Friday, July 23, 2010

The president visits Rubavu

Disclaimer: As per Peace Corps policy, I have no opinion on the coming elections, the political parties, or the candidates. Here I’m simply relaying what I’ve seen around town in the buildup to the election.

On Tuesday I heard that the president was coming to town for a campaign event. Wednesday I was having lunch with a group of travelers who were interested iny seeing him, so I started asking about details on their behalf. We must have asked five different people who gave us five different answers – he’d be here Thursday morning, or afternoon, or Friday, the only agreement was that he’d be in Nyundo, a sector 20 minutes down the road to Musanze/Kigali. One person said he was in Gisenyi right then (Wed. afternoon), down by the lake. We all laughed at the lack of consistent answers. While I was asking around, I also had to dodge a parade of trucks, their beds full of people decked out in RPF gear.

Finally a consensus emerged: the president would be speaking in Nyundo Friday morning. Offices in Gisenyi would be closed and transportation would be mostly tied up bringing people to the event. Yesterday I spotted army cars and even a tank at the gas station by the market; rumor had it the president spent the night at Serena. Not long after 6am this morning I heard trucks drive by outside blasting music. When I emerged (to take advantage of my morning off with a little language tutoring) countless people were walking in the general direction of Nyundo, decked out in either their Sunday best or t-shirts bearing the president’s face (or both; t-shirts substituting for tank tops underneath the fancy one-shoulder dresses). Most motos are flying RPF flags and many taxi buses have Kagame posters on their back windows. Along with the ubiquitous t-shirts are paper RPF hats.

My friends who attended said it was a lot of waiting. There were songs, dances and skits throughout the morning, and the president finally spoke briefly at 2pm.

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