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Life Reflections

In Rwanda, Kigali is fast losing its pride of place

By April 2, 2021June 6th, 2023No Comments

April2, 2021

In a casual conversation about his place of work, where they are erecting a hydroelectric power station and have been staying, my son said it was remote alright, but a nice and safe village.

Moreover, added he, it has street lights. What? Street lights, did I hear right?

The name is Busanze in Nyaruguru, said he, and it shares borders with Burundi. And, yes, I got it! I’d suspected that it’s in an area that used to be known as Commune Nshili.

 It must’ve been ’95 or ’96 when I travelled to Nshili, in my line of duty.

‘Travelled’ as a descriptive word of an action, however, is outright misplaced. Rather, my colleagues and I ‘were rocked’ to that place. The series of rocks that went for a road were so hostile we felt more pity for our vehicle than for our then relatively young backs.

On a moon- and star-less night, calling the place pitch-black was being generous on it.

I remember that when our mission there was aborted, we celebrated. With the scaring nights we’d take time to rest early and nurse our raw backs, before embarking on the back-jolting journey back. To my relief, duty never called me back till I left the post I then held.

Now, wonder of wonders, that road is smooth murram and, at night, streets are lit!

It’s one of the changes I’d be telling first hand, hadn’t it been for this pandemic. Burdened with old age hang-ups, I saw my chances of touring all of Rwanda last Christmas holidays, to update myself, dashed.

Foolish me, though, why am I all agog about Nshili today as if I don’t remember Kigali of 1994?

On the last leg of my journey from Kenya, a minibus-taxi dropped me at what was Radio Rwanda, in the evening. I could not see beyond my nose, so dark was the night — and considering how short my nose is, you can guess how nightmarishly dark it was!

Then, horror of horrors, I heard the growl of a dog nearby and my heart ‘jumped to’ my mouth!

I used to laugh at the British for their senseless expressions till I tasted my heart that night! If you remember those dogs and the way they’d been fattened on genocide corpses, you understand.

Anyway, I got accommodated for the night and later could even accommodate myself, though in temporarily “liberated houses” (imbohozanyo) belonging to absentees.

Later, as Kigali was beginning to look like a city, government ministers were so approachable that I could dare ask for a plot of land from one. And, indeed, the minister offered me two and I went off singing to high Heaven.

Until I met the man responsible for identifying free land in the name of Dereva. That’s how I woke up to the fickle ‘approachability’ of that minister; he knew whom he was sending me to.

Unknown to me, Dereva was more ensnaring than a snake.

When he pronounced a piece of land to have a “litige” (dispute), gullible characters like me couldn’t fathom that he wanted you to empty your pockets before getting it!

But it was as well I missed the lands. Where he was suggesting was too far from the city. I was not going to live in places without smooth streets, electricity or running water.

How gullible can one be! Some of us were not gullible but downright stupid.

Today, below Parliament and all around are prime areas that are playing host to executive mansions. In fact, where that dilapidated Radio Rwanda sat is today graced with a regal block of exclusive flats that’d have made the old radio-station building cry in shame!

But, first, a word about Dereva and that minister. Where Dereva is today, search me, but in the end the minister went rogue, just like many of his ilk who thought that the RPF government was here to replace the old government and ‘eat’ too, so that it’d be business as usual.

What they’d not bargained for was that the protracted liberation struggle was in no way near the end. Because it meant seeing that every single Rwandan was clean, enlightened, healthy, well-to-do, free and more. In a word, even a high-income position and all freedoms won’t be the apex if Rwandans are to live up to this government’s vision.

Thus, those for shortcuts opted out.

However, we were on my narrow vision of wishing to literally live in the central business district. ‘Unfortunately’, when next I checked, the place I could get was in what used to be Kigali Ngali, beyond Kigali boundaries!

I settled in Umudugudu Kibaya, Nyarugunga Sector, close to twenty km out of the city centre. But if you think I am shedding tears, you’ve got another think coming. Kigali City covers a 738 area today.

Apart from its un-pre-planned streets, Kibaya enjoys enough amenities to rival any world-class city estate. The ‘Dereva’ antithesis of the area is Mr Nshuti Louis, head of the technical team of the water utility, Wasac, Kanombe branch.

He so pampers residents he’ll ask if there is any water problem at midnight! A better exemplar of good service delivery, you never saw.

We may’ve talked at length about Kigali but the fact is that every fringe nook on this land is racing to surpass it in beauty, amenity-provision, all.

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