If there’s one bustling suburb in Kigali that has the potential to surpass Nyamirambo, it is Giporoso.
Found in the eastern part of the city, it is the only neighborhood where one is likely to get stuck in traffic jam; not only of automobiles but also human.
Giporoso is a conurbation that never goes to sleep. Congestion starts to build up at about 5pm as walk from Remera bus terminal to the zebra crossing at the cross-shaped junction on the road from airport to the city center can reveal.
It is easy to notice that all the human traffic converges at one destination: the junction to Kabeza/Samuduha.
Ituze Street: where there’s no ituze
Perhaps this street was named Ituze hoping that some normalcy would be restored but ironically, that’s not the case. It is street reminds you of ghettos in Hollywood movies where Snoop Dogg lyrics are often blaring, with tattooed young men leaning against walls with sprayed writings.
There are idle youth looking mean at every turn or verandah of the many lodges that line up the street. They throw who-the-hell-could-this-be stares at an obvious stranger. Even before dusk, one doesn’t need to have the olfaction of a dog to smell the peril in such a milieu.
Over 80 percent of the buildings here are lodges competing next to each other: Peacock Guest House, Rest Corner Lodge, Dream Lodge, Me and You Lodge, Golf Guest House, etc.
By 6:00 PM, ladies of the night are already paraded at their work stations; hawking their bodies.
On two occasions, male workers at these lodges told the writer “karibu” after seeing a lady trailing him.
“How much?” asked the writer. “Depends on how long you will stay,” came the reply. But the bargaining ended when the custodian noted that the writer was solo.
Giporoso derives its name from an Anglican Church that dates back to colonial era. A few meters from the church is Mukharam Mosque.
Abdulhakim Kayitare, a resident of Kabeza, is a regular at the mosque. “This place, my dear friend, is like Dubai. Whatever one needs, one will find it within a radius of this stretch,” he told the writer after the dusk prayers.
The stretch he refers to is from the MTN center to Shades Corner Restaurant, less than half a kilometre to Kabeza.
It is easy to understand why Kayitare says the place is like Dubai. Everything from entertainment (a movie hall), eating, accommodation, grocery shopping, electrical and hardware shops are within the vicinity.
Perhaps in recognition of the area as a mushrooming business hub, Jaguar Coaches have a booking office in Giporoso. Banks, telecommunication and beverage companies also have a big.
Darkness sets in at 6:40pm. A lonely Intersec security guard at the MTN center called Francois tells Sunday Times that this is a time for petty criminals. “If a car parked here and there’s someone inside with a phone in his hands, a thief will offer a handshake and snatch the phone in the process,” he says, adding that he has witnessed it several times. “They run and disappear behind there,” pointing at Ituze Street.
Francois explains that the place is ever busy largely because of the many bars/pubs around. “It’s understandable at this time because people are going to their homes from work.
From midnight onwards, that’s time for petty thieves and the ladies of the night. He clarifies that that’s the time when pickpockets ambush people from leaving bars and take their pocket change and phones. “They come like three or four and surround you, check your pockets as they move with you,” he says.
At 8:30 pm, Shades Corner is abuzz with activity. The clientele is 98 percent male, including a one Mugabo. Many diners are taking milk or tea with snacks. Actually, the place is more of a tearoom than a restaurant.
Mugabo says that he shifted from Kicukiro to Kabeza because the place is alive. “What can’t you see for yourself? There are ladies in Mukubite Umwice, the betting houses, or even places like this restaurant where I’ve met a friend like you.”
Apparently, Mukubite Umwice (beat to death) is the sex corridor in Ituze Street. He confesses that he has been there for services only once. “I bought the goodies at Rwf2000 and paid another Rwf3000 to use the lodge for an hour.”
Did he ask his bedmate why she was doing what she was doing? “Do I care?” he retorts. “But most of them are lazy girls who think this is the only (and better) way to earn quick francs,” adding that very few of them practice the world’s oldest profession because they have no any other option. “Some of them have other jobs though,” he interjects.
“I know one who cleans the roads in town during the day but vends her body here at night,” he adds as an afterthought.
By 10:00, the main road was almost deserted except for a few individuals. One could easily be fooled that it’s bedtime here but nevertheless, noise could be heard from nearby. “People here move till 7:00am when I’m sometimes leaving work,” Francois said.
Until its position is defined among Kigalians – which nowhere soon - Giporoso and its surroundings remain double-faced: rowdy vs. commercial. At least for now.