Rwanda safety over Congo elections

May 25th, 2006, 06:32 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 247
Rwanda safety over Congo elections

Hi,

I'm planning to travel to Rwanda and Kenya this summer. I've always wanted to go to Rwanda and feel that it is quite safe. However, my plane lands in Rwanda on the day of the elections in Congo. Does anyone think this is something to be concerned about? We are in Rwanda for a week and will hopefully be touring around the country (not just visiting the gorillas). Does anyone have any advice? Clearly it would have been better to avoid travel at this time, but our tickets are already booked. I'm just wondering if we should change our plans entirely or just avoid certain parts of the country. Thanks.
Lucia78 is offline  
May 25th, 2006, 08:54 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 1,448
Rwanda is a beautiful country. I drove aroudn the country in October and I felt completely and totally at peace.

We started in Kigali, drove to the Murambi Genocide site, then to Nyungwe Forest, then to Kibuye, then to PNV for the gorillias.

I felt very very safe even in the middle of nowhere.

I would read some more about the elections in Congo and who the candidates are and what is happening. I don't expect there to be any effect however.

We stopped at a resort area, right on the Congo border. I really wanted to cross the border for 10 minutes just to get a stamp in my passport for the Congo, but I didn't want to take a chance of being held there


waynehazle is offline  
May 25th, 2006, 08:56 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 1,448
Oh and by the way, take a look at a few of the Rwanda pics on my site#39;

http://www.waynehazle.com/eastafrica/rwanda/index.htm
waynehazle is offline  
May 25th, 2006, 09:09 AM
  #4  
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Great pics Wayne! Do you have a trip report somewhere on this forum with descriptions of where you went/stayed? I have been reading about the elections---I actually work on Foreign Policy for a Member of Congress so you would think I would have some good info, but not really...it's really just wait and see. But every day it looks increasingly like the elections are not going to occur peacefully. Here's hoping...
Lucia78 is offline  
May 25th, 2006, 10:22 AM
  #5  
 
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Lucia78,

I typically write my own trip reports as more detailed journals. My Africa trip is detailed in a PDF file kept on my web site, www.waynehazle.com/eastafrica/ not to keep promoting that but give a try downloading it if you have the bandwidth. I will include the section from my first day in Kigal here.

Please note that it is not copy and paste well from Adobe Acribat and you don't have pictures

-----------------------
S U N D A Y O C T O B E R 1 6 T H / M O N D A Y O C T O B E R 17TH ( A F T E R N O O N ) – T H A T W H I C H D O E S N O T K I L L M E …

Our ride to the airport was short and smooth as silk. We got there with plenty of
time to spare for our flight. The driver
dropped us off. We
sailed through the first
security barrier… OK,
we didn’t sail, it took a
trillion years for me to
take off all kinds of
clothing, have them go
through my shoes and
then argue with them
about my film going
through their machines.
They swore
the film would be fine,
Eventually, we made it
through. I didn’t even
get upset, we had plenty of time, the world
was my oyster.

We approached the
woman at the ticket
counter to check our
bags. She looked at our
bags. “Are you sure that
will be a total of 22 kilograms?”
I clarified to
her that each bag was
under 22 kg. She then
clarified my clarification.
The total off all our luggage
needed to be under
22 kg. Say what?!?!
This was just unbelievable.
Whenever I started
to feel secure, the rug would get pulled out
from under me.

We had a little less
than two hours before
our plane took off. The
cost to bring the extra
weight would have been
hundreds of dollars. I
called Shadrach frantically,
trying to figure out
what to do. He said that
his company had an
office in the airport and
that we could each leave
one of our bags there for
the next eight days while
we went on to Rwanda. What choice did
we have? So out we went past security
and cross the street to where the office
was. In the middle of the crowded terminal
area, Mary Ellen and I, pulled open our
suitcases and began moving around clean
underwear and other clothing into one,
hopefully not too heavy suitcase, for each
of us. We locked and checked in the suitcases
that would stay
behind. Then we
dashed back across
the airport and through
security again.

We went to the
Rwanda Air ticket
counter and each of
our bags weighed less
than 22 kilos! Our one
issue was that the
carry on limit was 1
small bag per person.
Mary Ellen had two
bags, I had a huge camera bag, a bag with
about 100 rolls of film plus another bag
with books, etc. Of course, the attendant
told us we had too
many bags. Somehow
our annoying
crying and whining
must have really
made them want to
get rid of us, because
the woman
just waved us
through. WHEW!
We then had to go
through at least two
more security
checkpoints where I
once again had to
struggle to get through. Apparently some
big mucky-muck in charge of airport security
was there and all
the attendants were
being ridiculously
vigilant They pulled
out virtually every
single roll of film and
video tape that I had
and studied them
individually! They
assured me that the
scanning machines
weren’t going to ruin
my film, but at this
point who knew
anything?


I was
sweaty and irritated.
Finally we made it on the plane for our
one hour flight. The bad news was, it
would be an hour of turbulence. We were
going to fly through lots of clouds and rain.
I was frazzled on the plane. I fought vigorously
to fight
off the sinking
feeling that was
coming over me
again. And
then, another
bringer of good
news appeared.
We were sitting
next to a Kenyan
man of
Indian descent,
Amarjit. He
had traveled to
Rwanda often
and he told us
that we were going to love the country. He
praised its beauty and cleanliness. I felt
that either he was another angel sent our
way, or someone who worked for the
Rwanda Chamber of Commerce. By the
time the plane landed, I was feeling pretty
calm again.


There was no entry fee and we were
pretty much all the way through customs,
when one airport worker out of nowhere
started questioning me about my number
of cameras. She looked in my bag with all
my film and said in a thick French-African
accent “Excuse me Sir, how many films do
you have?” This nearly made my head
explode. I wanted to get Ugly American™
on her and scream out ““Do you know what
I just went through to come to your
BLANKIITY--BLANK country?!!?!! Don’t question me!! And by the way it’s ‘‘How many rolls off film?’’ Not, ‘‘How many films?’’ Got
that sweetheart?”” But, I felt pretty certain
they didn’t have Miranda rights in this
country. So I just smiled & said “Not too
many”, and was quickly waved through.


We stepped through customs and I saw
my favorite sight in a foreign country: a
sign with my name on it. Our new guide
and driver Richard was waiting for us. He
quickly ushered us to the car. The Rwanda
airport is small but very clean. In fact it
was beautiful. A wave of calm overtook
me like the sweet smell of pine in a forest.
Kigali was quiet and serene. OK, I
thought, this is going to be a different vacation
from the other. I was feeling calm
and yes confident.

Within minutes we were driving along the smooth paved roads of Kigali. Mary
Ellen and I looked out at the beautiful hills,
valleys and mountains everywhere.
Rwanda is referred to as “the land of a
thousand hills” and
is often called the
Switzerland of Africa.
I’ve been to
Switzerland and I
preferred what I
was seeing now.

Richard began
telling us about his
country. My heart
was feeling—wait a
minute… now this
new guy is doing the
looking thing! The car was sounding funny
too. Richard pulled off the side of the
road. He walked all around, no flat tires. I
half joking/half serious said “Is everything
tightened?” He nodded “Of course”. We
were off again but we drove much
slower…. listening to the car sound very
strange.

SCREECH,, BANG!!

The noise surprised me. So did the
sight of a tire bouncing ahead of us. I noticed
the tire bouncing off the road and
down a gully. Then I noticed that the front
end of our car
was tipped
down. Then
my brain came
out of its fog.
That was our
tire that just
flew off! Remember
“What
Will Be Will
Be”? That
seemed like a
lifetime ago. I
didn’t know if I
should
scream or cry
at that point.
I feel like the narrator on The Dukes of
Hazzard telling you all this. “Ya’ll ain’t gonna believe what happens to them
Duke Boys next.”

By the way there was a kid on a hammock
down at the bottom of the gully. The
(Continued from page 28) tire missed hitting and killing him by
inches. [I’m trying to find something positive.]
Soon enough the company sent another
car and took us to the Mille Collines
Hotel.

The Mille Collines is the
hotel made famous in the
movie “Hotel Rwanda”.
Thousands of Tutsi refugees
fled here during the
1994 massacre. They
were kept safe by Paul
Russabaginga, a hotel
manager. Like Oscar
Schindler, he wheeled
and dealed and kept his
refugees from being
killed. (The hotel shown
in the movie was not the
real one.)

By the time we checked into the Mille
Collines, I was feeling lower than a snake's
belly in a wagon rut. (That’s more Dukes of
Hazzard talk.) I just couldn’t figure out why
these things were happening to us. I tried
to pull my spirits up and concentrate on
the gorillas we would be seeing in a week.

We arranged to link up with some local
missionaries of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It
turns out that Daniel and Karen Hanau
lived right down the street from the hotel.
They came up and we ate some finger food
at the hotel restaurant.
Just talking to
them lifted my spirits
and I was up again.
We would see them
again at the end of the
trip when we returned
to Kigali. An interesting
note while talking
to them. They kept
mentioning “The War”.
They told us that
Rwandans don’t call it
The Genocide, they
call it The War. He
also said that it is not
a subject people that
wish to talk about, especially to outsiders.
They are trying to put it behind them and
move forward. I asked, how can you move
forward when there is no punishment for
the guilty? The people that committed the
genocide are waltzing around in public
unpenalized, how can that work? There
was no way to explain it. It just does.
That left me with a cold empty feeling.
Tomorrow, bright and early, we would
start our drive across Southern Rwanda till
we hit the Nyungwe forest. We would
spend two days there tracking monkees
and chimpanzees.
All right Indy, pull it together,
you can do this…

---------------

waynehazle is offline  
May 25th, 2006, 12:22 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 7,391
just a link next time Wayne, thanks.
matnikstym is offline  
May 25th, 2006, 06:24 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
I happened to be in Rwanda when there were border problems with Congo. Troops mobilized, making news in US papers, so it was not the typical minor flare up. I did not realize this occurred until I returned home and caught up on my stack of unread papers. There was no effect that I could tell traveling by road from Uganda to Rwanda, driving around Rwanda, staying 5 days in Volcanoes National Park, or spending time in Kigali.

So I would think elections would have no greater impact.

Your guide will be up on the situation and can brief you. He will avoid any hotspots. For example, my guide told me that he would refuse to take me into Goma if I had requested. I had asked about the safety of traveling there because some people I met were planning on going and I wanted advice to give to them.

Have a good trip.
atravelynn is offline  
May 26th, 2006, 05:43 AM
  #8  
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Posts: 247
Thanks! Well the tickets are bought, so unless something truly bad goes down, I'm going! We're not going through a tour operator for Rwanda and I don't know if we'll have a guide while we're there...but we may decide to for certain parts.
Lucia78 is offline  
May 26th, 2006, 06:40 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Enjoy your travels and please report when you return. Not many self-drive Rwanda trip reports so far.
atravelynn is offline  
May 26th, 2006, 06:52 PM
  #10  
bat
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,790
lucia, have a great trip.
bat is offline  
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