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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 11 Sep 2011

Location: Kigali, Rwanda

MapSunday night, September 11th,

Today we took the bus out to visit Franklin and his family in Nyamata. I met Costa and Franklin on my first trip in 2006 and one of the highlights of my trips is to reconnect with them and their families. Going out to Franklin’s is especially exciting this year as he and Chris have a new addition to the family, little Jordan who was born seven months ago.

We had a great day. Some of the people I’ve met in the past, including Franks’ brother Fred and his fiancé, joined us in Frank’s living room where we exchanged stories about each of our countries and people we know. Christella cooked us a wonderful lunch, as always, and Laura and the kids played with the toys we’d brought with us.

In the late afternoon, we made our way over to the Nyamata Church which is near Frank’s home and is now a memorial to all of the people who died there during the genocide. In a single day, over 10,000 people were killed here. People thought they would be safe coming here because in the Rwandan culture it is thought that no one can do anything wrong in a church.

The pews in the large sanctuary are draped with the clothing that was removed from the victims before their bones were placed in the underground crypts on shelves and in coffins. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the church, but I have posted some previously. (The sanctuary looks different in them because until a couple of years ago, the clothes were piled to the ceiling in one of the rooms.)

Our guide was a young man who told me that he was 12 years old when the genocide took place. He said what he remembers is running for his life, for days, up into the mountains to hide. After the mass killing took place, the perpetrators would hold meetings and discuss the people they’d killed from each family, speculating where the remaining family members might be so they too, could be hunted down. It’s hard to describe the feeling you have standing with someone who is telling you these experiences they’ve had.
Outside the church, in a grave of honour are the remains of a nun named Tonia Locatelli, who was a humanitarian from Italy. In 1992, two years before the genocide 680 people were killed in Nyamata and Tonia tried to alert the world as to what was happening. “We must save these people, we must protect them; it’s the government itself which is doing this.” On March 9, a soldier in a nearby tree shot her to death outside her home beside the church.
After this sombre visit to the church, we made our way back to Franklin’s to say our goodbyes, and then stopped for a cold drink while the sun went down. Our friend Jean-Claude drove us back to Kigali and took Rob out to the airport to pick up his luggage. I was envious and hoping mine would arrive soon!