The holy site of Kibeho in Nyaruguru District is poised for a major facelift after district authorities agreed to construct a Rwf1.5 billion multi-purpose storied building complete with taxi park and a modern market there.
The project, officials say, will help address the challenge of parking space for the growing number of pilgrims who flock to Kibeho every year. Kibeho is where, in 1981, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to three school-girls.
The apparitions were later recognised by the Roman Catholic Church in 2001 after scrutinising the results of two commissions made up of doctors and theologians.
Since then, thousands of pilgrims have been travelling from around the world to visit the site with official figures putting the number of pilgrims to over 500,000 every year.
The district Mayor, Francois Habitegeko, told The New Times that the district was mobilising private businesspeople to invest in the project.
“We want it to be a result of a public-private partnership,” he said.
The district is envisaging various scenarios; including being a shareholder in the project or leaving it to private investors. However, Habitegeko said in case the partnership doesn’t work, the district was ready to implement the project alone, though it would require it to be implemented in many phases, suggesting that it might take a number of years before it is completed.
The structure will be built on a plot of land of about one hectare in Kibeho centre. Expropriation process has been completed and authorities are in the final stages of awarding the construction tender to developers, the mayor said.
Though it remains unclear when the construction will begin, Habitegeko told this paper that the district had earmarked about Rwf400 million towards the construction of the taxi park in this fiscal year’s budget, suggesting that activities might kick off next June.
Tarmac road in the offing
Lack of proper road to link Nyaruguru to neighbouring areas has also been singled out as one of the many setbacks to the district’s socio-economic development.
Nyaruguru is accessed through unpaved roads that are partly full of potholes, making the ride there tiresome and time-consuming.
That would justify why many public transport companies have shunned the area despite having a large number of travellers. Access to the area is mainly possible using mini-buses, locally known as Twegerane, hiring a car or using commercial motorcycles.
Habitegeko said the construction of the tarmac road that links Nyaruguru to the neighbouring Huye District might start soon, though he was not specific when it would.
“The construction of the road has been made a priority by the Government and information reaching us indicates that works might start soon,” Habitegeko said.
Apart from easing transport to and from the district, the road is also expected to boost other investments in the district and facilitate the movement of produce to markets, the mayor said.
Kibeho is regarded highly mainly because of its status as a Roman Catholic Church-approved holy site.
The thousands of pilgrims who flock to the area every year for prayers, pilgrimage and tourism make it a place of business opportunities, mainly in the transport and hospitality sectors.
Hospitality remains one of the unexploited sectors that investors can tap into, by setting up hotels, restaurants and other facilities to respond to the growing demand, officials say.