Watching this documentary puts you at the apex of the triumph of good over evil. The top of a literal rise of a country, sphinx-like, from the ashes – liquid and scarlet red ashes.
Be you national or foreigner, knowing that ‘liquid ashes bottom’, you’ll not be left untouched by this display of Rwanda today. And, for that, yearning to know the detailed departure from the Rwanda of those ashes.
That desire is more whetted by the documentary’s little peep into the history of how a people lived happily as one, only to slowly but miserably surely be torn apart by different influences and finally forces into the hell of abyss that was the 1994 ashes.
The rise from that abyss, descending wherein made Rwanda grab world attention for the worst of reasons, nothing could symbolise it better than the climb President Kagame makes on the stairs of Ubumwe Hotel to the top, as shown in the trailer of the documentary.
And at the top, to survey the happy, orderly and clean surroundings.
Surroundings that have ensured this country keeps that world attention for all the good reasons.
This documentary behoves us to take a keen look at what makes this country tick. Some of us locals who think we’ve been here and have seen it all, aren’t we embarrassed when we see some spots and some changes that are new to us?
Yet, what’s more keenly demanded of us all is to know how what we see has come to be. Surely, as we all never cease to wonder, how did we reach here?
Just after1994, if in Kigali there was any top to climb onto, it’d be through the obstructed stairs of Hôtel des Mille Collines, which were covered in discarded rags from those it sheltered.
At the roof, you’d be enveloped in the stench and vileness of death, dirt and disorder around.
An aerial view of anything – no helicopters, mind you! – would have been a stare into death, as the danger of stealthy bullets from Interahamwe and insurgents lurked everywhere down below. Animals, too, had fled from the madness of their erstwhile neighbouring human species
Canopy walk? Nyungwe forest itself had been singed dry and animals scattered in fear of the scavenger Interahamwe and ex-FAR soldiers fleeing through them.
Mountain gorillas were hiding in any safe nook, cowering from the killers still hiding in their ‘bamboo-food basket’ of a forest or from hungry insurgents from across the border.
A bicycle ride along the rugged, back-breaking roads of south-western Rwanda, winding alright but with unsightly views, would have crippled anybody who ventured there. A boat ride on Lake Kivu – only canoes existed! – would have invited sniper bullets from génocidaires in their safe haven across the border.
Which meant that hardly anybody ventured outside Kigali and major towns, just after 1994.
Except one man --- that humble guide in the documentary.
He and his hawk-eyed group of struggle-hardened boys and girls alone seemed to be astir outside safe towns.
Together, they made those back-breaking journeys to comb every inch of this land as the humble guide, then Vice-President and Minister for Defence, allayed citizens’ fears in an effort to pacify them all, even if it meant pushing against a near-insurmountable tide.
A tide that involved what one could only interpret as obstruction to any effort by the incoming government to mend the hearts and minds of its people and rebuild the country.
There was a motley collection pushing that obstruction.
Still-unbending ex-FAR fighters and their génocidaires holed up in internally displaced persons camps. These constantly sneaked out under cover of darkness to see to the fulfilment of their interrupted macabre enterprise.
On top of those evil butchers, there were UN peace-keepers – those who’d not cut and run – that had failed to stop the brutality of those killers. Now, miraculously, they were prepared to die ‘keeping the peace’ of those killers, some of who had sent their own to premature deaths.
Yet again, there were foreign NGOs that fed those camp-protected killers. In their hordes, the NGOs advocated for the rights of these “innocent displaced persons”, well knowing how they were shielding killers.
Meanwhile, they shouted to high heaven about how the in-coming government was “surely on a revenge genocide mission”. The foreign media, in turn, hungrily grabbed at the “horror tales” and, like in a relay race, the diplomatic world grabbed at them, in turn, and descended on Rwanda, breathing fire and brimstone.
Amidst all this cacophony, how Rwandans managed to soberly go about the business of pacifying their country and turn it into what is now being lauded as an “entrepreneurial democracy’, don’t ask me.
Methinks that’s what that documentary is begging you to find out.
Those Urugwiro discussions involving representatives from all shades of our society to examine what ailed this country and the way forward. A whole government sitting, obedient-student-like, listening to best practices for the delivery of goods and services from foreign advice they had hired. And so much, much more.
It was an agonising climb but, as the documentary attests, the summit is in sight.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.