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Aug 7th 2013

Africa with Clinton: South Africa (Day 9)

Thank God for a late start this morning.  Call time is 12:30pm.  Thank you Jesus!  We had the option of visiting the Apartheid Museum this morning, but since I’d already done that on a previous trip, I elected to stay in and enjoy my lovely room.  Slept late and enjoyed a leisurely morning, listening to my meditations, responding to email, and sitting on all the furniture in the living room.  LOL.

IMG_0380Met the group for lunch and then we headed out.  First stop:  a CHAI Clinic visit in Pretoria, about a 90 minute drive from our hotel.  This particular clinic focused on work with HIV/AIDS clients, though they treat other health issues as well.  The South African government has only recently allowed the international medical community to assist them with the HIV/AIDS epidemic that roils the country.

In the post-apartheid era, as HIV/AIDS was gaining a foothold in the community, the government refused to offer any treatment or assistance to people with HIV/AIDS.  They believed that the HIV virus had been manufactured by oppressive regimes to annihilate black people, and that the treatment drugs being promoted were not actually intended to help patients, but, in fact, would make patients worse and speed their deaths.  It has only been very recently — just in the last couple of years — that the government has been receptive to even entertaining treatment, care, and prevention assistance for people living with HIV/AIDS.

The CHAI clinic in Pretoria is one of the facilities that the South African government has allowed to operate to address the HIV issue.  (CHAI stands for Clinton Health Access Initiative.)  At this site visit, the Minister of Health announced that the government was committing funds to expand the clinic’s facilities so that it would accommodate more clients.  It was a major coup!

After this visit, we headed to the Pretoria Campgrounds for a Conversation with Changemakers, sponsored by the Clinton Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.  Six African businesspersons, entrepreneurs, and non-profit leaders shared the stage with Bill and Chelsea Clinton to discuss various community development initiatives.  The audience was filled with South Africans, many of whom lined up to ask a variety of questions.  The event was live-streamed and several questions came from on-line viewers.  Nice event.

Back to the hotel … got there just in time for my 10pm (south african time) conference call with Elder Bernice King to discuss the 50th Anniversary events.  That call lasted for an hour and some changed.  By the time we were done, it was near 1130pm, and I realized that I hadn’t eaten since lunch.  Because of my call, I’d missed the last delegation dinner with Clinton, but, as the saying goes,  I had to make the doughnuts (i.e, service my clients).  Thank goodness for 24 hour room service!  I called my butler — yes, I had a butler!!!!! — and a club sandwich arrived in no time at all.

Was up til 3am (south african time), packing for the last time and responding to email about the 50th.  Gotta get my team answers and give them direction on some things since I’ll be flying back to the States most of tomorrow and may not be able to respond to them at all.  330am, I finally crashed out.

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Aug 6th 2013

Africa with Clinton: Rwanda / South Africa (Day 8)

Kigali CentreEarly call time:  luggage in the lobby by 7am.  Departure from hotel at 7:45am.  These early mornings are killing me.  But thanks to some medication, the back pain subsided enough that I was able to sleep through the night.

Had breakfast with Dawn today.  We agreed that we are both ready to go home.  I’ve only been on the road since last week, but Dawn’s been on the road since July 21 — she joined this trip straight from a basketball recruiting trip to Lithuania.  My new friend, Linda Johnson Rice (publisher of Ebony Magazine), has been on the road since July 25 — she was in Greece before this trip.  We’re agreed — it’s been nice, but it’s time to wrap this up …

Kigali Genocide Museum

First stop this morning:  the Kigali Genocide Museum.  This museum tells the story of the genocide that occurred in Rwanda (pronounced Rhonda) in the early 1990s.  More than one million people were killed in the ethnic violence that raged in the country.  It was Hutus versus Tutsis, with the Tutsis being the underdogs.  While the world watched, a million people were killed, even though the international community had much advance notice that massacres were being planned.

Here’s the irony:  prior to the arrival of the colonial powers in the early 1900s, the Rwandan people has been all one ethnic group.  But the colonialists, in an effort to divide and conquer, created artificial divisions among the people based on economic stratification.  All Rwandans had to obtain an identity card, and Rwandans who owned more than ten cows were labeled Tutsi, and those with less than ten cows were Hutus.  Because of this, it was very possible to have a Hutu and a Tutsi in the same family.  Tutsis, because of their economic status, were considered superior to Hutus, and were given better jobs and more opportunities for advancement.  Over time, Hutu resentment grew against Tutsis, and soon after the colonial powers were finally forced out of the country, a Hutu took power and began to plan the genocide of Tutsis.

Weapons were stockpiled and on a planned, specific date, the massacres began.  Hundreds of thousands of Tutsis — men, women, and children, were beaten, maimed, tortured, and killed.  Women were raped in front of their husbands and/or children.  Entire families were wiped out.  Parents were made to kill their children, and children were made to kill their parents.  Brutal.

Outside the museum, there are fourteen mass gravesites, each one holding the remains of thousands of the dead.  Inside there are exhibits explaining the history of the conflict, how the massacre was planned, the role of the international community, and how they are now rebuilding their nation.  Two exhibits were particularly moving:  one was the “Childrens’ Room” which contains photographs of the children killed, along with comments from their parents about their favorite foods, their personalities.  Each child’s picture tells how the child was killed.

Kigali Ctr Skulls1

In another darkened room, there were three cases filled with the skulls of victims.  And three cases of empty clothing hanging from wires — complete outfits missing their wearers.  In this darkened room, some of our delegation wept aloud.  The Pastor in me was called to duty, and I sat with one woman whose name I didn’t know, put my arms around her, and held her as she wept aloud.  When she could talk, she said to me:  how could people do this to other people?

What’s the answer to that question?  I don’t know.  But I said:  this is what happens when we refuse to see each other and acknowledge each other’s humanity.  This is what happens when we deny that the God that lives in us, lives in others too.  That makes it possible for us to hurt each other, to harm each other, to kill each other — because we don’t see that we are all the same … and that when we hurt each other, we hurt ourselves.

And I said, this, what we have seen today, is genocide in a highly visible and palpable way.  Same as the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, the African slave trade.  But you know, we cannot distance ourselves from this and point at the atrocities committed by other people.  The fact is, many of us hurt, harm, and kill others every day with our words, with our detachment, with our callousness.  It is a different kind of homicide, but just as deadly.  “Life and death is in the power of the tongue.”

We sat long minutes in the dark, with me holding her in my arms.  It was a moment.

We all left the museum subdued … (well most of us were subdued).  It was an emotionally draining and disturbing day and I’m glad the next stop was the airport.  The four hour flight to South Africa was definitely going to give me the time I needed to recoup.

Farewell Rwanda.  I’ll be back, I promise.

Next up:  South Africa.

Our plane was back in working order, so we boarded, got comfortable, and settled in for the four-and-a-half hour flight.  I plugged in my daily meditation podcasts, and I listened to a whole week’s worth of daily meditations.  (Here’s the podcast I use:  The Word of God calmed my spirit and soothed my soul enough for me to go to sleep.  When I awakened we were landing.

Headed to the Saxon hotel in Johannesburg.  The Saxon.  There are no words.  CLICK HERE TO SEE MY VIDEO

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