Well literally 30 minutes after blogging yesterday everything changed and became very real. I have never had a day like it. Me and Dom were sat reflecting on how to spend the days before the rest of the group come out when we got chatting to a young English guy who informed us that the border situation had changed in the DRC. Basically we needed a letter of invitation to get in to the Congo – shit we didn’t have one. After a few panic phone calls we started to develop a plan. The plan is still being rolled out slowly as I type.
However, whilst on the phone I was chatting and catching bits of Dom’s conversation with another person – he looked worried and pretty shocked. Once I had hung up on the phone, Dom explained that there had been a grenade attack in a café in Kigali. Things just got quite serious. The worst part was we had been chatting to a girl in a supermarket who had been sat in the café, thankfully she hadn’t been hurt. However we only found out she’d be in the café after someone else had told us. We never got chance to ask if she was ok.
The heighten tension in the country since the recent general elections seem to be the cause for the attack. There is an article on the BBC.
We sat there with adrenaline and coffee powering through our veins thinking what to do next, where to go and where would we be safe. It was a strange 30 minutes from having the feeling of wanderlust running through me, to fear and panic draping over me like a cold towel. It all became quite real. Rwanda was supposed to be the easy part. But now we have no Visa to get to Congo and the situation isn’t too stable in town, just catching a motorbike up to town you can see the increased presence of armed guards, police and army personnel more on edge than before.
Dom and I went back to the hotel booked in for another night and tried to pull together a plan of action…we ordered two massive beers and put the radio on.
After a while of talking we decided to head over to the Kigali Memorial Centre. I’m not sure whether it was the feeling of fear that had emerged from the earlier part of the day but I struggled to get round the centre. Every line of information and every picture on the wall felt like a blow to the face and could feel myself getting weaker both physically and emotionally. I couldn’t take reading the history and seeing the trouble brewing from the start and then slowly moving forward and watching how the violence spread in April 1994 when the President’s plane was shot down. This acted like a starting gun to the conflict. So many lives were lost in such a calculated and abhorrent way. So much for never again.
There was a room with 4 pictures of children who had lost their lives during the genocide. They all would have a plaque in front of the picture which told you their name, personality, favourite food, how they died.
- Liked football
- Favourite food chips and egg
- Killed with a machete.
It was heart breaking. I sat there, and the way the room was laid out all eyes were pointing at you. Just sat there sobbing. I’m now more determined than ever to make the most from this marathon. It isn’t right that so many lives have been wasted, and it is despicable that no one did anything about it. As I was walking through the memorial listening and reading about the children and women who had been killed in the genocide. It got me thinking. I often talk about running to make people aware of the conflict in the DRC. But I don’t think it can be a conflict because that implies to me a fight between parties. It can’t be a conflict when innocent children and women are killed, they couldn’t defend themselves and had no where to run. It’s just murder.
So I’m sitting here tapping away and in quite strange place at the moment. Need to get this visa sorted, hopefully do that to today and then make our way down to Bukavu. It has been pretty interesting as we’ve traveled along. You hear so many different perspectives on the DRC. Whether it is safe to go, don’t walk around at night, it’s fine you’ll love it, make sure you have contacts there, look after yourself. It just makes me wonder, I want to make my own mind up.
The heady days of fun at the beginning have vanished now, and it feels pretty stupid to say but I can feel my ‘game face’ coming on. This is the face when I’m running and I start taking things a lot more seriously than before. The hard work and the challenge is well and truly here. Now’s the time to step up.
All the best,