A Glimpse of the New Rwanda

Monday, November 29, 2010 | Kigali, Rwanda (map)

The Centre Bethanie hotel sits on a peninsula which juts into Lake Kivu, on the Rwanda-Congo border.
Back in 2004, I spent several days in Rwanda on my way to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. At that time—ten years after the genocide that left 800,000 dead and millions displaced—Rwanda was still very much a country on the mend, muddling forward with reconstruction.

Last month, the country I found when I arrived there for a three-week work trip, while recognizable, was clearly much evolved. This was The New Rwanda.

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"Now as we begin our descent into Kigali I'd like to take the time to remind all passengers who will be disembarking here to remove any plastic bags from their luggage, to comply with Rwandan law."

Some tourists chuckled at the flight attendant's warning, disbelieving. But a friend had alerted me before my trip, and I knew it was no joke. In the environmentally conscious New Rwanda, plastic shopping bags are illegal.