Rwanda. Have you heard of this country before? Well, I am from there, and I would like to tell you a story. By Faces2Harts

I have been travelling for quite some time now, and, of course every day I get a chance to meet new people. Whenever I am asked where I am from and I reply Rwanda, here is what their next sentence is, well, most of the time. “Oh you are from Rwanda? I have seen Hotel Rwanda”
Hotel Rwanda might be the only thing you know about Rwanda too, or you might know more about the country. I am not here to tell you about a simple movie that people have written and acted out, but a true story.
Rwanda is a small country, situated in Central/Eastern Africa, and its capital is Kigali. Before the colonisation, the mass population was made of different clans like Abanyiginya, Abasinga, Abatsobe…But besides that, were social-economic classes, which were Tutsis ( farmers who were “rich”), Hutus (who were land workers) and Twa (who basically were indigenous people and a minority). One could easily switch from being a Hutu to being a Tutsi, simply because they have gained wealth. But when Belgian colonials came, they turned Hutu and Tutsis into ethnic groups and they found it easier to enforce Tutsi superiority because they were wealthier, more influential (a sort dīvide et imperā). When Belgium granted Rwanda their independence in 1962, the Hutus took over, and in very chaotic conflicts, Tutsis were killed, and thousands were chased from the country.
Division thus started, and governments that followed, which were Hutu-led, kept teaching to Hutu that their Tutsi neighbours are not worth to be called Rwandans, that they are meant to be exterminated. Years passed by, and Tutsi kept on being harassed and in some cases killed, and at the same time, a Genocide was being planned. Militia, supposed to carry out the Genocide were being trained by the government, and everything put in place for a final Genocide that would exterminate all the Tutsi. On 6th April 1994, the president’s plane was shot as it was landing, and from that moment, the Genocide against the Tutsi started.

                                              Machetes were the main weapons used by the militia to exterminate Tutsi

Between April and July 1994, a million of Tutsi lives perished in that tragedy. They were killed in their own homes, up the hills, and even those who tried to seek refuge in churches were found there, mutilated and killed. Their houses were burnt, women and girls were raped, and the country in whole was completely destroyed.

                         In Nyamata church (now a genocide memorial), clothes of Tutsi killed in the church still lie on benches

                             In a 100 days that the Genocide against the Tutsi lasted for, more than 1,000,000 lives were lost

3 months later, the Genocide was stopped finally by the Front Patriotique Rwandaise (FPR) Army made mainly by young Rwandans from families who had been exiled since the 1960s, and hence took a decision to liberate the country and stop killings that were going on. On July 4th 1994, FPR took control of the country, which, at that moment, was nothing, but ruins. Jails were full of criminals, hills full of hatred, and roads were filled with refugees. There was a single possible solution to overcome that: truth and forgiveness. That is when Gacaca Courts were started, criminals were brought before communities and were given a chance to confess what they did and ask for forgiveness, and survivors were encouraged to have a forgiving heart for their own healing. It was not a process that worked overnight. It took time.It is still an ongoing process, but so far the results Rwandans have achieved are unbelievable. There are associations made of those who committed the Genocide and the survivors, they are neighbours, and their children are marrying each other.

An association in Bugesera (Eastern Province of Rwanda) made of both survivors and those who committed crimes against them

The genocide was a horrific period that the country passed through. But, at the end of it, Rwanda had no choice other than starting from zero to recover from that dark past and build an exemplary country, a country where new generations are going to live happily. Hence, I say genocide served as a darkness that helped Rwanda to see light. Only 24 years after the tragedy, here are some points that Rwanda is known for today:
                                                                           1. A beautiful land of a “thousand hills”

                                                                                  2. Peace & Security

                                       Rwanda is ranked as the 9th safest country in the world, as per The Telegraph

                                    The Kigali Convention Centre, known for hosting international high profile events in Kigali

3. Gender balance and Women empowerment
                                             As a fact, Rwanda leads the world in percentage of women in national legislature

                                                                           4. Cleanest and greenest city in Africa
                                              Kigali, the capital of Rwanda is ranked the cleanest city in Africa by different reports

5. A technological hub
6. A country where plastic bags have been banned, and are history now.
7. Best and safest place to do a gorilla trek (for the sake of conservation, every year an official national day is organised for naming baby gorillas)
8. No sea, but plenty of water
9. Possibly the friendliest country you will ever be to
10. And so much more
With that said, Rwanda is no paradise, such a thing does not exist on earth anyway. There are still some struggles that the country is going through to build itself, and it is not a time for Rwandans to lay back and relax. But what is promising is the pace at which the development is moving on, and I am confident to say that I fully trust in my country’s bright near future.
I hope you now know more about my country other than just the Genocide. And one last thing: you don’t want to miss a visit to such a beautiful place, where the weather is always fresh, and mostly, a fast developing country. I am thus looking forward to welcoming you in my homeland, Rwanda.

                                                  A simple yet beautiful lifestyle marks Rwanda’s countryside regions

                     Intore dancers performing a cultural dance at a recent inauguration of a newly build cricket stadium in Kigali

In case you want to see some more stories I capture from Rwanda, let’s meet here .
Murakoze. (Thank you in Kinyarwanda)