense: the second floor is dedicated to other genocides including the holocaust. Whether by design or natural, the very odor of death is present. Tears are a common sight among the visitors. Most visitors are Rwandans; admission is free to all. Attendance was heavy the day we visited.

The Memorial grounds are immaculate--largely comprising the original mass graves of victims. Everything is designed with taste and respect. A small bookstore is available for those who want more complete information.

No one expects a replay of those awful days in 1994. At the same time, integration, while moving forward, still has a way to go. Where you come from still matters in pockets here and there.

The government did another good thing. It built new houses for many who lost their homes and livelihood.

Optimism is in the air. A sports team (cycling) is scoring well in African competition. Coached by the first American to compete in the Tour de France, Jock Boyer, the team is working hard and hopes to compete in the London Olympics. Meanwhile, they will get a chance to ride against the best at the inaugural Tour de Rwanda.

Public Health

Great strides have been made against malaria. A clinic in Kigali devoted to malaria is now closed--no business. The keys were simple, but effective: Educating people about using mosquito netting at night, isolating malaria patients from mosquitos, periodic spraying mosquito breeding grounds, and new effective medications. Malaria incidence nationwide is now about 5% of what it was just a few years ago.

AIDS has Rwanda in its grip. But here, too, surprising progress is evident. Research is intense and effective. New antiviral drugs offer victims reasonable opportunities to enjoy longer lives than their parents. We visited one hospital with a wing devoted to AIDS patients, and were astonished at the optimism and resourcefulness of the community. All recognized that for once, the Bush Administration did the right thing. We agree.

African Union

This necessary step for the nation is less appreciated by its populace. To them, it basically means learning yet another European language, English, on top of their native tongue (Swahili or Kinyarwandan) and French. Many we talked to are already well along; some are enthusiastic; only a few are dragging their feet or complaining openly.


This is perhaps the area in greatest need. Through K12, instruction is almost entirely oral. TV is accessible to most, but the Internet is not. Children of subsistence farmers are at most disadvantage, though we talked to some whose children managed to enter college.

From the instruction side, the entire public school system must switch from French to English. Getting teachers and students up to speed is taking awhile. Private Catholic schools, still teaching in French, remain in place.

Civil / Women's Rights

Democracy seems to be gaining at the grassroots level. Local prefecture elections of oversight committees are having positive effects in places. In one instance, the oversight committee exerted its power by dismissing a corrupt local regime.

Women's Rights have expanded. Women experience less overt discrimination. Numerous women survivors of the genocide inherited their husbands' or parents' coffee or tea plantations and are managing them more efficiently than before. See Rwanda - Post Genocide Women.


At present, only a fraction of homes are electrified and fewer still have running water or sewage connections. Electrification is expected to expand threefold over the next three to five years. By western standards, those that now have electricity use it primarily for lighting, and as little as possible at that. Power and water outages occur with some frequency.

The most notable feature for the visitor is the condition of the roads. In a landlocked nation without petroleum reserves, pavement is expensive. Only major arteries are paved and most of them sport potholes at irregular intervals.

Moreover, entrepreneurship is alive and well. Energy sources being developed include Hydro power, natural gas, geothermal and wind.

Conservation and environment

This is most evident in the national park system. The two we visited were models of professionalism. Guides were very well-trained and were protective of both the wildlife and visitors. In the Volcanoes National Park, we were pleasantly surprised when our chief guide asked the silverback gorilla for permission to visit him in his jungle home. He refused at first, having some business with a female to attend to. Twenty minutes later, he gave us approval. We were rewarded handsomely when he approached and inspected us in person some five meters away. We squatted in deference, which he deemed suitable behavior. There was no retreating in any event. Memorable? To say the least!


Subsistence farmers are not feeling any effects of the global financial crisis. A few townspeople are, but not seriously. Tourism is down a bit, but is far from dead.

Micro-cap investing is booming and materially helping otherwise effective government programs. Hydropower is a priority with generators down to half a megawatt being feasible. Value-added industries could help Rwanda greatly. This one depends on expanding the educational system as appropriate. But Rwanda has a long way to go, especially in rural areas.

It will be a generation or more before all the Genocide scars drop away. Meanwhile, we applaud the progress being made by these lively and and interesting people, and wish them well.

For a comprehensive listing of references see: Wikipedia.


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