Rwanda's strengths and challenges [Journey to Rwanda]
Sue Horton, Op-Ed and Sunday Opinion editor of The Times, is in Rwanda on a two-week Gatekeeper Editor fact-finding trip organized by the International Reporting Project. She is chronicling her trip on the Opinion L.A. blog.
Friday, Nov. 11: Our drive north to where the gorillas live, which included a long detour, took us through spectacularly beautiful scenery. It also revealed many of Rwanda's strengths, and its challenges.
The roads are in excellent condition, even the parts that aren't paved. There are work crews everywhere, digging culverts so the roads won't flood and making improvements on the sections that need them.
You also see the population pressure. Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa. But only a small portion of the population lives in cities. Most people live in rural areas and do subsistence farming. The country we passed through has been almost entirely deforested (though non-native eucalyptus trees have been planted, which people like because they grow fast but which drive out native species). The villages we passed through were lively but clearly very poor.
Reminders of the genocide are constant. Several times on the road, we passed work crews dressed in blue. They are genocidaires, convicted of participating in the genocide and sentenced to community service.
They're a chilling sight, but we also saw one of the more encouraging things that's happening in Rwanda: a huge improvement in rural and village healthcare. Stay tuned.
Photo: In this image from the Los Angeles Times database, a view of a village near Ecole Technique de Murambi in Rwanda is seen in 2004. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times