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Tracing the source of Rusizi River

Tracing the source of Rusizi River

When volcanic action blocked Lake Kivu’s flow toward Lake Edward, its outlet was reversed. The result was a southward current and the formation of Rusizi River. The new river empties into Lake Tanganyika.

Massive tectonic movement, responsible for the formation of the Virunga Massif, erased one river from the surface of the earth and created a new one. This intriguing process unplugged Lake Kivu’s connection to the Nile basin while repositioning it in the Congo water catchment area.

Rusizi River spans the distance of more than 100 kilometers. Along the way, it forms part of the boundary line between Rwanda and DR Congo. Farther downstream, it borders Burundi and DR Congo.

An investment consortium managed by the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (French acronym: CEPGL) runs a couple of hydroelectricity plants along the course of Rusizi River. The two power plants generate electricity for the benefit of the neighboring communities in Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo.

At its mouth, Rusizi splits into several tributaries. The area’s relatively flatter plains and riparian swamps slows down the stream. In the 19th Century, some Asian traders and European explorers thought the river was flowing toward the opposite direction. Uncertain of the actual direction of the flow, British explorers Richard Burton and John Speke tested and, eventually, debunked the preposterous south-north flow hypothesis.

The northern part of the river is not as confusing. Charged by gravity, Rusizi storms downhill through stunning landscapes. Its steepest gradient can be seen within the first forty kilometers of its course.

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