For many years, Busanza was mostly known for its old cemetery – perhaps a less ‘affluent’ option compared to Rusororo cemetery. People only went there to bury their loved ones and left immediately. The smart ones went back to buy land and waited patiently. Even as Kigali expanded and sprawled quickly, Busanza was considered more of a ‘far-off’ village – a Kigali neighbourhood that was less developed and unattractive, even as recently as five years ago. ALSO READ: Inside Busanza Housing Estate, the new home of former Kangondo slum residents In recent months, Busanza came to be known more yet again for the wrong reasons; as the locality where suspected serial killer, Denis Kazungu, lived and committed the alleged crimes. VIDEO: Kids at Busanza estate playing tennis during a recent charity event. Courtesy Kazungu, who lived in a rented house in Gashikiri village, Busanza cell, Kanombe sector, is alleged to have murdered at least 14 people before he was arrested on September 5, and currently facing charges in court. The name Kazungu became synonymous with Busanza, adding already to the other negative perceptions that surrounded Busanza, which is located in Kicukiro District. Some years back, Busanza was portrayed as an ‘abandoned’ village where the government was planning to move people relocated from the unplanned settlements of Kangondo and Kibiraro II, previously known as ‘Bannyahe.’ It took negotiations and later enforcement by the government, between 2019 and 2022, when the last batch was moved, to convince some of the residents of the Kangondo and Kibiraro, that Busanza was a liveable place. However, all these scenarios that portrayed the area differently, including that of a serial killer, which is the most recent, do not give a true depiction of Busanza, which in reality is a fast developing and much sought-after suburb of Kigali. It is only fair to say that today, Busanza has undergone a total turnaround. What used to be a far-off village synonymous with a cemetery is now turning out to be an exuberant conurbation of Kigali with a life of its own. Ironically, it is the model village, previously rejected by would-be beneficiaries, that has become the cornerstone of development in the area, which started with the construction of the road linking Kanombe and Kabeza, cutting through Busanza. ALSO READ: Over 1,200 affordable housing units completed in Busanza Meteoric development Maurice Mugimbo, who has lived in Busanza for the past eight years has personally seen Busanza evolve from a dejected part of Kigali to an exuberant residential in a very short time. “I arrived here in 2014, from Kanombe near the airport where we resided before. When we got here, life was difficult. There was no tarmac road, electricity and water were limited to a few places,” “However, between 2017 and 2020, Busanza underwent a major transformation. We got a new road connecting us to the city, electricity, street lights came up everywhere and new residential houses as well as a model village were constructed,” Mugimbo says. He pointed out that over the past five years, people started realising the value of Busanza, bought land and started building, just about the same time more than 800 families from Nyarutarama were moved there. The two developments signalled a total shift for Busanza, which was previously considered a rural part of Kigali, which not many people did not seem to be interested in. Today you will be lucky to get land to buy. According to Mugimbo, when he started trading in Busanza, most households could not afford basic goods such as cooking oil, sugar and imported rice, to the extent that some goods would expire in the stalls. “Today all the people here have developed and modernised. Busanza is basically a middle-class residential area. Before, Busanza was known for negative things such as witchcraft but this perception is gone. We have developed,” said the businessman who saw Busanza grow by leaps and bounds. Those who opposed the plan to move residents of the former slum located in Nyarutarama to the new model village built in Busanza alleged that ‘it was far and underdeveloped’, insinuating that the beneficiaries had been ‘banished’ out of the city. Busanza, which is the general name of the area, but spreads over two cells, is now a ‘hot cake’ and people, both locals and foreigners, are coming in their numbers either to rent, acquire land or set up businesses. Unlocking the potential According to Pierre Claver Bayingana, the Executive Secretary of Karama Cell, the construction of the model village where the people from Kangondo and Kibiraro were relocated to, unlocked Busanza’s potential. “There are many socioeconomic activities going on here, whether it is business, social and entertainment events. We have places where people can go and relax after work. All that is because of the model village,” “There is a market which was built down the road. The same people came here and set up business in a more organised manner. Life has tremendously improved in Busanza,” Bayingana says. ALSO READ: Inside key infrastructure that transformed and beautified City of Kigali in 2022 Bayingana further recalls that the first batch of people were moved to Busanza when it was completely a village but the model village has transformed the area, making it attractive for other city dwellers who considered it a village. “When these changes started happening, government was quick to allocate sites for residential developments to make sure that Busanza develops in a more organised way, thanks to the vision of the leadership,” “I am glad that the cell I lead is among those which have benefited from these changes. Security is guaranteed, which is why most people love it here. You can leave your property and travel and you will find it safe upon return,” Bayingana says. Before these developments, Busanza was also home to petty thieves and other delinquents who took advantage of the ‘affordable life’ here, compared to other parts of Kigali. From here they would terrorize neighbouring communities and go back to their hiding places in Busanza. The insecurity was abhorrent that even the dead in Busanza cemetery were not allowed to rest in peace, as thugs reportedly dug up graves to steal some valuable buried with the deceased. All that has, however, changed. Bayingana says that today you don’t need a security guard or someone to stay home to take care of the safety of your abode because security is ensured at all levels. You can freely walk around at any time of the day without anyone threatening you. It is for this reason that even foreigners, including expats and students, are finding Busanza a more suitable place to stay. “We are increasingly seeing foreigners coming here, including students from different African countries, pursuing their studies in Rwanda, mainly because it is safe here and also affordable,” the local leader says. Affordability is attractive Boniface Gakire, the head of Byimana model village, Karama cell, adds that the main reason most people come here is because rent and other basic needs are affordable. “There are houses which are not occupied and rent is quite affordable compared to other parts of Kigali. For example, a house of 1 bedroom, sitting room, a kitchen and toilet can go for as low as Rwf50,000 while a bigger version of two bedrooms is about Rwf150, 000,” Gakire told The New Times. The model villages have made Busanza more attractive, something Gakire attributes to the infrastructure, which include paved roads, sports and entertainment facilities, the cleanliness as well as the security. Jean Claude Ndong, a 21-ya Gabonese student pursuing law in a private university says he decided to rent in Busanza before for a student, life is affordable here. He is not alone. Busanza is now home to many nationalities, especially Africans living or studying in Rwanda, who have warmed up to co-existing with nationals, as opposed to the known high-end suburbs which foreigners used to prefer in the past. “I like it here because you can find every nationality. We have Cameroonians, fellow Gabonese, Chadians and Rwandans. It is a mix of nationalities,” Ndong says, adding that it is what makes him love living in Rwanda. “I like Rwanda because it's a beautiful country. There are many activities here. I am able to play football with other people. I came to Busanza because life here is not expensive, and the people are very friendly. It is very nice living here,” added Ndong, who has been living in Rwanda for the past four months. Similarly, Ibrahim Bassim Aston from Liberia, a first-year software engineering student at Kigali Independent University (UNILAK), living in Busanza makes him feel at home because of the many nationalities and Rwandans in the area. “My coming here to Rwanda has been very good. My experience has been wonderful because I have met plenty of people from different countries and I am really happy being in Rwanda,” he says. Aston says in Rwanda, he has been able to make friends, from Nigerians, to Cameroonians, Gabonese and Rwandans, all of which makes him feel like he is living in a Pan-African country; a home away from home. “We are all good together. I love Rwanda. I hope that after my studies, I will live and work in Rwanda,” he says. “Honestly I love this place,” he says of Busanza, like Ndong, pointing to security and the many friends he has been to make in one year, as some of the things that make him happy to live in the area. Today Busanza is also home to many good schools, both private and public, from nursery to high school, which are attracting many parents and students. Gakire, one of the local leaders says that the area also has football pitches as well as basketball and football courts, which makes it a modern liveable area. Busanza, which was also previously isolated, has a public bus line connecting it to the central business district, downtown Nyabugogo. Busanza has a health centre and several private hospitals and also is closer to Rwanda Military Hospital in Kanombe, which eased access to healthcare for the once dejected area. Government incentive The government has played a key role in incentivizing Busanza as a modern settlement. Aloys Ntahompagaze, the president of Busanza market says the government promised them a market when they were moved from Kangondo and Kibiraro and indeed a modern market was built closer to the estate. “When we came here, we found a modern market and we started doing business in a formal way compared to where we lived before. Our businesses are growing before we are now more organised,” “We are able to sustain our families and save. However, we still have a challenge of people who want to do business informally, outside the market but we have requested law enforcement to help us eliminate unorganised trade,” Ntahompagaze says. He said that to get a stall in the market, one pays Rwf100 a day and Rwf500 a month for electricity and garbage collection- something he says is affordable for every person who wishes to do business in the market. Horace Mukeshimana, a mother of four, who used to engage in informal trade in Bannyahe says that relocating to Busanza and getting a stall in the market transformed her life. “In Kangondo, we used to sell goods in an improvised market, under tarpaulin covers which were susceptible to bad weather but today I am doing my business in this modern market,” “This is a development I attribute to our government which thinks ahead and puts the interests of the citizen at the forefront,” Mukeshimana says, recalling how at first, they resisted moving to Busanza. “I see myself growing. If I got some credit to expand my business, it would just be a matter of time and I would become a prominent businesswoman. I am thankful to the government and our President,” she adds. Mukeshimana also talks about the security in Busanza, as opposed to the Bannyahe slum settings which were characterised by insecurity and delinquency. The 44-year-old has a message for those still involved in court battles in resistance to the plan to be relocated to Busanza. “It is never too late to change your mind and join us in this journey of development. Those still involved in running court battles should abandon the cause and join us here to develop our country or they risk being left out,” Mukeshimana says.