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Prior to the Rwanda visit, I heard swore to my friends that I would never find a place equally as good as my home area- Kampala- probably because this is where I have spent most of my childhood life.
“Even if you take me to Europe, I can’t find any place as good as my home area,” I always told my friends.
This was however proved wrong last week when I was chosen to represent my media house at a number of functions in Rwanda.
I won’t dwell into the journey to the land of a thousand hills as is commonly referred to in relation to the mountainous nature of the country because it involved some tragic moments when the bus I was travelling in had a head on collision with a cosmetics truck, thanks to God no one was injured.
On reaching the capital- Kigali, I had only one hour for rest and breakfast as the bus driver was waiting for me ready to embark on a 3-hour long journey to the Northern part of the country where we could witness the gorilla naming ceremony, courtesy of the Rwanda Development Board.
It was a smooth though tiresome journey as we negotiated corners around the mountainous terrain until we reached Musanze district where we could spend the next 3 days touring the different cultural sites in the north.
Dating a million years back and formed as a result of volcanic eruption, the 2km Musanze caves were a magnificent sight due to the coldness, darkenss and quietness.
“This is a good place to propose to a girlfriend and in fact no girl on earth would reject the proposal if you brought her here,” joked a fellow journalist as we all burst into laughter.
It took us a 45 minute walk from one end of the cave to the other but by the time we got out, we were all panting.
A few hours to the gorilla naming ceremony commonly known as Kwita Izina, a special function -Igitaramo was organized and all locals plus visitors had to attend.
Sunset in Kigali
This was another marvellous event where we were able to witness different traditional dance strokes as showcased by the locals. I remember there was an old man in his mid 70s who acted as a gorilla and would move around the huge crowd in a way similar to the most loved animal in the land.
According to Telesphore Ngoga, a conservation manager with the Rwanda Development Board, the event was part of the Rwandese culture where families would gather to celebrate birth of a new child.
“It occurs in the evenings where relatives and families come together dance, sing and poems before enjoying a special bread as a meal from sorghum,” Ngoga told me, adding that dances like Ikinyemera, Umushyayayo,Umusengo, Ikinimba and Intore take toll of the day.
Gorilla namers in Musanze
This was the d-day at Kinigi in Musanze district as everyone eagerly awaited the gorilla naming ceremony commonly referred to as Kwita Izina, drawing the name from the baby naming ceremony.
Way back, after the birth of a child among the people of Rwanda, families would gather after 7 days in a bid to give a name to the newly born baby and the procedure was adopted for the gorillas as a way of relating the most loved and treasured animals to the country’s culture.
Here people from different parts of the world are chosen to give names to the newly born gorillas and each of these reflects a certain aspect in life.
A good example was the Rwanda premier Hon. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi who this year gave a baby gorilla “Birashoboka” name literally translated as “It’s possible” in the Kinyarwanda dialect.
It was a further nice experience at the function that attracted over 100 journalists from all over the world to cover the naming ceremony that climaxed with people who had been dressed like gorillas and entertained guests.
On the road to Musanze
After the function, we were ferried back to our hotels before departing to the capital Kigali for our time in Musanze had expired and we needed to go to another work place.
As we rolled off to the 3 hour long and tiresome journey to the capital, I remembered my village days as we bypassed ladies with baskets of tomatoes on their heads as they went to the local markets.
I recalled those days when I could help my granny lift a basket full of sweet bananas as she descended to the local market in order to sell them and earn a living.
Meanwhile, as the bus rolled on the curvy but smooth roads, I fell asleep till we arrived in Kigali.
Kigali experience: another Kampala in Rwanda
In the Rwandan capital, I noticed there were many things that shed light on similarities between Rwandans and Ugandans. We hold a lot in common.
First I noticed that there were many bars in Kigali as in my home town leave alone having similar liquor such as Uganda Waragi being sold there.
The boda boda experience in Kigali commonly known as ‘motos’ by the locals was nice as these worked all night and could deliver you to any desired destination similar to those in the Ugandan capital.
Kigali streets flooding with cars after a busy evening
In fact there was a time I woke up at 3:00am local time thinking it was already 7:00am due to the noise made by the 2 wheelers.
The night clubs in Kigali most times played Ugandan music as all revellers including the locals danced to the tunes of singers Good Life Crew and Chameleone whom they rate highly amongst other musicians around the country.
However, the moto riders were more decently dressed with reflectors unlike those in the Ugandan capital. Riders and passengers must wear helmets.
A few days to the 20th liberation anniversary, preparations were in high gear and in fact a day to the event, hundreds of people were seen on the streets arguably to buy items including food and clothes in preparation for the public holiday.
I remember seeing many people on the streets of Kigali on the eve of Kwibohora than usual and these were seen walking to the Amahoro National Stadium where the functions were held.
President Kagame addressing the crowds at Amahoro Stadium
Early in the morning, the media bus came ready to ferry us to the national stadium. The bus proceeded to the Rwanda Revenue Authority headquarters were all dignitaries had to first undergo thorough screening and accreditation before they were allowed access to the stadium.
On arriving at RRA, we were ordered to pass through metal detectors before we were again checked by security operatives including our equipment.
I remember being told to avail our bags plus equipment for further security check up but this time it was to be done by sniffer dogs.
This was followed by us being told to board another bus different from the one we had come in. In fact this was done to all guests before we were put in a 3-bus convoy with a soldier manning security of each bus.
The convoy was led by a Rwanda National Police motorcycle as another vehicle followed closely behind us until we entered the national stadium.
The mammoth crowd was visibly excited as they danced and sang liberation songs, praising President Kagame for liberating Rwanda from the genocidal regime in 1994.
After a thrilling military parade, Kagame took to the podium, to assure his citizens that despite the huge achievements registered in developing the economy, defence, infrastructure and human resource, a lot remains incomplete and that the struggle for a better life continues.
As I exited Kigali the following day, I felt a void in my heart – I would miss my second home.