Grenade Attacks

I wrote this post on September 19th : I didn’t want people to worry about me, but now that I am safely back stateside, here it is.

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At the bus station

There was another grenade attack last night here in Kigali, Rwanda. Yep, there are grenade attacks happening here. I’ll admit, being in the city when there are grenade attacks happening at the bus stations and the markets I frequent is a little intense. And what’s crazy is that almost everyone I talk to about it is nonchalant. When I say “Did you hear about the grenade attack yesterday?!” their response is “Huh? Oh yeah I heard about that. So where should we get lunch?” For me I’m thinking. “I was just there an hour ago, at that market, where the grenade blew up and people died. I was just there.” Makes me pause and think about the people who were there just going about their daily lives when it happened and the fact that I could have been there too.

For the three months I have been here, there have been six grenade attacks. Six. All of the attacks are happening here in the city and three of those attacks were just this weekend while I have been here in the city. One of the attacks left dozens dead and injured many more. The only way we all even know about it is from the U.S and Canadian embassies that have issued information to us via email so as to warn us of the danger. This weekend they have issued a warning saying “…do not go out unless absolutely necessary.” But I have to get back to Gashora village somehow so I can get back to my students and go to work. Plus it’s safe there. But that means risking going to a bus station where many of these attacks have happened. No one is sure of the motivation behind the grenade attacks but they always happen at crowded areas.

Also, right now there is a conflict between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. The M23s, (the militia group in the DRC) have been lobbing bombs across the border over here to Rwanda. Luckily, lately the bombs have subsided and they haven’t dropped where I live, but pretty damn close. It would be like someone bombing one side of New York City while you’re on the other side. So when you think about it that way, yes, these bombs are falling very close to where I live everyday. And yet, everyone around me is incredulously nonchalant about it and I find myself putting it in the back of my mind just as they are. What else can ya do? If it got to a point where it really was so unsafe and dangerous, I would have to fly back to the states. But that’s really not something I need to do. But the thing that really concerns me is the idea of putting my mother in danger. My God that would be the worst thing. My mom is coming to visit next month and then we’re going to fly back to the States together. I think it’ll be an amazing adventure for her and I think she’ll have a great time but I don’t want there to be any risk of grenades or bombs. I’m just really hoping things calm down. (Update: Things did calm down and my mother and I had an amazing time.)

So Rwanda is one of the safest countries in Africa but… there are grenade attacks… and bombs coming from our neighbors to the west…and it’s all just part of the risk of being here I guess, despite the fact that things really are pretty safe in this country otherwise. Although I’m taken aback by the whole thing, my experience here is still amazing and of course I plan on continuing work at the school.

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One thought on “Grenade Attacks

  1. Well, I certainly would have worried more if I’d seen this in September, so thanks for waiting. But I think your observation of how people react (oh a grenade attack, what do you want for lunch) is what is becoming more the norm. I know that I am more resigned to a world that has random acts of violence. As a mother, I want my children to go out into the world and not let this risk deter them from what needs to be done. I am forever grateful that there are young people like you Julia!

    I think of this quote:
    “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
    ― Benjamin Franklin

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