Commuter’s Tour of Kigali
Kimironko market is buzzing and ever busy. All kinds of foodstuff and domestic items are sold here. A shopper can also find a variety of footwear and soon-to-be banned second hand clothes. The market is always congested, thanks to the rapidly growing urbanisation in the District of Gasabo. Prices of food in this market are slightly higher in comparison to other local markets but middle class and high-end consumers residing in Kimironko, Kibagabaga, Nyarutarama, Gaculiro and Kagugu do not seem to feel the pinch. Over the past few years, there has been an influx of hotels, restaurants and bars which depend on this market to feed their customers.
You do not have to enter the market to be able to shop. There are boys in yellow shirts with registration numbers who can shop on your behalf as you wait in the car. They are members of a well organised cooperative closely monitored by personnel in charge of security. I was once a victim of theft in that market but the team trusted to ensure safety of shoppers’ money and belongings recovered my stolen wallet, apprehended the thief and sent him to Iwawa Rehabilitation Center. He is now a reformed and productive law abiding citizen.
Kimironko bus station is located outside the popular market. From the bus terminal, one can be transferred to the city center, Nyabugogo, Kicukiro, Gikondo, Kibagabaga, Zindiro and elsewhere. Commuters can also travel directly to Kabuga, Rwamagana and Kayonza. From Kimironko bus station, a tourist can benefit from a Rwf 230 city tour, enjoy sight seeing and feel the heartbeat of Kigali.
Board a town-bound shuttle and make sure that you occupy a comfortable sit near the window, preferably on the front row. The mini-buses operating on this route are clean and comfortable. 4G LTE Wi-Fi devices are installed in these public transport vehicles but last time I checked, they were not working. The tour will give you a clear view of Amahoro National Stadium. Until the stalled Gahanga Olympic Stadium project is completed, Amahoro Stadium will remain the biggest and most recognised sports arena in Rwanda. The 30,000-seater stadium also hosts important cultural and political events.
The tour will take you through a bustling Gisimenti area . Every major bank operating in Rwanda has a branch there. The same can be said about insurance companies and other major corporations. What I love about this suburb is that all services imaginable are offered in the vicinity.
At Gishushu, the Rwanda Development Board stands on the right side of the road. After the traffic rights, you will be able to see the parliament building. The wall of the house in which policy makers convene still bears scars inflicted to this nation by the 1994 atrocities and preceded events. Before the genocide erupted, the building housed RPF delegates who had come to Kigali to participate in the implementation of the Arusha Accords. The parliament building signifies legislation and liberation struggle. When peace talks broke down, the premises became a battleground. Today, the building is a monument symbolising the closeness of the past in a country that has moved so far away from it.
After the parliament building, you won’t need to pay attention to see the Kigali Convention Center (KCC). The state-of-the-art complex stands out and attracts everybody’s attention, especially at night when the dome is illuminated. KCC encompasses a conference hall, other meeting rooms, office park and the Radisson Blu hotel. You will go round the splendid Kigali Heights and on to Kabindi amidst beautiful botanical gardens and well paved pedestrian lanes. Trimmed green grass and trees adorn the strip separating the two sides of the highway creating a beautiful scenery. While sloping towards Kimicanga, the view of the proposed new CBD in Rugenge Sector, lower Kiyovu will welcome you. The infrastructure has already been set up and a couple of construction sites can be seen. Look further and check out the grand display of Kigali’s emerging skyline.
On a hill near the round abound, you will see Sainte Famille church constructed in 1913. This house of God which was turned into a slaughter house in 1994 was once one of the biggest buildings in Kigali. The main Nyarugenge round about is well kept but its water fountain is now as dry as the Sahara. Years ago, when most major services were only offered in the city center, a typical Kigali errands runner would never go a day without passing here.
The new bus terminal near those eye-catching commercial buildings erected by the Champion Investment Corporation (CHIC) has great facilities like clean public toilets, shelter and a police post to maintain law and order. Most passengers will be dropped at this terminal but relax, your tour is not over yet. I guess you had no idea how much 230 francs could do for you. Here, your bus will drop off passengers and pick available ones before heading out.
Next, you will see Kigali’s main correctional facility popularly known as 1930. The museum of natural history also known as the Kandt House is located a few meters after the prison. In 1897, Dr Richard Kandt embarked on exploration of Rwanda searching for the source of the Nile. The Kandt House was built in 1907 when Kandt himself who had become a colonial administrator under the German rule chose to run his operations from Kigali. However, Kigali did not become the capital of Rwanda until the country became independent in 1962. The traditional capital was Nyanza, where the king lived while the colonial seat of power was in Butare, then known as Astrida. A visit to the Kandt House is highly recommended.
As the tour continues, you will be able to see the Muslim quarter of Biryogo from a distance. Unfortunately, your bus will not get close enough to guarantee a clear view of Kigali’s oldest neighbourhood. You will pass in front of the Kigali Conference and Expedition Village, the host of major international conferences before the launch of KCC. Finally, you will be taken to the commercial street in the city center.