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Legend has it that these five trees are at the central point of Rwanda

Legend has it that these five trees are at the central point of Rwanda

It’s a beautiful day here in Rukoma Sector, Kamonyi District. I am sharing a drink with Patrice Mukiga, a 95-year-old "walking library." Our interaction is taking place in the shade provided by the five trees believed to be at Rwanda’s central point.

Mzee Mukiga has been around since the 1920s. He was born during the reign of King Yuhi V Musinga. He saw the rise and fall of King Mutara III Rudahigwa. Furthermore, he witnessed the introduction of Christianity, followed by a new wave of baptisms and wide-spread Catholicism.

In addition, Mukiga felt the manipulation of the local power structures and the institution of forces responsible for the establishment of colonialism. He was shaken to the core by the devastating effects of hate and divisionism. Ultimately, he learned that truth, reconciliation and unity have the power to restore much more than order.

Long story short, Mukiga has seen it all. At his age, he is obviously frail. Luckily, his memory is still sharp. Having gone through hell during those dark days, he has a deep appreciation of the situation some of us are taking for granted. "This is the Rwanda I have always dreamed of." He says while lifting a beer.

"Are these five trees at the center of the country?" I ask him. He clears his throat before responding, "Legend suggests so, but I am not in a position to prove that." The trees are older than him. According to his father, they were planted by the Belgians during the early days of their colonial occupation.

Today, this site is a tourist attraction. Plans are underway to preserve it and put relevant information at the visitors’ disposal. Meanwhile, the oldest member of the local community is the most credible source of information.

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