Saturday, January 29, 2011

Local Elections

Every city, town, and village in the world experiences some form of violence. I don't care who you are or where you are from.

I feel that Kigali, and Rwanda as a whole, is a pretty safe place. However, just like any city in the world, it is not immune to violence.

Below is a message I received from the Peace Corps Rwanda administration that was given to them by the US Embassy in Rwanda.

Please see the warden message sent out last night from the US Embassy.

Please remain calm and vigilant.

Warden Message

U.S. Embassy Kigali, Rwanda

Grenade Explosion

January 28, 2011

The U.S. Embassy in Kigali learned that a grenade explosion occurred in the Remera-Giporoso area of Kigali near an Engen petrol station at approximately 7:00pm this evening. Two people are dead and more than two dozen have been injured. The Embassy urges U.S. citizens in Rwanda to remain vigilant, exercise caution, and avoid crowds, demonstrations, or any other form of public gathering.

This is not the first time an attack like this has occured. They happen every few months, usually around elections or important dates that are observed because of the genocide in 1994. This is, however, the first time I think I have mentioned an attack like this in my blog. I mention this attack because some people have seen the 'Rwanda News' section on my blog and have asked me about it.

This was the worst attack that I have seen so far. Peace Corps Rwanda takes these attacks very seriously and has policies and procedures in place to protect volunteers from situations likes these.

What was the cause of this last attack? Well, April 2011 will be the 17th anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. So there is that to consider. Most probably it was because of the local elections that are taking place this month (February). Below is a message I received from the Saftey and Security Officer of Peace Corps Rwanda.

I wanted to remind you that the local leaders’ elections are scheduled to begin this Friday, 4 February 2011 at the Umudugudu level throughout the Country. Every Rwandan at the age of voting and who has the rights to vote has been called to be at the designated site by 7am that day. It is expected that people will be done late in the morning and go back to work.

The elections will continue in the indirect way to choose those who go upper in the structures up to the District level, and all voters country-wide will be called to vote again for the District Advisory Council on February 21st.

It is expected that these elections will go smoothly and fast. But, please remain cautious about your safety and avoid any interference in this important action for Rwandans.

Please check with your supervisor and the counterpart to know whether you should go to work. Otherwise stay at home, at least for the morning.

Again, these attacks are very infrequent. They may pick up a bit as April approaches and they may continue until the end of June. No one should be worried or scared, but merely cautious and, as the US Embassy has advised, vigilant.

Rwanda is an awesome place to work, live, and visit. If my previous blog entries haven't made that clear, then the fact that I have willingly chosen to continue my service in Rwanda should. However, there is just as much danger here as any other country in the world. Even Chicago, the city that I will always, ALWAYS call home, is no more or less dangerous than Kigali. So, to potential volunteers and travelers my message is clear: Visit, Have fun, but BE SAFE.

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