KIBUYE — It is unbelievable but it is true.
At Kabakobwa, a very small secluded island on Lake Kivu nobody including fishermen will dare sets foot.
In a bid to cleanse their area, Kabakobwa Island was reportedly reserved for punishing girls who had failed to correctly observe the cultural norm of protecting their virginity.
The Christmas-eve December 24 was the day meant to ‘punish’ all the girls who had engaged in premarital sex.
People reportedly witnessed much tears from different girls who had abused their virginity.
From December 15-23 it was a period for screening of all girls between the ages of 14 and early 20s, who were not yet married.
History has it that virginity was highly valued among Rwandan girls and sex before marriage was highly prohibited, with ones’ body expected to be reserved for her husband after paying bride price to the parents.
Though some areas used to overlook this cultural norm, Rwagasirika couldn’t stand the shame of girls who would disgrace their area.
Initially inhabited by a group of people called Banyakaramas, the girls of this place were known for their cuteness; slender, tall, with a light complexion.
The more reason they had to be protected from wasting their beauty.
Am not done with the shopping, how about a Christmas tree or a gift for my neighbor, this has turned out to be the common talk around Kibuye as Christmas draws closer but in Rwagasirika one of Kibuye’s small villages residents regard December 24 as a reminder of doom because they associate the day with what was dedicated to it previously.
After screening the girls who had defiled their virginity and gotten pregnant, the elders would wait for December 24 to ‘punish them’.
Particularly females tend to get nervous whenever Christmas is closer for it used to leave remarkable scars in their hearts. “I remember many female relatives we parted company with on December 24 every year,” said Jean Muregatete.
Boats would be made ready so that they could drop them to the Kabakobwa Island where they would live for ever.
“This act was tantamount to killing some one,” explained Muregatete. She is in her 50’s but these memories keep lingering in her mind. Incase a girl was taken to that island; it meant disowning her in their family.
Actually the objective was to let her die there with her pregnancy after all the child would be considered a bustard. All by themselves the girls would allegedly be left in tears at the Kabakobwa Island to starve.
“In most cases the girls starved to death and on other cases the cold temperature on this island killed them but that would be the fair punishment for illegal pregnancy,” Alphonse Nshuti, a resident recalls.
“I was lucky to be rescued by a boat from DR Congo just one day after Christmas,” said Stephanie Ngazari. After being rescued by the Congolese, she reportedly went with them for she could not be accepted to return to her family. She returned home recently after the Genocide with her Congolese husband only to find that the tradition had ceased.
Christmas Eve was ‘dumping eve’ in Rwagasirika. This day was nick named “umunsi wogutunganya” literally meaning the day of purification. “I kept wondering if a person can be holy without being given a second chance,” wondered Ngazari.
This practice made girls anxious and cautious of messing up with pre-marital sex. After all the boys weren’t punished so it always got back to the girls. “Though it was a painful experience, December 24 helps our girls to remember our cultural morals,” said Ngazari.
Rwagasirika boasts of having the most beautiful as well as disciplined girls. Many rich men can’t settle before getting a wife from the Banyakarama and the credit is given to the purifying day, December 24.
Though the area resorted to purifying their hearts without eliminating anyone, history keeps in their memories especially families that lost their loved ones on the dreaded day. Apparently no body including fisher men set foot at the tiny and isolated island that is seen as a symbol of death for girls who deserved another chance.