Monday, July 08, 2013

The People of Rwanda

 Kigali’s streets are full of people.  We are staying in the African Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE) Guesthouse, in the east side of Kigali near the airport.  This is also where we will be conducting 3 days of workshops for the staff of AEE. We will be teaching them techniques for publicizing and promoting their work.  They do a lot of work with the youths all over Kigali.  They work with street kids, some of them orphans, teach them practical skills such as language (English and Kinyarwanda), mathematics, information technology, and, the most difficult part,  re-introduce them back into society and families.

In Kigali, AEE wishes us to help them document their work, and the stories of the people they are working with.  So we will be doing interviews, take photographs and videos.  We will also be teaching the staff to write blogs, get on Facebook, edit photos and videos, and in general, use the Internet and social media effectively. We hope we can do a job for them.

We are almost at the edge of the city. Yet when I go out for a walk on Saturday morning, the streets are filled with people. People washing up, going to work, going to school, carrying water, carrying babies, carrying babies and bags on their head, piling into minibuses, ...

I was standing at a street corner watching a lady taking 4 kids to church, when a man struck up a conversation with me in halting but fairly understandable English. I couldn’t tell his age but he said he was 60.  He didn’t look handicapped but he had blood-shot eyes.

He said he was a Tutsi, and was involved in the fighting.  He learned to speak English while traveling in Kenya, Uganda, and other neighbouring countries.  He has a wife and 4 children, many of whom are living abroad.  He is now living in Kigali with a second wife.  He doesn’t own a house and has to rent.  He speaks but cannot write English.  He is not educated and has no professional training, and can only work as a security guard.  When I indicated that I had to go, he started asking me for money, to help him start a business.  I had no way to find out whether what he said was true.  I did not give him money and he did not press that.

I heard that after the genocide, the identity cards no longer label the person as Tutsi, Hutu or otherwise.  People are also discouraged to identity their ethnic origin, and simply identity themselves as Rwandan. Something is lost when people avoid certain topics.  However, It is a positive step towards reconciliation and healing. 


YTSL said...

"I heard that after the genocide, the identity cards no longer label the person as Tutsi, Hutu or otherwise."

I think the move is well meaning but artificial since local people can tell someone's ethnicity by their surname...

StephenC said...

Yes, many people I met there have mentioned the identity cards, and they all think it is a good policy.

Regarding distinguishing between the two groups, I have heard conflicting opinion. Most of my Rwanda friends tell me they cannot distinguish based on the name or appearance. They think the distinction is more social rather than real ethnicity.