I’ve acquired an aversion to dirt and disorder in streets that has become an obsession. That’s why I’ll never again travel the south road, from Kigali to the southern town of Butare, in Huye District. Unless things change drastically, that’ll remain my resolution.
You see, Saturday last week a few colleagues and I went for a colleague’s introduction ceremony in Butare. Halfway, in the town of Gitarama, we stopped over for some provisions. As I was going to step on the ground, I stopped in mid-air and suddenly clambered back onto my seat. I could not believe my eyes – was this street in Rwanda?
So far, I’d got used to seeing spectacular order and cleanliness even in the backstreets of any town of Rwanda. I’d visited all other towns specifically to find out if the claims were true, that only Kigali was clean. After checking out many towns and finding them spotless, I was satisfied that they were not. I was in fact surprised that even the notorious towns I’d known to be disorderly, like Ruhengeri, had turned into show-cases for order.
So, Gitarama gave me a rude awakening. There were Rwandans in some parts of the country who could walk around in litter without giving a hoot. Don’t they hear on radio how the state of other towns in the rest of Rwanda is? Do they know about the monthly ‘umuganda’ that brings people together for a cleaning exercise? Don’t their leaders know what their colleagues elsewhere are doing?
But if I left Gitarama with more questions than answers, Butare didn’t raise my spirits either. If anything, my heart sank when I noticed there were kids walking around or playing barefoot. My spirits only rose when I found that further inside, in villages, shoeless feet were absent and homes had no rubbish heaps.
Granted, Gitarama and Butare didn’t look half as bad as they did in the 1990’s. I remember especially Butare town with its army of street children and beggars with their sonorous drones of “wanfunguriye”. I remember how it was almost impossible to eat in any of the towns’ restaurants, as the kids and beggars hungrily watched through doors and windows.
Still, serious measures should be taken about those two towns. Disorderly streets anywhere in Rwanda today are an insult to this country. So, back in Kigali last Sunday, I thought I’d check out Kigali again in case something about cleanliness in Rwanda was happening that I was not aware of.
From the hair salon opposite Inkuru-Nziza, I went to the former Nyarugenge market that used to be an uncontrollable bee-hive of activity. Life was still astir but there was no sign of disorder or litter.
From there I travelled to Nyamirambo, through the riotous Bilyogo straight up to Iryanyuma. The spotless cleanliness was as intact as it was immediately after completion of today’s expansive avenue. From there, I descended back through Bilyogo Tarinyota, that place known for mechanics who can repair anything on your car.
It used to be said that if you lost a rear-view mirror to thieves, you could be sure to buy it back from those mechanics. Apparently, following today’s near-eradication of theft of car parts and order in their area of operation, they are being squeezed out of business. Today, they are said to be clamouring to go to Iwawa Island for further training in their chosen trade.
From the Paul VI Avenue I went down into Rugunga, after which I joined the road to Kicukiro and then up Gikondo Nyenyeri. From Nyenyeri, I descended back into Kicukiro road and proceeded to take the Nyamata road. At Inyanza, I turned back down through Kicukiro and took the Remera-Kanombe road until I reached Kanombe Military Barracks. At the barracks, I descended into Mulindi and turned left to go back to town.
At Kilometre 12, I turned to Kimironko up to what is known as Mushimire’s, where I turned round to take the Kibagabaga road. At Kukabuga I took the road to Utexrwa, on through Kinamba and to Muhima. At Muhima I descended to Nyabugogo but did not proceed to Gatsata or Giticyinyoni as I’m a frequent traveller on those routes. I headed back to Kinamba and took the road to Gisozi and went all the way to Kukabuga again, in Gacuriro.
I proceeded to Gishushu and then to the city centre. I went to many other areas but wherever I passed, there was not a single spot of litter. After extensive spot-on checks with all the suspect areas, I was satisfied that the cleanliness drive was alive and well, as far as the principal streets went.
I now turned to checking out all the backstreets. After a week of scrutinising visits, I can report with satisfaction and a sense of relief that the effort has proved to me that the words ‘dirt’ and ‘disorder’ are slowly disappearing from Kigali’s lexicon.
In one area, I shouted “Cheers!” to a ‘mumotari’ (taxi motorcyclist) who castigated a person ‘peeing’ by the roadside
In the whole of Rwanda, the shame of dirt only hangs around the necks of Butare and Gitarama.