Learning, Shopping and Listening to Coded Language in Kigali

Writing this on the fly after a very long day, but I feel it is important to achieve some degree of freshness. With that in mind, please be patient with  this stream of conscious post.

My morning started off with the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and Museum. Here is a brief list of ways I am changed – not listed in any particular order – after having been through the museum.

  1. I did not have useful or accurate information about the Genocide in Rwanda until today.
  2. The international community failed Rwanda by not taking action. How we  – the international community – failed to authorize the 5,000 troops to Canadian UN Major-General Roméo Dallaire is fucking baffling and a tragedy.
  3. The United States Education system has failed American by not teaching the history of the African continent.
  4. The Holocaust Museum in Washington DC should feature an exhibition on other genocides perpetrated in the last century and/or 30 years.
  5. The hotel I am staying in – Hôtel des Mille Collines – was the hotel in which thousands took refuge. This is the hotel that was the basis of for the movie Hotel Rwanda. I now need to see this movie.
  6. Hutus, Tutsis and Twa were not “at war” with each other until the Belgian colonizers came along.
  7. 1994 is REALLY fucking recent. As in I was alive and well, enjoying childhood.
  8. The city of Kigali is gorgeous and the infrastructure is impressive as hell. I’ve not seen sidewalks this clean and well maintained in quite some time. The roads have no pot holes, the robots work, there are green avenues everywhere, people walk along in an orderly and calm manner with respect for personal space. 1994 is really fucking recent.

Now for something totally different…. we then went to the Kimironko Market. Leida and I share a love of textiles. And handmade crafts of any kind. And markets. Some observations and comments captured in a list.

  • No one at this market touched me or pestered me or followed me around. In fact, the people were really nice.
  • I bought three cuts off fabric bolts ranging from 2-4 yards. One is for a family member and features yellow fish set against sea blue. One is crazy patterned so I can’t describe it but has a lot of pink and yellow. AKA colors I never wear but I am obsessed with this. A dusty brown, olive green, hay colored print that is being tailored into a blazer jacket. Oh and then a fourth pattern that looks like a wood block print geometric interpretation of what a knot in a tree trunk looks like. Turquoise blue and black. Also being tailored into a blazer. These pieces will be delivered to the hotel Thursday. Leida got a same cut blazer and a skirt.
  • I bought leather beaded sandals. And some bags. And was given a pair of earrings for being a good customer. And a clutch. Basically the women in my life are going to get some really nice gifts.
  • Saw a lot of beans and bananas.

Then we darted back to the hotel to get cleaned up to go to the Welcoming Plenary of the 7th Annual African Economic Conference hosted by African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) — read a brief description here http://www.afrik-news.com/article19409.html. The theme is “Inclusive and Sustainable Development in an Age of Economic Uncertainty.”  Here are a list of reasons why the experience is surreal.

  1. I was in extremely close proximity to President of Rwanda Paul Kagame. Also former President of Nigeria  Olusegun Obasanjo who I almost bumped into during the 20 minute coffee/tea break while trying to vacate his general area so that Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and current Administrator of UNDP, Helen Clark, could stand next to him for a picture.
  2. I am some how attending a conference full of leading economists from across Africa, Ministers, and former or current heads of state.
  3. President Kagame went off speech for about 10 minutes. I don’t know enough to know who he was referring to, but he went on about how he is blamed/held responsible for/associated with the failings of the Democratic Republic of Congo. I didn’t follow half of what he was saying about Congo but it was reasoned in the logic flow and the audience was enraptured. Dude is charismatic.
  4. A lot of lipservice was paid to Economists and their great ideas.
  5. It felt like I stumbled into a Good Ol’ Boys Club or insiders Roast.
  6. Former President of Nigeria  Olusegun Obasanjo talked a lot. Dude is thoughtful, knows how to answer an audience question, but took a lot of time to tell stories about this time in office. Like… a LOT of time.
  7. Apparently Leaders must fear God and fellow man. I “get” the rhetoric and understand that talk of god will not be removed from politics probably ever, but if people just unpacked their statements a little bit, they would make better practical recommendations about what it takes to be a great Leader… in legit operational terms. K thanks.
  8. Multilateral donors, UNDP and G20 and WTO were slammed a bit by Helen Clark had to respond to those comments as she was representing UNDP and thus the only multilateral present. slammed a couple times. To wit…
  9. The President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, is sharp tounged, quick on his feet, articulate, passionate, seemingly anti ODA (Offficial Development Assistance) or at least convinced that if the leaders of African countries get their heads out of their asses (very loosely paraphrasing) and set their own development agendas around which international donors and local private sector can take action around, things would be a lot better and the advances in human development and economic development that has been achieved in African countries could be sustained past 2015.
  10. Half my face was caught on camera behind actual important people and featured on the two main screens abutting the stage. Oh and I was wearing a light-blush-pink Blazer in a sea of black, charcoal and dark navy suits so it wasn’t discrete.
  11. There was torrential rain from 6 until basically just now and so trying to leave the venue was an adventure in getting soaked.

Okay… it’s late and I need to sleep so I don’t fall asleep during any sessions tomorrow. I’m very excited about the agenda. I hope we get into some practical shit and real debate. Which is not to say the plenary panels weren’t real. They were. Just not much debate and not much in the way of detailed examination of “what’s worked” and how to, from those lessons, achieve “best fit.”