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Kigali quiet, but on edge after Rwanda grenade attack

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Marc Hofer/AP

(Read caption) Rwandans lined up to cast their ballots in the capital, Kigali, on Monday. The presidential election went smoothly, but Wednesday evening's grenade attack has heightened tension in Kigali.

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Quiet. It's always quiet, though. That's the thing.

About 25 minutes after reports started moving through SMS and Twitter of tonight's grenade attack(s?) in the city center, everything was ... normal. Unless you wanted to catch a bus from the center of town, of course. There, I hear, the road is sealed off, and nothing is moving.

I was supposed to meet a friend for dinner and I called to see how the traffic was; there's been nasty traffic into town all day thanks to some repaving going on, and this would only make it worse, I guess. "Everything seems open," she said. "It's really ... quiet. I never know when these things happen, because it's always quiet."

She's right. I never know, either. The first news I have is when a Rwandan friend calls me and says, "Hey, how are you?" And I start chattering away ... before he or she gets to the point and says, "Are you OK?" These are not friends in Kigali; they are two, three hours outside the city. I say, "Yeah, I'm fine, why?" They say, "I heard there were attacks." I say, "But it's so quiet... Everything seems fine."

There's always a man playing a loud radio here next to where I stay. It's in Kinyarwanda, but I feel like by now I should be able to recognize the words for, "Grenade attacks in Kigali." But I don't, or it's not on the radio, or something, and so I log on Twitter. I find out a little bit about what's happening. And when it looks like it's true, when I corroborate, again, that my friends several hours from the city know more than I do about the place that I live, I make the calls.

I call all my Kigali friends. Are you OK? Where are you? Are you home? My Rwandan friends advise me to stay home, and I say the same to them; my expat friends decide we can probably still make it to the restaurant.

I can't say we've gotten used to grenade attacks. We haven't had as many as Burundi, where people seemed almost not to hear them sometimes, so maybe there's still some habituation to come. Of course, we're all hoping it won't get to that point.


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