When we thought Kigali was fast getting at the pinnacle of greenery, cleanliness and orderliness, one morning we woke up to the sight of the green turf we’d grown so fond of being tossed up like trash. What the hec...!
No, we held our tongue. Looks like our city fathers/mothers are on to something good, despite the stench that rises with its launch.
Going by what’s unfolding, the city gurus are not satisfied with the mere verdure that’s radiated by its pampered palm trees, street medians and sides. Flowers have already begun to unfurl from the new plants.
Soon Kigali should be a city of colourful floral day-and-night scents.
In addition to the decorative flickering and cascading colours that we know only during Christmas-season nights, it intends to turn into the city of daylight colour and aroma.
The road-side blinks and revolving lights of the Kigali Conference Centre (lights that make it hard to convince visitors that it’s not the building revolving) have been holding their nightly own all right. But now here comes daylight competition.
Let’s hope these new plant-flowers are going to make Kigali an even more eye-pleasing spectacle. Kigali shouldn’t be content with simply being the cleanest city in Africa anyway.
It has year-round sun, for Heaven’s sake. It should challenge itself to be the cleanest in the world. After all, dirt is more costly than cleanliness.
If not sheer strong will, what does Calgary, Canada, reportedly the cleanest city in the world, have that Kigali doesn’t? Of course, when its dream of dreams, Singapore, comes a shyly distant fifth, Kigali shouldn’t think that hopping over all the cities that come before and after it is going to be a walk in the park.
First of all, methinks the biggest handicap is its residents’ lack of attention to detail.
Maybe you have closely observed the tallest and biggest buildings that have recently graced this city. And this means all of them, the city having only recently evolved (maybe after 2003) from a shopping outpost. Of course, none of its shops was worth the name “shop”!
Anyway, take Grand Pension Plaza, M Peace Plaza (MPP), the building near Amahoro Stadium marked “Mango 4G” (Advertisement? Search me!) and any other of the buildings that installed escalators. Those escalators that functioned smoothly at the beginning, go back today and tell me how many are still functional.
And in case you happen to suffer any disability and lack of anything locomotive, how do you access the ground floor of some of them, in the first place?
But perhaps those are luxuries that residents may do without. Take something minor and yet vital for all of humanity like the call of nature. Pay a visit to the newest kids around the block (buildings) like Down Town (munsi ya gare) and from there to those known as Chic, Milc and others, then to those that are bigger and older like those mentioned.
Check out the washrooms. If you are lucky to find any with water, it’ll be flooded. The taps or the flashers seemingly found the laborious tasks they were assigned too daunting the moment they were installed and opted for the easier alternative: permanent sleep!
Yet at the entrance you’ll find a worker comfortably sitting and chattering away with an equally voluble colleague a hundred metres away. Their apparent duty? To absent-mindedly hold out their hand for your payment, or clutch a roll of tissue to purchase a piece, if you use them.
Tissue-holders lie idle and “spotlessly clean” in the WCs is alien. We can name other faults without end. It’s amazing that Kigali manages to remain clean, in spite of them.
These are all our shopping malls that host multitudes of shoppers of all category, 24/7, remember? Shoppers who are there to spend and therefore need clean, token amenities, free.
Owners of these private properties, when you see the number of local government workers deployed on streets to clear the littlest dirt from the streets, prune trees, water and weed the turf, doesn’t your conscience feel a prick?
Kigali City Council officials, how about administering that pinch?
You’ve already promised to introduce parks, water plants and waterways, to replace the inhabited or idle wetlands, which is exciting. To these, add artificial lakes, where people can enjoy boat rides.
If the small square in front of City Hall is anything to go by, even the cynics will have to look elsewhere to vent their cynicism!
Seats in the park where you can rest your bones and enjoy the panoramic view of the city, after a walk in the green. And Mt Kigali as a park? What a marvel!
I’d actually suggest a sanctuary for exotic plants, animals and birds. Only, would it be good habitat for some animals, reptiles and birds I have in mind, which need a variety of habitats?
Okapi, gerenuk, bongo, kudu, bush-baby, monitor lizard, ostrich, peacock, guinea fowl, quail, shoebill, others. Some will need savannah land conditions, others jungle, swamp and water.
All in all, Kigali will attain unsurpassable beauty, in part, if it gets all the above in place.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.