An hour and half drive north east from our compound is the southern entrance of Akaghara National Park. Before war of 1994 the park was over twice the size it is now. The size was reduced for two main reasons; During a cease fire the rebel forces and the old Rwandan government decided that the park should no longer exist, and after the war refugees that left the country in the 1950’s returned and demanded the land they once lived on to be theirs again. The government and the people came to an understanding and reduced the size of the park to just over 1000 square km. The remains of several mud huts and brick farm houses still lay within the park boundaries. The only real boundary marking is a single strand of barbed wire held up by bamboo stakes. The government of Rwanda has plans to build a fence around the entire perimeter of the park that will make it possible for them to better control endangered animal populations. I was most in awe of how diverse the wildlife was within the park. We saw zebras, impalas, waterbucks, and several other deer-like creatures all living in the same heard. It was like something strait out of ‘The Lion King’. The giraffes we saw were not at all afraid, our truck was able to get within 300 yards of them with out them running away which made for some excellent picture taking.
Today is National Independence Day for the United States and for Rwanda. This afternoon I will be going to the stadium with 300,000 Rwandans to view the military parade and the presidents speech. Last year the presidents of 5 other countries spoke as well. Though I will probably not be able to understand much of what they are saying, I am not going to pass up this once in a life time opportunity.