Nyarubuye Genocide Memorial
September 20, 2010

Outside of the capital, Kigali, Rwanda is split along geographical lines into four provinces. Each province is divided into districts which are then further sub divided into sectors.

I am living and working in Kirehe District which is in the Eastern Province.  The two schools that I will be supporting are in Nyarubuye Sector.

Nyarubuye Sector has a genocide memorial centre about forty minutes by moto-taxi from Nyakarambi. Yesterday afternoon Dorothy arranged a visit for the four new VSO volunteers plus a near neighbour, Kyle from New York State, who is placed at a nearby secondary school through the World Teach programme.     

There was another bone shaking cross-country scramble, in convoy, during which the moto carrying John developed  throttle problems grinding to a halt on one of the steep ascents and causing him to slip off the back, the first of us to bite the dust.  Fortunately it was just a matter of hurt pride.  

The Nyarubuye memorial is centred on a large red brick church and what was an adjoining convent. 51,000 genocide victims have been laid to rest in a mass graves nearby. Bodies continue to be recovered and buried, even now, 16 years on.

Although they were only 20 km or so from the safety of the Tanzanian border, rather than fleeing the country, a large number of Tutsis from this region had sought refuge in the church and the convent in the belief that it would afford them sanctuary.

Unfortunately this was not the case and 5000 of them were massacred in a single day. Our guide described in some detail the barbaric way in which victims were defiled and slaughtered. The convent now houses piles of clothes belonging to the victims, implements with which they were tortured and slaughtered and cases full of broken skulls and bones – lest anyone should forget or attempt refute what happened.

Mounted on the front of the church is a statue of Christ with arms outstretched. One of his hands is missing. There is a belief by some that it fell away because the hand of God was unable to prevent such apalling acts of genocide.

Home Sweet Home – ‘Sonia’s House’!
September 18, 2010

Given that everything operates on African time here I suppose our departure from Kigali on Wednesday, two hours later than scheduled – just after mid-day or saa sita as they say here, was not bad!

Four of us were transported to Kirehe District which is in the Eastern Province. John, from Harrogate, is a basic education methodology adviser, and Mark, from Sark, is and education management adviser. Both have district wide briefs and are here for the long haul having committed to two-year placements.

Each district is sub divided into sectors and my responsibility, in the short-term (three months), is to work with just two schools within the Nyarabuye sector.

The three of us are living in Nyakarambi, which the Bradt Guide describes as a ‘large village’ ‘definitely worth stopping at’ for travellers en route to the border with Tanzania, at Rusumo.

It is a hotch potch of shops, a few small bars and an auberge straddling a  busy main road along which passes a stream of pedestrian traffic and HGV vehicles headed to and from the border crossing.

Abdel-Illah, from Paris, also a long-term volunteer, is a basic education methodology adviser for another district and is based in a rather more isolated location about 10km down the road.

John is succeeding Dorothy, who has been in Nyakarambi for a year and will be returning home at the end of the month. John is currently sharing her house which is very close to the centre.

Mark and I are living together about a 20 minute walk from centre but very close to the district administrative office which is in effect our work base.

There had been considerable confusion about our accommodation and VSO only finalised a contract with the landlord 24 hours before we left Kigali. None of the properties here seem to have addresses but we are staying in what is known locally as Sonia’s house, after the previous volunteer who lived in it.

The problem arose because we have a ‘sitting tenant’ who has kindly agreed to vacate the main part of the property and temporarily relocate across the rear courtyard in an adjoining building. This arrangement is supposed to be for 15 days only and then we have been told we will move to another nearby property but I’m not holding my breath! Further to this, when I leave in December Mark will move in with John, in Dorothy’s house – all very convoluted!

We arrived in a downpour and Mark and I were confronted with our furniture which had been dumped by a member of the VSO logistics and furniture department in the middle of our living area. The first thing we had to do on arrival was assemble our beds!

However home sweet home is better than expected. It is a single storey, brick-built, construction with a corrugated roof set on a pleasant plot with a small lawn to the front and a courtyard to the rear. There is a reasonably sized living/dining area with a dining table and chairs, storage cupboard, four easy chairs and a coffee table.

Best of all it has electricity and running water, or did have until yesterday when the water appears to have been switched off because of local construction work. Hopefully it will be back on again some time soon but in the meantime we have to make do with water delivered in jerry cans.

MTN Dongle!
September 9, 2010

I have arrived safely in  Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills. I’m currently based in Kicukiro, a suburb of the capital city Kigali. It is about 12km from the city centre which is  30-40 minutes by mini bus taxi or matutu as they are known.

I have managed to buy a dongle which will allow me to access the internet via the national MTN mobile network. It means I won’t be dependent on using internet cafes for checking emails or posting on the outofafrica2010 blog.  

There are 19 VSO volunteers staying at the Hostel Amani where we are receiving quite intensive but enjoyable in country training.

I have been keeping a hand written daily log and hope to make a more detailed posting before next wednesday when I set off for my placement in the Kirehe district, 2-3 hours south-east of Kigali.  

Ijore ryiza namwe !