Greetings from Hotel Rwanda

by Roger Alford

I’m here in Kigali for the next couple of weeks staying at the “Hotel Rwanda” aka Hotel des Milles Collines. It’s a surreal experience sitting here overlooking the swimming pool of this four-star hotel where fifteen years ago manager Paul Rusesabagina sheltered 1,268 Tutsis from the Rwandan genocide.

I spent much of the day yesterday at the Rwanda Genocide Memorial Centre, which is an impressive memorial to the Rwandan genocide. It is by far the smallest and most unimposing genocide museum I have seen, particularly when compared to Yad Vashem. The interior essentially presents a history lesson without evoking the emotions that I found so pervasive at the holocaust museums in Washington and Jerusalem. The gardens, however, are another matter. It was difficult to fathom walking through the beautiful memorial garden knowing that the remains of 250,000 victims were below my feet. A quarter of a million genocide victims under my feet! It was almost impossible to accept that number as even possible.

Overall, however, my initial impression of my stay in Rwanda is a sense of hope. Having spent hours talking with various Rwandans the past few days, my strongest impression is how quickly the country has come to grips with the genocide. They are moving as fast as they can to put it behind them, and there is no attempt to whitewash or hide from the past. The Preamble to the 2003 Rwandan Constitution aptly summarizes the honest and forthright direction the country is headed:

We, the People of Rwanda,

1° In the wake of the genocide that was organised and supervised by unworthy leaders and other perpetrators and that decimated more than a million sons and daughters of Rwanda;

2° Resolved to fight the ideology of genocide and all its manifestations and to eradicate ethnic, regional and any other form of divisions;

3° Determined to fight dictatorship by putting in place democratic institutions and leaders freely elected by ourselves;

4° Emphasizing the necessity to strengthen and promote national unity and reconciliation which were seriously shaken by the genocide and its consequences;

5° Conscious that peace and unity of Rwandans constitute the essential basis for national economic development and social progress;

6° Resolved to build a State governed by the rule of law, based on respect for fundamental human rights, pluralistic democracy, equitable power sharing, tolerance and resolution of issues through dialogue;…

9° Reaffirming our adherence to the principles of human rights enshrined in the United Nations Charter of 26 June 1945, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the crime of Genocide of 9 December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 21 December 1965, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights of 19 December 1966, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 19 December 1966, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women of 1 May 1980, the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights of 27 June 1981 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 20 November 1989 ;…

Now hereby adopt, by referendum, this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic of Rwanda….

More to come later this week.

One Response

  1. Powerful.  It is so interesting to me the way different cultures deal with tragedies of this magnitude.  I’m glad the people of Rwanda seem to eager to put the past behind them and are looking forward.

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