By MOHAMMED ABDULLAHI
There is apparent danger in riding down a hill and equally, a herculean task in climbing up a hill. In both cases in Rwanda, a country known for its thousand hills has made it an easy task whether you love to climb or ride down the hill. No doubt, many parts of Kigali showcases a breathtaking view of hilly topography carefully designed in nature’s green trees and flowers, the orderliness, discipline, peace and serenity inherent in Kigali is arguably, incomparable.
It was the last week of May 2022 and I was excited that I will be visiting Kigali for the first time to witness the finals of the second edition of the Basketball Africa League, an initiative of National Basketball Association (NBA Africa) to develop and promote the beautiful game of basketball in the African continent by giving opportunities to home grown talents to showcase their skills in a rare global platform. US Monastir of Tunisia clinched the final trophy after an enthralling game involving Petronas De Luanda of Angola at the astounding 10,000 capacity Kigali Arena, most recently renamed Bank of Kigali Arena after the latter acquired the name rights in a $7Million deal for the next six years.
Arriving Kigali International Airport aboard the nation’s national carrier, RwandAir, on a cold Monday night, it took less than 15 minutes to clear immigration, undergo rapid antigen Covid19 test and my luggage was already waiting for me at the carousel for pick-up. Although over 80 percent of the travellers from Lagos on that particular flight were transiting to majorly Dubai and Johannesburg, the efficiency with which the airport staff handled the various process of passenger clearance was not only welcoming but heralded the beginning of a beautiful journey into Rwanda for the visitors. From the airport, I arrived my super clean and comfortable apartment in Kibagabaga, an incredibly quiet, serene upper cum middle class settlement less than 15 minutes’ drive from the airport. Luckily, the Adriel Homes apartment is managed by a Nigerian, Stanley who recently relocated to Kigali from South Africa. He became my tour guide to important monuments across city.
You cannot afford to miss the Kigali Genocide Memorial while in Kigali. This place certainly lies the history and foundation for the now peaceful, prosperous and united Rwanda. While here staring at the mass graveyard of about 250,000 people and a museum artefact including sounds, videos and photos that transported me into the genocide tragedy, I experienced inhumanity at its peak, the darkest pain and anguish that once enveloped the Rwandan cloud. Away from the memorial, it is most comforting that after 28 years of the avoidable tragedy, Kigali and indeed Rwanda has forged ahead in unprecedented positive transformation. As we drove round Kigali, I see a city deliberately designed to increase and enhance life expectancyevident with the stunning green landscape from the city center to Nyamirambo and then to Kachyru and of course all other parts of Kigali. Aside the beautiful landscape, I was also intrigued by the level of security and citizen’s discipline.
On Saturday, 28th May was the final game of the Basketball Africa League scheduled for 6pm local time. There was covid19 rapid antigen test facility onsite to test spectators before accessing the arena. Everyone including players scaled this requirement in order to access the venue and the efficient, effective rancor-free manner buoyed by innovative technology with which the exercise was carried out smoothly for a 10,000-capacity filled venue is commendable. Immediately after the basketball game was time for the UEFA Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool and as a lover of football, I joined thousands of fans at the Kigali Convention Centre for the live screening of the game. Same night, I arrived Nyamirambo more than 10 kilometers outskirt of Kigali city to experience the much talked about car-free zone area which is a collection of about 6 streets restricted to only sitting out and enjoying refreshments under the stars. It was past 1am local time and as I journeyed back to my apartment more than 10 kilometers away via a metered motorbike popularly called “moto” in Kigali, I was rest assured of total safety. In fact, all through the journey, many young and old persons, male and female were seen walking the lonely, tree-covered but well-litroads without fear.
Aside a very clean, green and sustainable environment, functional city attracting global brands and events, disciplined and friendly Rwandese, it is absolutely appealing that Rwanda guarantees the safety of not only its citizens but foreigners as well and these Rwandan attributes make me proud as an African.
A special thank you to Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Rwanda, Her Excellency, Ambassador Aishatu Aliyu Musa for hosting me in her office and also for offering relevant ideas in actualizing my plans.