Today, I am visiting a small village known as Ikirenge (Kukirenge cya Ruganzu) found in Rusiga Sector, Rulindo District. Ikirenge is a Kinyarwanda word which means foot/footprint. This settlement derived its name from the footprint of King Ruganzu II Ndoli.
Before we ponder the mystery of the royal footprint, let me say something about the famed king who ruled Rwanda from 1510 to 1543. He was the son of King Ndahiro I Cyamatare whose reign was brought to an end by King Nsibura I Nyebunga of Bunyabungo.
A lot of blood was shed during Nyebunga’s conquest. King Cyamatare and members of his family were brutally killed by Nyebunga and his allies. Before his demise, the king plotted and executed his son’s escape plan.
The tragic fall of King Ndahiro I Cyamatare happened shortly after his son, Ruganzu, fled to the Kingdom of Karagwe. Having escaped death by a whisker, the grieving prince found refuge in his host kingdom. While in Karagwe, Ruganzu lived with the royal family under the guardianship of the Queen, who happened to be his aunt.
Eleven years later, the young prince liberated his native land from foreign occupancy, following a successful military operation against Nyebunga. What followed was the restoration of popular cultural practices, including the highly decorated feast of Umuganura.
King Ruganzu’s legacy lives on. His footprints can be seen around the country. He left physical marks on the territory. Five centuries down the line, the legendary king continues to instill positive values and patriotism among Rwandans.
As mentioned above, the village I am visiting today derived its name from his footprint. The said footprint was dug out of the rock during the construction of the Kigali - Rubavu highway in 1980. The mysterious mark is currently exhibited at Ikirenga Cultural Center.