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Kigali, the Capital of Rwanda

Crossing from Uganda to Rwanda there were huge differences that I had not known before getting there.

First off the official language (in addition to local language) was French instead of English, I went from dusty dirt roads to paved roads, it was more clean, quiet and.. a bit weird. Although Rwanda ranks 205 of 228 on the CIA World Factbook listing of BNP per capita, it seemed like it wanted to appear as it was on the top. Their airport was brand new, they had air-conditioned buses instead of cramped matatu minivans, you had to wear a helmet and it was only allowed with one passengers on a motorbike, they had led lamps to mark the line between the road and the sidewalk BUT people were still sitting on the roads selling fruits from baskets, living in simple houses and there was absolutely nowhere to find Wi-Fi in the city (I walked for hours looking!).

Kigali is famous for being the dullest capital in East Africa so I had just set myself one goal for my three day stay: to learn more about the genocide that happened here in 1994.

In short the Rwandans have the same language, culture etc but they were split by the European colonists based on their wealth; if they were herders of cattle they would be called tutsies and if they were peasant tillers of the soil they called them Hutus. This has divided the Rwandans ever since until the genocide where the Hutus received machetes, radios and other farming equipment by the ministry of agriculture who then afterwards ordered them to kill their Tutsi neighbors.

I went to three genocide memorials, two of them churches where the Tutsis had sought shelter until hutus came to tear down the walls, throw grenades, gas them, burn them alive etc. The guides demonstrated sticks which they would shove into the genitals until it reaches their heads, we were shown thousands of pieces of clothing, bones skulls etc from victims and we were shown a wall will lots of blood remains where they would slam the heads of the children, just as they did in the Killing Fields in Cambodia. The horror of what was going on these places were beyond imagination.

I also read about a unicef trauma survey which reported the following statistics about the Rwandan population in 1995:

99,9% experienced violence

79,6% experienced death in the family

69,5% witnessed someone being killed

90,6% believed they would die

The genocide affected everyone so if you ever go to Rwanda I would highly recommend visiting these donation based memorials to get awareness about the history and make sure that this will never happen again.

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Kunda Village Ministry in Gisenyi

Gisenyi is a border town with a population of about a hundred thousand. It’s a popular tourist destination for hiking and biking with great views of Lake Kivu and the Nyiragongo volcano. I had come to visit Emmanuel from the Kunda Village Ministry to stay with him a few days and distribute some clothes that I had collected when being home in Norway for a week.

Emmanuel was born during the genocide in 94 and lost both his parents when he was just two weeks old. He spent his life first living at an orphanage, then with an elderly woman and now he has managed to start his own one with support by the government and private donors.

Emmanuels ministry also supports single women who are struggling by giving them work to make clothes and handicrafts. I got to meet a sixteen year old with a two year old son where the father had escaped as he otherwise would have been charged for having sex with a minor. Others were just struggling finding work to feed their children. If you want to know more about the ministry or support them by buying their handicrafts, take a look at this page.

I know some of you will have the opinion that it is not good to go to an orphanage for the sake of distributing clothes and then leaving again as children can build trust and connection in a short time that thereafter will be taken away from them, but I will always think that if something that you don’t use does have use for others it is always better passing it on. Feel free to discuss in the comment field below.

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Cycling the Congo Nile Trail

Lake Kivu is one of the African Great Lakes and lies on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The water running from one side of the lake will eventually reach the Nile and from the other it will reach the Congo River-that is why the cycle trail going along the lake is called the Congo-Nile trail.

I had rented a mountain bike from a friend of a friend for 15$ (phone no+250783532412) and had planned to take the ferry (4$) at 6am from the start of the trail in Gisenyi to the finish in Kibuye and then cycle the 100kms back to Gisenyi where I lived, but when I got to the port I was told by a restaurant owner called Patryk, who I had gotten to know earlier that the ferry was broken. Patrik suggested that I just cycled halfway to Kinunu and back and gifted me a bag full of chapatis for the road which I shared with some kids on my first stop after an hour of cycling.

The trail was rough, sometimes just plain mountain rock that could be very slippery when wet and the twenty or so bridges along the way were simply some logs put together so it was no road for cars, but mainly for walking which so many lokals were doing there. The landscape along the way was very beautiful, almost like small fjords in the lake with lots of islands and green vegetation.

I reached Kinunu after five hours of cycling, only stopping once for my chapati breakfast and once for buying water. Once there I was met by some drunk kids who must have been 12 years old and wanted me to drink groundnut beer with them. I joined them for one drink in a bar where people were completely wasted, having been drinking since the church ceremony in the morning. The only food that it was possible to get in Kinunu was potato chips and beans so I had a plate and was soon on my way back to Gisenyi again.

Along the way back I met lots of children who were riding home made wooden bikes which was fascinating. I also came across a village where around a hundred people where jumping up and down to hallelujah music in the rain. I almost wanted to join them.

Finally reaching Gisenyi around 5pm. After almost ten hours of cycling the 120kms or so, my body was beaten and my clothes were drenched from rain and sweat. I went back to the hot springs, put my dirty clothes in the boiling hot water to wash and grabbed a warm normal beer and a muddy local banana beer before I sank in and completely melted into the pool. Mission completed.