By George Kalisa
I didn’t have any invitation and our company had offered a holiday break of three days. Looked like too much free time for me. So, on Christmas Eve I just decided to take a stroll and at intervals a motor bike around Kigali’s Central Business District.
Sight of clean, well-lighted paved streets, spotless and trimmed gardens separating the smooth and wide lanes plus roadside gardens endowed with a variety of flowers altogether enriched my Christmas mood.
The street from the Kigali International Airport to Radisson Blu &Convention Centre Hotel was one of those with Christmas décor and the palm trees in the middle of the two lanes were festooned with led rope lights. The twinkling at night is amazing while traffic moves in an orderly manner.
And, there were very few occasions of traffic jams. Moreover, they were short-lived – about two to three minutes.
Everywhere I set my eyes are leafy, evergreen trees from which cool breeze emanates and the growing feeling of perfect gratification from both nature and man-made features is irresistible. The ecstasy here cools down the restless minds and I find it a therapy for the broken hearts.
The city of Kigali with a population of about 1.2 million sits on a couple of rolling hills between Mt Kigali and Jali which are 1,800 metres high.
When night falls the flood lights and the twinkling Christmas lights on tall buildings like Kigali Convention Centre and Kigali City Tower create a spectacular skyline of the city.
The presence of highly disciplined Police officers created a sense of security and I nearly forgot that the night was advancing. A feeling that I had been delivered from the grinds common in many cities in the region would be read in my face by whoever saw on Christmas Eve.
It was a bright morning on Christmas day. My feet led me into a busy street with high traffic and more vibrant street life. Claude, my lovely guide said it was called Gisementi, an area with a cluster of bars – which was a red light zone 15 years ago. Bandal Bar was just here, Claude said as he pointed at a modern Bar.
Today, Gisementi is home to charming bars with booming music and doubles as a promising entertainment hub for everything is available. Underline “everything”. I had planned to return to this place for more adventures that night if it hadn’t rained for nearly half of the night.
All day-long we continued with our escapades on foot. You know what? The intervals between CCTV cameras were the shortest you can imagine in Africa with a higher concentration in the busiest commercial hubs and public places like taxi parks, markets, hospitals, banks et cetera.
The pizzazz of hotels punctuated with 5* hotels like Kigali Serena Hotel, Kigali Marriot Hotel and Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre set free any guest who’d obscure and scanty idea about Kigali before a visit to Africa’s fast growing economy only behind Mauritius.
Kigali is full of amusements. Just at Radisson Blu was a hand sculpture, baptized Anti-Corruption Monument – an imposing steel hand with all five fingers pointed at sky, designed by Iraqi artist, Ahmed Al Bahrani. Rwanda is the only African country where you can see this Qatar-sponsored sculpture because it’s the first African nation to host the Anti-Corruption Excellence Award.
But, you can see it at the UN Office at Vienna (Austria), Malaysia and Geneva where it has been inaugurated before it went to Rwanda.
Rwanda merited to host the ACE Award for her vehement demonstration to fight systemic corruption along championing the message of anti-corruption, said the guide.
Rwanda is the fourth-least corrupt country in Africa behind Botswana, the Seychelles and Cape Verde according to latest Transparency International ranking.
At a quarter to two, we see Bible-wielding people mostly youths and women with rosaries swaying over their chests. Some exactly looked like those we had met in Kigali’s classy hangouts. My sight was a direct contrast of my experience at K-Club and New Cadillac Club. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were the same I saw the previous day.
The festive paraphernalia and the ladies with Angelic looks in interior of the nightclubs had left most revelers dumbfounded. Patrons danced themselves lame. Christians and non-Christians were celebrating the birth day of the Conqueror of death
Interruption. Heavy rains paralyzed traffic and my Christmas Day ended without a peak. It rained cats and dogs until mid-night.
“You’re always welcome to Rwanda, we shall host CHOGM in 2020,” Claude said as he bid farewell to me on Boxing Day.
“See you at CHOGM” as I rushed to catch up with my flight at the Kigali International Airport.