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A view of the former Kigali City's taxi park in Nyarugenge. File

A view of the former Kigali City’s taxi park in Nyarugenge. File

I remember telling you of how on arriving in Kigali, August 1994, as it grew dark, I asked “Where?” My bewilderment was borne of the fact that our Ugandan taxi-minibus driver had stated, matter-of-factly, in their accent: “Here we are. This is your Cigali City.”

Everywhere was pitch darkness. Well, I’d grown up in villages and knew a village when I saw one. This Kigali was definitely that! And was it scary, or was it!

First to send my heart into my mouth was the growl of a dog in the darkness, as I sought a generator-lit night hangout I’d been told about. The dogs had fattened themselves on genocide victims and grown fond of human flesh.

The country was being cleared of them, yes, but some still evaded the dragnet for some time.

Luckily, I reached the hangout and met old acquaintances of the refugee camp days, who put my heart at ease. Where I also got directions to the “liberated house” (imbohozanyo) of a relative.

In the end I got used to and enjoyed the stay, what with meeting so many of my old confrères/soeurs, most of whom I’d grown up with in exile. One of whom, then an RPA officer, procured me an after-visit UN plane lift back to Kenya where I was a teacher, to hand in my resignation.

Which plane lift, once assured, I was left to my designs. From just below Amahoro Stadium, I walked to Gisimenti for public transport to the ‘city centre’. Only to be ‘rescued’ by a stranger who advised me to ‘dirty my feet’ down the dust road to Sonatubes. The Gisimenti road had been reserved strictly for Kinani, the then-ex-president.

As I walked, musing over the bizarreness of reserving a road for a man who used it only occasionally, I stopped in my tracks and turned on my heels when a loud explosion went off. However, back at Gisimenti, word came that all was well after all. Landmines were being cleared.

The country was a stench of rotting bodies but everybody was happy. So, that appeared to be a minor irritation. After all, everything was being done to clean up.

When my visit ended, I was instructed on how to cling to a ‘taxi-moto’. That, however, didn’t stop me from being flung into the then-dusty Kimihurura roundabout! The dust was cushion-thick, however, and, after dusting myself, off we sped again.

East Africans seem to have learnt the use of taxi-moto/bodaboda from here. They existed nowhere else in the region at the time.

Oh, we were talking about my terrified visit back to my home country….

By December same year, I was back in Kigali. And what a change, already! It was dusty, alright, but safe, organised and the stench had yielded to something like fresh air.

Thus, one evening we were sitting out the night in a café where my group and a number of other revellers were waiting out the expiry of 1994 when, at midnight on the dot, shots rang out. And we jumped up for joy! No, we didn’t run for cover; we punched the air in celebration.

In our exile we had stayed in countries that had experienced wars and the victors always “broke the year-end” (for celebrated) with shots in the air. So, we had expected it.

Only this time, the shots stopped abruptly. Interestingly, many among us were disappointed.

It’s only recently that I understood why, when Gen. James Kabarebe mentioned it at an event. At that late time, then-Vice-President and Minister for Defence Paul Kagame visited every home where a shot rang out to put a stop to them. Rwandans’ peace would never again be disrupted by anybody, anything, anywhere, any time. They had to enjoy their peace “for good and forever”.

And in his sharp memory that misses no detail, Gen. Kabarebe showed us how it was being done and how it’d continue to be done. He mentioned the name of every officer visited by V-P/MOD and the words of self-expression offered. That was for the first year-end after the armed struggle.

But we also know the details of the struggle itself, as explained by him, and every place where they met every obstacle and every trickery they used to extricate themselves out of it. We know, thanks to him, that the RPA knew every FAR officer by name and character. We know that information is the biggest weapon in such struggles.

Which information still plays itself out in defence of this country from terrorist groups like FDLR. How Gen ‘Omega’ (Ntawunguka Pacifique), for example, told Gen Kabarebe that he’ll only come back to Rwanda when the Genocide against the Tutsi has been effectuated. We know much more.

We know that an exhaustive and thorough dossier from Rwanda of how DRC collaborates with terrorist FDLR lies in the hands of the UN and the power players of this earth. All this and more thanks to our government through its many dedicated cadres.

So, the world’s powers must do something about it or Rwanda will.

Who’d believe we’ve come such a long, torturous way? The youth may take that past for fairy tales!

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