Photography by Ron Henggeler – San Francisco – California

“A true friend is one who walks in, just when everyone else is leaving, and stays on through the rainy stills, until the sun starts to shine again, and through it.”

It is not called a land of many hills for nothing.  Its eerily sinister quietness echoes loudly through the hills.  The sleepy nature measured by a lull that seems benign.  And it is made worse by its past.  A dark past blotted with bloodied innocence, bordering on a defiled virginity left to fester.  This is Rwanda, a country no doubt made famous by a genocide that wiped out a generation and left another generation forever in shackles.

Being taken around the Kigali Memorial Centre, one cannot be left with any sense of hope to return to what were tranquil waters before the ethnic Hutu and Tutsi became the world’s worst reminders of ignorance.  The Centre is built on a site where over 250,000 people are buried.

The Rwandan Genocide occurred in 1994 when an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 people, or as much as 20 percent of the country’s total population in this small East African nation, were killed over the course of approximately 100 days from the assassination of President Juvénal Habyarimana on April 6 through mid-July.

It was the culmination of longstanding ethnic competition and tensions between the minority Tutsi, who had controlled power for centuries, and the majority Hutu peoples, who had come to power in the rebellion of 1959 – 1962 and had overthrown the Tutsi monarchy.

Finally, there came along a diminutive man who combined forces with Ugandan soldiers and took over the reigns of the country.  President Paul Kagame, feted by the West, took Rwanda to echelons of success unrivalled in the region over such a short time.  It is a miracle Rwanda now stands on the brink of being the Silicon Valley of East and Central Africa.

Under Kagame’s watch, momentum toward prosperity has picked up at double speed and with the right friends.  No one can imagine that less than a couple of years back, so called friends, from the UN to Belgium, watched as life was turned into a pariah for selfish gains.  Yes, the UN, then under Kofi Annan, watched helplessly, as did the African Union!

Now, with Kagame in power for over a decade, momentum still seems to reign.  But African “leader syndrome” appears to have taken over, and while he insists his intentions to ensure Rwanda never goes through another genocide are noble, there are murmurs already.  Stifling of democracy (not a solid ingredient of momentum), silencing of critics, and a myriad of other leadership ills now seem to taint Kagame’s solid gains.  But he still has friends in the West, doesn’t he?  The right friends for now, but will they remain, or walk out?

One Response to “Momentum Echoed In The Land Of The Hills”

  1. Jeremy Fischer | 11.17.11 at 11:34 PM said…

    I seem to agree with this lot. what he is saying. Kagame has become a dictator. yesterday we celebrated the birthday of Victoire Ingabaire, who has been in jail close to a year, her only mistake? defying Kagame!!