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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Friday, 07 Oct 2011

Location: Kigali and home., Rwanda

MapThursday, October 6th, 2011

My last day in Rwanda!!!

Denise, Karen and I jumped on some motorbikes and headed to my favourite market for one last shopping trip. Denise helped us with the bartering and we filled our knapsacks with an assortment of gift and items for One Person fundraising. We headed back to pack up our hotel room and put my luggage in storage for the day. Karen had decided that she and Denise would move back to St Famille for the night since it’s about 1/10th the price.

I had a few hours to kill before I had to be at the airport so we thought we would go see the Belgium Memorial. It was erected in 2004 on the tenth anniversary of the Belgians' massacre on the site of their deaths.

The day after the genocide began, on April 7, 1994 a squad of the Belgian Army’s 2nd Battalion was given a mission to secure the Prime Minister of Rwanda and bring her to the radio station in the capital to make an appeal for peace. They were immediately attacked by a larger force of Hutu members of the Rwandan Army who themselves were attempting to capture the prime minister. For two hours the Belgian peacekeepers fought alone with dwindling supplies of ammunition. The Prime Minister attempted to hide in a nearby house but was found and killed by the attackers. The Belgium’s managed to save her children. When they called for support and extraction and they were advised by their commander, Romeo Dallaire that they should turn over their arms and place themselves under the Hutu custody.

The ten Belgians were disarmed and taken to the Rwandan barracks in Kigali. This is where the memorial is. There, the unarmed Belgian peacekeepers were attacked by a mob of Rwandan soldiers. It is known that four of the peacekeepers were hacked to death by machetes and bayonets before they could react. Lt. Lotin gathered his remaining men and made for a nearby barracks office where he used his pistol that he had hidden to hold off further attack. The Belgians barricaded themselves and again tried to hold out for relief that never came. After a three-hour standoff their position was rushed by the Rwandan soldiers and they were all killed. General Dallaire was given the ten mutilated and stripped bodies the next day by the Rwandan military.

I felt uncomfortable being at the memorial with Denise after what she’s been through and wondered how she felt about seeing some of the images on the wall. Later, after we left, Denise said to us that she can’t really remember watching her family being killed but she will never forgive the people for what they’ve done.

It was soon time to head for the airport. Denise and Karen came in the cab with me to say good-bye. It felt sad to be leaving without Karen; we’d spent a lot of time together in the past four weeks. As for Denise, I was hopeful that her visa would come through soon and the next time I saw her, she would be with Yves in North America!

As I sat at the airport, a storm rolled in and gale force winds began to blow. I was worried that my plane might be delayed. I looked at the clock and realized that I still had three hours until my flight was due to leave. An airport employee approached me and said that if I wanted to pay 15,000 RWF, I could go into the VIP lounge and enjoy unlimited food, drinks and internet until it was time to go. I was glad that I decided to splurge and spend the remaining few hours in there. I met an interesting man who has been working in Darfur and learned a lot about what was going on there since the creation of South Sudan. The storm eventually calmed a bit and I walked out across the tarmac in the dark, through the rain with the rest of the passengers to the waiting plane.

My trip back to Canada was long, and uneventful. I met a nice gentleman from New Zealand on the Montreal to Vancouver leg and visited with him for a few hours! I was so happy to see Beki and Aaron at the Vancouver Airport and thankful that Zoe had waited for her grandma to come home before entering the world!!!

More to come......