Everyone talks about it here .
Except they don’t.
Wherever you go in Kigali, people will tell you that healing the wounds of 1994 is the number one topic, but they’re just too busy to dwell on it.
Coax a story and everyone’s got one : the man who survived the genocide because he was kept hidden by Hutus, and when they returned from exile, he gave them his own house to live in til they got back on their feet. The man who lost 60 members of his own family and only survived because the day he was supposed to die was the same day the Rwandan capital was liberated by the RPF.
Officially, no one is a Hutu or a Tutsi any more, but you don’t have to speak to anyone for any length of time before the H word or the T word comes out- though usually in hushed tones.
Kigali looks like a place – and bear in mind none of us have ever been here before so we’re not able to compare the city with how it was – where everything is vibrant. The roads are busy, there are building sites all over the place, and the cafes and restaurants seem to be doing a good trade.
We’re staying at the Milles Collines – a place made famous outside this country by the film “Hotel Rwanda” – hundreds of people were sheltered here and avoided the killings going on all around them. As I write this I’m surrounded by people – mostly not Rwandan- enjoying their lunch and having a few beers out of the heat.
A new thatched roof swimming pool is being built and there are builders working on the front of the hotel.
And this goes to the heart of the issue ; Rwanda wants to – rightly- sell itself to the world as a place that has looked into the abyss, and come back. It is proud of the fact that crime is low, the quality of life is good for many people (though by no means everyone) and tourism is up.
Some argue that political debate is stifled and frank conversations about the direction of the country are frowned upon. Others say that if the economy grows, people simply don’t have the time to re-visit the horrors of 15 years ago. Still more say that Kigali gives a false impression of Rwanda – and that in the country the wounds haven’t even begun to heal.
Today we’ll be doing a programme from here at the Milles Collines and we’ll be joined from the U.S by Paul Rusesabagina- the manager here who sheltered all those survivors in 1994. We’re expecting a good debate; if we can perusade people to talk openly that is.