Just fresh from the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa, I could not help thinking about the potential of Lake Kivu as a tourist destination.
Anyhow, despite being a well-versed citizen on the coastal mores, I embraced the opportunity to visit the tourist circuit.
The catch was to enjoy the magnificent sunset on the Indian Ocean. In the meantime, the tour guide on the dhow we were sailing in on Mtwapa Creek regaled the tourists – both local and foreign – with tit-bits on the local Giriama culture.
While introducing a troupe of local acrobats – who would do their thing as the dhow, rocked on the slightly choppy waters – he pointed at a portly chap who was clearly the troupe’s leader.
“The man,” the tourist guide said, introducing him as Sammy, “has ten wives and no Television set.”
Let us just say that the manner in which this bit of sudden information was delivered, even our group of urbane, culturally sensitive East Africans that included a Mozambican, could not help but crack a smile.
A Tanzanian lady among us, liberated as they come in the well known NGO ken, quipped, somewhat out of character: “Why would he need a Television ten wives?”
It was all part of the show, to which the white tourists in their often blinkered view of the African safari seemed to tremendously enjoy.
Sammy is happily married to one wife. And that bit about ten wives and a TV was for the white folk.
I do not recall whether this was clarified to the tourists after the boat ride. But the show included an “African fashion show” with just two kangas – the Swahili wrap-around cloth that surprised the tourists of both shades with its versatility in devising fashionable female attire on the go with one kanga being a skirt and the other a top.
Thrown in were a couple of naughty depictions that left a particularly memorable impression.
The excellent evening took about as much time it takes to down a couple of Kenya’s flagship lager, but it made for good fun.
That is Mombasa. The Lake Kivu has its own potential, in addition to harvesting methane gas for electricity generation.
If you are a reader of this paper you most probably will have heard about what a gem the pristine lake and its enchanting lush green islands harbour, and yet appears not fully exploited to attract more tourists than those who brave the cold mountain air to see the gorillas.
There is also the history. At Musaho near Kibuye in Karongi District on the shores of Lake Kivu is a natural harbour so hidden and sheltered that it remains the envy of many a military strategist, historical or otherwise.
Here King Kigeri IV Rwabugiri reining in the 19th century made his naval harbour from which he traversed Lake Kivu in his many forays abroad.
Lest it be misconstrued, history is collective. It matters not just to citizens of a particular nation but to the neighbouring states and world at large in telling the human story.
However one looks at it, the triumphs and tragedies are writ across cultures in every region without exception, and constitute the human story.
King Rwabugiri remains amongst the most intriguing and dramatic of Rwandan kings. He certainly ranks among some of the most accomplished.
While in Mombasa I could see how, with some investment, he could fire the tourist imagination evoking the heroic heritage of a people that made it the only community in the region untouched by the scourge of slavery.
And, recall that a significant part of Western wealth was built on the back of the African slave.
No slave trader ever dared set foot in Rwanda.
The author is an analyst on Rwanda and regional affairs.