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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

March 9th: Kibuye in Rwanda

On March 9th 1980 I was in Kibuye by Lake Kivu in Rwanda, travelling with Audrey, my American friend.  We spent this Sunday walking in the area.

We had been staying in Gisenye in the trailer of some Swedish missionaries while we failed to get into Zaire.  We took the boat from Gisenye along Lake Kivu but could not see much of the coast line because of the sun glare - nothing like the volcanoes of Zaire spreading north which we'd seen from the land the day before.  In Kibuye we stayed at the Home St Jean, the mission, in a dormitory on a promontory, and went to town - more like a village - for lunch on meat, beans, cabbage and sweet potatoes, followed by pineapple.  Later I found a trail off the road through a banana patch  past some fish hatcheries and up a pretty hill for a wonderful view of the lake and surrounding mountains and a hello from the lady of the hill. 

This day we walked again and found the old man of the hill opposite the church who led us to the top and eventually brought us back down again, so agile with his stick and wrapped cloth and bare feet with splayed old toes lacking nails.  Later I wrote this in my notebook sitting on the promontory.
The most sunny day yet in Rwanda, there has been a breeze blowing all the day and the clouds have kept away.  This is also the prettiest spot, the Home St Jean or Catholic Mission on a peninsula on the deep inlet of Lake Kivu that they may call Lake Kibuye.  Eucalyptus and juniper trees blow in the wind, below the lake is dull blue-green in colour, almost grey lapping onto and away from the land in contented but usually round contours.  The hills rise generally steep here up to a few hundred feet, so that not all the land is cultivated, cows graze on the pale green grass of the rest, sometimes with biggish white egrets in attendance.  Opposite a couple of goats: I can hear their bleats sometimes in the wind.  A pirogue moves across the water beneath me, two men paddling, their bare black backs glisten in the late afternoon sun.  Occasionally a hawk, or an egret, or a crane, or a crow crosses the water but otherwise the scene is one of stillness and tranquillity; only the ripples on the water, the grass and the trees wavy in front of me, the cattle change position on the banks.  To my right is the hill we walked this morning, shown the way by the old man, the crown of eucalyptus where we sat in the midday sun, steep hills and a few houses, fields of sorghum and beans and coffee, some conifers on the steep slope we walked down.
I remember the peace especially but also the singing from the churches so tuneful and evocative - this was a Sunday.  The people here seemed to live in hills rather than villages, the houses spread out along the slopes.  The bright green of the hills, the blue of the sky and the greyer blue-green of the lake, the colours of birds like red bishops flitting across my vision, the sound of the singing from the churches.

It is impossible to think back on times in Rwanda without thinking of the massacres of 1994.  It is terrifying that this spot which I found so peaceful and the mission where I stayed would be the actual site of death in such a horrific way.  Massacre details here.
Kibuye in 2006:  Picture by John and Mel Kotsopoulos, CC

Massacre Memorial 2005:  Picture by The Advocacy Project, CC

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