Thousands of government representatives travel to Kigali for genocide commemoration. The capital once again dressed up for the occasion.

The Kigali Convention Centre, a glass dome.  Palm trees in front of him.

Should attract visitors from all over the world: Kigali Convention Center Photo: Rachid Bugirimfura

FROM KIGALI taz | The sun has not yet fully risen over the hills surrounding Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, when a hundred workers dressed in overalls and yellow protective helmets stand at attention in the parking lot of the large stadium. The foreman encourages them and urges them to hurry up. Thousands of paving stones still need to be laid around the entrance. Time is running out. The Amahoro stadium in the city center will shine in new splendor on Sunday.

Guests will then arrive from around the world to attend the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the start of the genocide on April 7 and remember the more than one million victims. They included numerous government officials, representatives of the United Nations, and former presidents such as Bill Clinton, who was president of the United States at the time of the 1994 genocide.

Kigali has been spruced up in recent weeks. Fresh flowers were planted in central reserves along main roads and old facades such as that of Parliament were given a new coat of paint. The parliament is one of the few government buildings that date from before the genocide. On a side façade, just above the main entrance, bullet holes from heavy ammunition were deliberately omitted during the renovation: as a reminder of the war.

The capital of Rwanda, once almost completely destroyed by civil war, has become a gem that Rwandans are proud of. In recent years, new office buildings and halls have sprung up all over Kigali's many hills. Hotels with glass facades and elegant African architecture offer international tourists and conference attendees a huge variety of accommodation options.

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Kigali attracts with a wide range of offers

Bars, restaurants and pubs advertise Rwandan coffees or cocktails made with local tropical fruits. The Rwandan government focuses mainly on the service sector: international conferences, sports competitions, and music and dance festivals aim to attract guests from all over the world.

On the outskirts of the city, family-friendly leisure opportunities have been created in the hills and in the intervening swampy areas, attracting not only tourists but also residents of the capital to the countryside on weekends. The offer ranges from the amusement park with horse enclosures and zip line to the Ecopark below the industrial district, where sports lovers can rent bicycles, inline skates or electric scooters or go jogging in the bamboo forest. Rwanda's Sports Minister, Aurore Munyangaju, can sometimes also be seen with her children on electric scooters.

Kigali has now earned the reputation of being the cleanest city on the African continent. Almost all visitors notice at first glance that there is no plastic waste floating in the street drains and that there is no litter on the lawns of the numerous green spaces. “Our whole society is very proud of our clean country,” says Juliet Kabera happily.

Kabera is the director of the national environmental agency REMA, responsible for Rwanda's green environmental policy and which in recent years has turned the entire country upside down to eliminate the garbage and waste of recent decades.

Rwanda is now also a leader in Africa when it comes to avoiding plastic bags and bottles. As soon as you enter the country, all suitcases and bags are searched for plastic. In restaurants, juice is only served with a bamboo straw. Mineral water comes in a glass bottle; In the supermarket there are paper or cotton bags instead of plastic bags.

The boom increases the cost of living

But residents of Rwanda's capital are now feeling the negative effects of the boom. Rental prices are constantly increasing, more and more foreigners are settling here and the demand for living space is increasing. Nigerian entrepreneurs are investing, Eritrean immigrants are opening restaurants and shops. Diplomats and NGO representatives like to come with the whole family because Kigali is considered a safe and decent place to live.

This also increases the number of cars on Kigali's good roads, where endless traffic jams now form during rush hour. A problem that other African cities also suffer from. Rwanda has tried a lot in recent years to attract people to public buses or shared taxis. There are also bike lanes on many streets, but in vain. In terms of transport, Rwandan concepts also reach their limits.

The more modern Kigali becomes, the further it moves from the reality of the majority of the Rwandan population, who still live in great poverty, especially in the countryside. The social gap between the glittering capital and the towns is enormous. Very few people like to say this. President Paul Kagame rules the country with an iron fist. The elections will be held in July of this year. In 2017 he won with almost 99 percent and similar results are expected this time.