The people of Kayonza and its neighbouring districts have expressed unhappiness over damages caused by animal from the Akagera National Park. They say the animals attack them and destroy their crops.
“It is intolerable. A buffalo from the park recently attacked and killed people here in Nyamirama (in Kayonza). I think some of these dangerous animals must not be allowed to attack us,” Daudi Mugande, a Nyamurama resident complained.
Animals from the National Park have also attacked and killed people in Ndego Sector of Kayonza district. Additionally crops have been been destroyed on several occasions.
“We are trying to keep the animals away by digging a long trench that separates the animals and our population. It is now difficult to protect the people who also live inside the park,” said the Executive Secretary of Ndego Sector.
However, this issue is quite controversial, given that the people in this area are constantly arrested for poaching.
They have been killing animals for both domestic meat and for selling to get cash. Though the malpractice has been condemned by the government, poaching has not ceased.
“This has great adverse effects on the country’s economy and infringes the rights of animals,” the official added.
It is in the same line that the government has started a project that will create a long trench to separate the two ‘antagonists’- animals and humans.
“There a project to construct a stone wall in Nyakayojo sector that prevents stray animals from destroying farmers’ crops.
This will be done by digging a 15 km trench and valley dams to stop wild animals from getting out of the park as they search for drinking water,” said Chantal Rugambwa, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) Deputy CEO in charge of tourism and conservation.
The RDB’s tourism and conservation section has also proposed electric fencing as a solution.
According to Rwigamba, the sustainability of all the proposed solutions is still in the pipeline.
At the end of the day, she said that, “the finality will all depend on how humans respect the intrinsic value of all creatures.
Not until they see killing animals as a crime against life then that is when they can peacefully co-exist.”
Due to the constant harsh treatment and crimes against animals, some people have taken a stand to protect endangered animal species from human violence. One such animal activist is Specious Murekatete.
“All creatures deserve the right to live in peace, comfort and harmony with the other souls of the Earth. Abuse in any form is wrong, and we should speak out against it whenever the opportunity presents itself,” Murekatete said.
Agriculturists too share the same idea.
“This is the principle that should guide Rwandans. They do not have to necessarily be activists, but can basically respect other creatures,” said Jean Claude Kabalisa, a veteran officer living in Kirehe district.
The contradiction of the co-existence of animals and humans can be traced in the general neglect of animal rights in most parts of Rwanda.
People do not see animals as equal creatures and actually torture them on many occasions.
This can easily be observed in the way they carry chicken upside down or tie a yelling goat behind a bicycle as they transport them to market places in different parts of the country.
The law to protect such creatures in Rwanda is still too remote to be effective. As a result, animals suffer much before they reach slaughter houses.
“Many times the chicken die before they are slaughtered, others are missing feathers and have open wounds or large sores on their feet,” complained Paul Burera, a hotel operator in Nyamata.
Similarly, cows on their way from farms or markets to slaughter areas in Kigali, or elsewhere are mercilessly heaped behind Lorries.
They are tortured before they are finally slaughtered.
Consequently, a long lasting solution which incorporates a change in people’s negative and selfish attitude towards animals needs to be implemented.
“The fences may keep away the animals from attacking people but will not stop people from killing the animals,” said a resident of Ndego.
Human irresponsibility was again revealed by the recent fire outbreak in the Virunga National Park last month.
In fact conservationist will argue that although existing human life is empowered with moral decisions over non-human life, human beings are neither superior nor advantaged in the holistic environment and both will eventually concede to some form of mutual respect.
Nature, being dynamic and beneficial for all, should not be bound by who has superior rights over whom.
“If the this dilemma is to end, the people living in the neighbourhoods of Akagera National Park have to be reminded of their responsibility to our natural world and to animals,” Kabalisa said.
According to Kabalisa, this can be done by creating awareness and suggesting to people the moral and physical implications of destroying Rwanda’s well endowed and rich natural eco-systems.