I visited Rwanda twice – for the first time in 2010 (16 years after the genocide) and again in 2012 (18 years after the genocide). I volunteered in Rwanda with a charity called Faith victory Association in Kigali. I worked on a gender-based violence project which involved working closely with women who wear genocide survivors. I am still in touch with many Rwandan survivors. I often get asked by readers and fellow travellers what it is like in Rwanda today.
Unfortunately, there are still a handful of people think of Rwanda, and then picture people running round with machetes. This is this power of the media. Some people fail to realise how a country can change 20 years after a civil war. I found Rwanda today to be an extremely safe and enjoyable place to travel.
Last year, we saw the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, which brought the whole nation together in mourning.
So, what is it really like in Rwanda today? How has the country changed since the horrendous genocide of 1994?
Rwanda Today – How has Rwanda progressed since the 1994 genocide?
It is now 21 years since the Rwanda genocide. Rwanda, in my opinion, is making massive progress under the rule of Paul Kagame. The infrastructure of Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, is excellent. Health centres in Kigali distribute condoms in the fight against HIV and Rwanda is one of the first African countries to provide girls with the HPV vaccination to prevent cervical cancer. Primary education is rapidly improving. Kagame’s rule has been referred to as Africa’s biggest success story.
Long Term effects of the Rwanda Genocide
However, despite these advances in such a short time, evidence of the genocide still exists under the surface. Many Rwandan survivors are suffering from undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. To say that mental health services are poor is an understatement, it’s almost non-existent. In Rwanda, most people have survived, or know a survivor, and they support each other.
There is a generation gap in Rwanda today, as many children were orphaned either during the genocide or after, due to the spread of HIV as a result of rape. Many children also carry the HIV virus which they have inherited from their mothers. Poverty levels are still high, particularly in some rural areas.
A high number of doctors and teachers were murdered during the 1994 genocide, leaving a gap in the work force. Volunteer teachers and doctors are needed in Rwanda are even 20 years on. This was one of the reasons I decided to go, and I was faced with a bigger challenge than I could have ever imagined!
You rarely see dogs in Rwanda. This is because pet dogs kept during the genocide escaped and became diseased and aggressive pack animals. After the genocide, pretty much all of the dogs left in the country got shot because they were feasting under human flesh of dead bodies. (Read my article on Why are there no dogs in Rwanda?)
The Future of Rwanda Post-Genocide
What does remain a challenge is import and export, due to Rwanda being a landlocked country. This has implications for its economy. Yet agriculture is thriving, and can bring a great deal to the economy, due to Rwanda’s lush climate.
Rwanda also has massive potential as an eco-tourism hotspot. Ruhengeri was Diane Fossy’s base to study the mountain gorillas. If you don’t know her story, I highly recommend that you watch a movie Gorillas in the Mist. Rwanda is one of the most amazing places in the world to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
If Rwanda’s development in health care and education continues as it has done in the last five years, the country has potential to continue to improve the lives of the Rwandan population. This will, of course, depend on the political situation. It is Paul Kagame’s third and final (?) constitutional term. The next general elections in Rwanda are to be help in 2017.
Have you travelled to Rwanda recently? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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