Kibeho needs an extreme makeover as a tourist destination

Pilgrims carry offerings at Kibeho. (File)

Today is Assumption Day, a day widely believed by the Catholic Church when Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, ascended to Heaven.

It is not easy discussing or dispelling religious beliefs, it is dangerous territory and one has to tread carefully. The issue of the apparition of the Virgin Mary in Kibeho on Assumption Day in 1982 falls into that category.

But there are many eye witness accounts that when sheade her apparition, she showed images of what Rwanda was soon to undergo if people didn’t repent.

It is said she appeared through some young girls who foretold blood flooding throughout the country- people associate those warnings with the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that took the lives of over one million people.

From then on it became a popular pilgrimage destination, especially after Pope John Paul II officially recognized Kibeho as a Holy Land.

For the past week, tens of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world have begun flowing into Kibeho, a remote area in the Southern Province. Every year the numbers keep going up and the government has realized Kibeho’s tourism potential and the need to ease access.

Over $ 70 million has already been sourced to tarmac the Huye-Kibeho-Munini to cater for the mass traffic, especially around this time. But every year the area confronts the same challenges; poor infrastructure.

Even though some people have begun building small scale accommodation sites, there is need for major investors to give Kibeho the attention it deserves by setting up upscale accommodation and eateries. Rwanda Development Board should make Kibeho one of its pet projects the way it has done to other tourist attractions. It urgently needs an upgrade.

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