Rubavu: Rwanda’s upcountry entertainment hub

In the recent past, the local show biz scene has been flourishing with a string of events and international acts that has turned the country into an entertainment haven.

Other than the usual concerts held in Kigali, event organisers decided to extend their concerts upcountry with the most preferred places being Rubavu District which is steadily commanding the field.

Artistes, ranging from the country’s top celebrities and gospel artistes alike have visited the place and put up must-attend concerts, the most recent one being the Kivu beach festival and the Primus Guma Guma Superstar road show.

Rubavu district is located in the Western Province and has 12 sectors (imirenge): Bugeshi, Busasamana, Cyanzarwe, Gisenyi, Kanama, Kanzenze, Mudende, Nyakiliba, Nyamyumba, Nyundo, Rubavu and Rugerero.

The district lies on the shores of Lake Kivu, around the city of Gisenyi, Rwanda’s biggest beach resort and borders the Congolese city of Goma.

It is also close to Mount Nyiragongo, an active volcano.

Why it’s an entertainment destination

Being near Goma, a major city in Eastern DRCongo makes Gisenyi town a service gateway offering first-rate hospitality, banking, retail, transport and other services associated mainly with cross-border trade.

As a result many people cross borders on a daily basis and many artistes and organisers use this to their advantage.

Local reggae sensation, Natty Dread, was performing at one of the venues in Kigali when the owner of Lakeside Restaurant and Beach Bar who watched him perform, asked him to go visit his place and probably come up with something.

A few months ago, the singer, real name, Raphael Narcisse Mitali staged a two-day reggae fiesta at the Lakeside Restaurant and Beach Bar in Rubavu District. He headlined the shows but was accompanied on stage by Mon Statut from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a host of other local musical acts who attracted a huge crowd.

“Rubavu is a place very close to DRC and some people who come all the way from Kinshasa to Goma, upon hearing that there is a show in Gisenyi, they will simply cross over. It’s also a very quiet and interesting place for people to spend their holiday, and therefore attracts business people and also entertainment. It is also very close to the Cyanika border between Uganda and for people from Musanze.

The place also unites people coming from there. If all goes well as planned, the festival will become an annual or biannual event because we see too much potential there,” he says.

Like Natty Dread, many organisers are using Rubavu to their advantage, to bring artistes and people together. 

In October last year, American evangelist Jennifer Wilde, partnered with Baho Global Mission and faith-based organisations in Rubavu and Goma to organise worship performances dubbed ‘Rubavu Miracle Festival in Rubavu town.

The festival attracted Gospel music lovers and concert-goers from Rwanda and DRCongo, who turned up in big numbers while event’s headliners included local gospel artistes, and an array of other artistes from Goma. The event was also graced by various bishops, pastors and evangelists from Rwanda, Goma, and U.S.A.

But not only is Rubavu strategically located, it is also one of the most popular holiday destinations in the country. Given its physical beauty, it’s easy to understand why most people prefer Rubavu to unwind and soak in some fresh air.

Rwanda’s finest deejays, known as Dream Team DJs, last month decide to move the party to Rubavu District at Lake Kivu Serena Hotel, as the four DJs celebrated their two-year spinning disc experience in a three-day bash.

Dream Team DJ sjoined forces in 2016, and comprise of DJ Toxxyk, DJ Miller, DJ Marnaud and DJ Jullz.

DJ Toxxyk reveals that it was the first time that the DJs were performing out of Kigali but they all agreed that moving the celebration to Rubavu would be worth it.

“The DJs are gathered around Kigali and we do work every night. A lot of our fans asked us to throw our second anniversary somewhere outside of Kigali because people wanted something new, so we chose Rubavu because obviously there is a beach and people are willing to be away from Kigali and relieve themselves of stress. Since we had three days to party and the next day was holiday we decided to go to Rubavu for the weekend,” he says.

Eric Soul, an events organiser and the founder of Afro groove organised the first edition of Kaci Kaci Festival in Rubavu last year. Like Natty Dread, he believes that there is a void to fill in terms of entertainment at the place.

A big number of students and young professionals chose to live there as the place is more affordable than Kigali, which is becoming a bit overpriced.

Also many NGOs and organisations have moved their Head Quarters there and because it is very close to Musanze, home of Rwanda’s gorillas, a lot of infrastructure such as hotels, shops, café have been set up.

He adds that to his benefit, things also seem to be less complicated in terms of Noise Pollution for musical events and concerts.

“I remember at our festival the Police were very friendly and cooperative, they encouraged us to continue till late which allowed people to have fun.

They recognised that it has a double advantage as people gathered in one place and being entertained was better than having people dispersed and roaming the streets looking for something to do.

It seems like a natural progression as the Rwandan Government has plans to turn it into the second city and decentralise government infrastructure in the area.”

Physical attractions of Rubavu

Rubavu District is one of the best tourism destinations in Rwanda as it has the most attractive natural and cultural sites in the sectors of Rubavu, Nyamyumba, Busasamana, Kanzenze and Nyakiriba.

The place has a diversity of unique attractions like Nyamyumba hotspring, caves, tea plantation, methane Gas, Gishwati natural forest and historical sites and this is facilitated due to its good infrastructure like roads, several hotels and three sandy beaches. The area is also known for water sports.

Gisenyi town has the most popular beach in the country at the shores of Lake Kivu, the largest water body in the country. Kayaking and swimming are among the most popular activities as the deep blue water is crystal clear and calm. You can simply sit on the shore and watch the fishing boats come in at sunset.

Mount Rubavu which offers remarkable mountain hikes gaining magical views of Gisenyi town while Mount Muhungwe with the highest non volcanic peak in Rubavu offers a 7 hour hiking adventure. The more sophisticated Mountain Karisimbi takes 2 days and is ideal for active climbers.


Rubavu is also home to Bralirwa, the only brewery in Rwanda, which manufactures various local beers like Primus and Mutzig, as well as Amstel, Guinness and a range of Coca Cola brand soft drinks.

Their views

Mani Martin, artiste

My experience in Rubavu was quite amazing, it was my first stop for Afro tour, starting from the Nyundo music school that was located there. I was received so well, when I arrived at the venue of my concert I was told by so many people that people are not going to come for a paid concert because they were trained by something called PGGSS to be paid to come and watch the artists performing and support a certain artist who has paid them.

It was a bit challenging to hear that, amazingly by the time we started the show many people we couldn't imagine came and bought tickets, what I realised is the concert was made up of 50% of people from Goma.

To me, Rubavu being very close to DRC serves as one of its advantages for entertainment. Another advantage would be the beauty of the city which attracts people from all corners of the country including Kigali.


Oda Paccy, artiste

Rubavu is one of the best places we have in Rwanda , for relaxation and having a good time too. So when its best environment meets music, people enjoy to the maximum.


DJ Miller

It is not everywhere that you find a beach and good music which is one of the things that I like about the place. The local bars and clubs are also affordable.

You can have fun at a very low price. During the Kivu Beach Festival, there were so many people from Kigali, who partied freely because they were outside Kigali and it would be good if all people had the same mindset.


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