On Kigali's Quiet

Kigali has diplomatic compounds like Geneva and bookstores with gridded French composition books. It feels like a Lego city. Smooth, smooth roads, streetlamps, reflectors between lanes. Perfectly poised police officers who, David told us, share English phrases like “I will punish you” and “I forgive you” if they pull you over. Since 2004, they’ve decreased traffic deaths by 32%. Visitors to Kigali from Nairobi or Kampala remark on how calm the city is, how quiet, how orderly.

The Kigali Genocide Memorial explains this order. Order is a coping mechanism for the worst disorder imaginable. At the Memorial, we read about the Belgian colonialists who decided one tribe was better than another, seeding violent resentment. About the way people turned this resentment into a careful plan to exterminate the other. About the small handful of international troops who escorted diplomats to safety when the extermination began, who instead would have been enough to stop it.

In the section of the Memorial for children, under a small, framed baby picture:

Francine (12)

Favorite sport: swimming

Favorite food: egg and chips

Favorite drinks: milk and Fanta

Favorite friend: Claudette

Death: hacked by machete.