Mount Huye , near Butare [Photo by Amakuru]

Mount Huye, near Butare [Photo by Amakuru]


Rwanda 1994

I climbed into the agaseke and pulled the lid over me. It was cozy inside. The basket rough against my skin. Dark, but not scary dark,since bits of light were seeping through the coiled rows. It smelled like a
new basket always smelled, woodsy and damp, the papyrus reeds still holding their wet memories of home.

Nyogokuru was calling for me outside.  Do-mi-tille. Do-mi-tille. Scattering the syllables of my name to the wind as she circled the house. When she reached the shed where I was hiding, where she stored
her baskets before she took them to market, she checked the smallest baskets first, the ones I could not possibly fit into.

“Domitille,” she whispered loudly as she lifted each lid, “you are scaring your grandmother. What will your Papa say if I do not find you before he gets home?”

When she lifted the lid on the basket where I was hiding, I jumped up and wrapped my arms around her. As I pressed my ear to her big bosom, I could hear the first vibrations. Muted at first, then louder and deeper, as from the tautest of drums.

Laughter fit for an umugabekazi.  A queen.


Watch a video on the history of Rwanda before the genocide.

Read a brief history of the genocide on the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum site


Rwanda is a landlocked country situated in central Africa. Also known as ’The Land of a Thousand Hills’, Rwanda has five volcanoes, 23 lakes and numerous rivers, some forming the source of the River Nile. The country lies 75 miles south of the equator in the Tropic of Capricorn, in the heart of Africa. Rwanda is bordered by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west.  It had a population of 10,515,973 people at the time of the 2012 Census.  Its largest city and capital is Kigali.

Rwanda is home to 40 per cent of the African continent’s mammals with 402 different species; 1,061 species of birds and 5,793 higher plant species.

For centuries, Rwanda existed as a centralized monarchy under a succession of Tutsi kings from one clan, who ruled through cattle chiefs, land chiefs and military chiefs. The king was supreme but the rest of the population, Bahutu, Batutsi and Batwa, lived in symbiotic harmony. In 1899, Rwanda became a German colony and, in 1919, the system of indirect rule continued with Rwanda as a mandate territory of the League of Nations, under Belgium.  Rwanda achieved independence from Belgium in 1962.

For the complete text please see the Government of Rwanda website



Butare is a city in the Southern Province of Rwanda and the capital of Huye district.  It was the capital of Rwanda in colonial times, then known as Astrida, which explains why the National University of Rwanda, the Rwandan National Institute of Scientific Research, the Ruhande Arboretum, the Nyakibanda Seminary, and the largest Catholic cathedral in the country were located there.  When the prefecture and province of Butare were dissolved in 2006, the city was renamed Huye.

The National Museum of Rwanda was built there in the early 1990s and is a good source of information on the cultural history of the country and the region. It is considered by many to be the finest museum in East Africa.

This is the traditional lullaby that Domitille's mother sings to Corentin.