3. KIGALI KING FAISAL HOSPITAL
On Monday morning, our second full day in Rwanda, we'd gotten up early (especially since Bob, my husband, had mistakenly changed the time on his watch to an hour later than it actually was) which explains why I was down doing laps in the pool at the same time the hotel staff were trying to vacuum it before its opening time of 7am, it actually being 6:30am - not 7:30am - as Bob's watch so attested.
Later that morning, after breakfast, we decided to go for a walk in the area around the hotel. Across the street was the office of the New Times newspaper, the English-language Kigali daily which I regularly read on-line, and which has published some of my Rwanda writings. But it being so early they weren't yet open and so we carried on to the first street where we could turn right. This brought us down into a residential area with houses behind walls. Then we turned right and walked along the street behind our hotel, the end of which brought us to the street that led to the King Faisal Hospital which loomed up large on our left.
In the photo I took from our hotel room overlooking the pool, the King Faisal Hospital is visible behind and between the two tall trees. It's the only photo we have because although Bob took pictures with his camera (I didn't have mine) we subsequently lost his camera after I left it in a taxi after coming home late one night from a restaurant. However, in the July 5th New Times newspaper - the day after Liberation Day - there was a story about health care with an accompanying photo of the King Faisal Hospital.
During the Genocide, from April to July 1994, the King Faisal Hospital was a place where thousands of Tutsis ran for safety because it was in the eastern section of the city, over which the RPF had won control, and was also near where the United Nations "peacekeeping" (ie not fighting) soldiers (UNAMIR) had their headquarters. The 300-bed Faisal stopped functioning as a hospital, having no water or sanitation, until a Canadian doctor from "Doctors Without Borders" managed to create a clean area containing 100 beds and an operating room, to which patients were sometimes transferred from the main Kigali Hospital on a hill on the other side of town which the Hutu-Power Government used to raid on a regular basis to kill Tutsi patients there. Romeo Dallaire, the Commander of the United Nations Forces, used to sometimes arrange for a temporary ceasefire between the Hutu-Power Government and the Rwandese Patriotic Front so that patients could be safely transferred, but even then it was dangerous as the "Interahamwe" ("those who work (kill) together") soldiers at the road blocks would search inside the vehicles threatening to kill the patients.
We went inside the hospital and I sat in a chair in the waiting room, observing patients waiting to be processed at the front desk. I tried to imagine what it must have been like here with thousands of desperate and injured Tutsis dying of thirst and starvation here, praying they'd be safe under the protection of the RPF who were desperately fighting to win control of Kigali.
We went back outside and sat on a bench in front of the parking lot facing east, and Bob saw tall light towers looming in the distance which he said must be the football stadium. I concluded the stadium must be the Amahoro where tomorrow we would be watching the July 4th Liberation Day Parade.
It was starting to get hot and so we decided to meander back to the hotel, straight up the road leading from the hospital. This seemed to be a poor area of town although the people were very industrious with little sheds set up as shops selling a variety of things, and were pleased to sell us a couple of bottles of water once they understood what we were asking for.
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