On one side of the hill, I saw Gatuna border post. On the other side, the view of the National Liberation Museum Park, in Mulindi Sector, was obstructed by another hill standing in-between. Down the valley, hectares of sprawling tea fields took my breath away.
I was in a farm known as Ikiraro k’Inyambo located in Kaniga Sector, Gicumbi District. Ikiraro k’Inyambo is on a beautiful hill surrounded by equally attractive elevations. One beautiful hill surrounded by its lookalikes can sum up the description of the entire land of 1,000 hills pretty accurately.
My host, Maître Rutinywa Kageyo, is the co-author of a book titled Rwanda: Pastoral Evolution and the Place of Inyambo. Maître Kageyo owns many cows, including a good number of inyambo, the long-horned cows featured prominently in his book. The book, boasting an enticing foreword written by President Paul Kagame, sheds light on the evolution of cattle rearing and the nobility of cows in the Rwandan culture.
My conversation with Maître Kageyo revolved around different topics including karate, patriotism, the liberation struggle and cattle. He is a former karate coach and a retired soldier who fought the liberation war in the 1990s. His first name has something to do with his karate background. Maître is a French word that means master. Addressing trainers as masters is common in karate.
The black belt holder spoke fondly of the late Maître Sayinzoga Jean. "Sayinzoga groomed me and horned my karate and life skills in the 1970s. He instilled discipline and work ethic into my life. He made me who I am today." Kageyo told me.
Maître and I discussed a variety of topics over milk. When this was going on, his wife kept refilling my cup. She is like those aunties who won’t stop feeding you while accusing you of losing weight. I am talking about those aunties who never take no for an answer. Under their care, your opinion of what is enough is completely disregarded. What could be your weight loss success story in the city is utter nonsense to them.
During my frequent visits to rural Rwanda, I share banana beer with elders quite often. This time round, I was served milk — a lot of it. Milk resonates perfectly with Kageyo’s farm and the culture he is preserving.
"How many cows do you have?" I asked him. "We don’t disclose the number of cows we have. All I can say is that I own a few of them." That was a familiar response. My own uncles always claim to own ’just a few’ even when the sizes of their flocks tell a different story.
The hill on which Ikiraro k’Inyambo is found used to be the site of Radio Muhabura, the voice of inkotanyi. Plans are underway to recreate the studio and preserve this location of historical significance. In the meantime, the farm offers unparalleled cultural experiences and a lot of milk.
The author is visiting all 30 districts of Rwanda. His tour of Gicumbi is sponsored by Ikaze Rwanda Tours and Travel, The Click Creations, The Peakspot Lodge and Beyond the Gorillas Experiences (BGE).