Exposing the ugly underbelly of Kigali's popular hangouts

As you enter the bathroom to ease yourself, a nauseating stench hits you. As you scan the place, the visible filth around the place makes you coil in repulsion. Even with the burning need to ease yourself, you’d rather hold it till you get home.
Inside the washrooms of Kaizen.
Inside the washrooms of Kaizen.

As you enter the bathroom to ease yourself, a nauseating stench hits you. As you scan the place, the visible filth around the place makes you coil in repulsion. Even with the burning need to ease yourself, you’d rather hold it till you get home. 

Does this sound familiar? This is what happens in some of Kigali’s famous night spots. With a city as clean as Kigali, one would be forgiven to assume that these hangouts that host very many people every night are in the same league.

The pathetic hygiene in some of these joints is shocking to say the least. And to make matters worse, some spots subject their male and female patrons to sharing the same restrooms. It is safe to say that these places are lax when it comes to sanitation.

Take Car Wash in Kimihurura for example. Some toilets in the men’s section are broken, the bowels look like they have not seen a wash in ages and some doors don’t even lock. On busy days, the bowls even overflow. The sinks are no better. And to top it all, no one seems keen on cleaning the place when the place is crowded.

A broken toilet tank at Car Wash.

I also visited Kaizen Club in Kabeza. Although they have a number of toilets, the hygiene is wanting. Some have dirty and stained toilet seats while another has a lock that doesn’t work.

For others the flushing system is broken, which means the toilets are a mess,and finding toilet paper in the men’s section is an uphill task.

On a bad day, when there is no running water, people have to make do with the water provided in a bucket near one of the sinks. But even the bucket water is not guaranteed.

Heri Kwetu in Kabeza probably has the worst toilets of all the places that I went to. First of all, there is no lighting in the washrooms. When I visited the place a few weeks ago, it was in total darkness.

The place was flooded with water and someone who had had a little too much to drink decided to mess up the place with vomit. With no cleaner in sight, you can only imagine the smell.

However, I went back a second time this week and it had been somewhat renovated; the security guard was cleaning the toilets but there are only two urinals. If the place is crowded, some guys use the lady’s toilets. The worst part?They are near the kitchen.

Papyrus Restaurant located in Kimihurura is doing much better than most places but sometimes, their toilets and sinks have no running water. Also, Papyrus is a big place and the toilets are not enough to accommodate a huge number on a good night.

The men’s section has three urinals and one toilet which are insufficient for such a place.

The urinals in Agence Bar

There’s an awful smell that comes from the bathrooms because they are so close to the bar area where sometimes customers enjoy a meal. This usually prompts patrons to change seats.

Agence Bar in Remera has gained a notorious reputation of having a permanent stench.

Usually, the concoction of the smell in the air is of stale body odours, smelly shoes, cheap liquor sold in plastic bottles, cigarette smoke and the toilets. The toilets rarely have running water, are broken, very dirty and stink.

Chez Venant Bar and Restaurant is located in the heart of Kigali but the toilets are disappointing. Even with people who collect money at the entrance and are tasked with cleaning them, the urinals have changed colour and the smell is getting worse by the day. Never mind that there’s a food and pastries shop next to the toilet. There’s no sink to wash your hands, one has to use water kept in a drum that looks like sewage itself.

Joy Time Bar and Restaurant is another place with pathetic toilets. The toilets have little to no privacy on the male’s side. The urinals are many but the stench is out of control.

Grill and Barbeque is a former residential place that turned into a bar. It has three toilets.

There’s the upstairs toilet (with a bathtub) that is confusing; I’ve never been able to figure out if it’s for gents or ladies as anyone seems to come out of it. A single toilet downstairs near the kitchen is for the men, but a few ladies have been spotted coming out of it, and another (with a bathtub too) as you enter the place is for ladies.

The toilet upstairs is not bad at all and always flushes. The sink is clean, has water and soap for anyone who needs it. But the little men’s toilet down stairs is sometimes messy on a busy day. It becomes nasty when people urinate on the floor or the toilet seat and it is not cleaned. The door doesn’t lock either, so one has to do his business while holding the door lest anyone walks in.

Around Kisementi, I decided to check out the newly renovated Little Five Bar and Resto, formerly High Noon, and much as the place looks nice, the toilets still have a few issues. For starters, the distance from the kitchen to the men’s toilets is not more than three steps away. Although they were relatively clean, one toilet was blocked with toilet paper that hadn’t been flushed. With such next to the kitchen, I don’t want to imagine the food.

The last place I went to is New SK Bar located in Kimironko which is mostly frequented by ‘day breakers’ after a night out for one last bottle before going home. The toilets are insufficient, smelly and used by both sexes. If you think that is bad enough, the place has holes on the floor and stagnant water in them.

A stained sink with soap in the washrooms of Heri Kwetu

What do the patrons say?

Thierry Muhirwa works in town and when he needs to meet people, Chez Venant is the convenient place for him.

“There’s nothing much I can do about it. The people who are supposed to clean the toilets are not bothered at all because either way, they get their money. I’m only worried that if things go bad, the fast food restaurant next door will be affected and people will fall sick. I think it should be closed because it is really poorly maintained.”

Anicet Kalinganire a regular at Agence Bar is used to the place now and says he doesn’t mind the condition anymore.

“Over the weekend the men’s toilet is closed, so sometimes we share with the ladies. The smell can be too much since it’s inside and the space is small. But people are now used to it.”

Sonia Teta is happy that the toilets at Heri Kwetu were renovated because it was a disaster.

“This place is near my home so it’s convenient for me. Before the toilets were renovated, we would urinate while standing sometimes because the place was flooded. Right now, they try to keep it clean but the toilets need running water in order to be flushed instead of using a small bucket to fetch water out of a drum.

Fabiola Mwiza was an Agence bar diehard who had to stop her visits to the place because of their dirty toilets.

“The toilets are filthy and the smell is too much. I used to go there but I eventually left because they don’t have sufficient facilities. Imagine sharing a toilet, it doesn’t flush, the sink is broken and has even changed colour. It’s a disaster. I wonder if the relevant authorities still do inspection! Something needs to be done.”

The bucket used to fetch water for the toilet at Agence Bar

What the owners say

Co-owner of Kaizen, Sam Barigye, says, “I know there’s a lot of improvement needed in regards to sanitation but we are working on it. I also know that the toilets are very far and people walk a long distance but in April and May, we plan to bring them closer to people and improve on the hygiene.”

Agence Bar is co-owned by Jean-Paul Habimana, who doesn’t see any immediate need for change and says, “I really don’t think they are that bad. We’ve been trying to renovate the place, making it better and hopefully we shall work on it soon.”

“I know there’s a big problem but we are trying to figure it out. Currently, our biggest challenge is shortage of water and I believe if the Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC) worked on the problem, this could be fixed. Secondly, our toilet is a public toilet, so it’s difficult to maintain hygiene,” says Chez Venant’s owner, Christian.

City of Kigali speaks out

John Mugabo, the head of the Sanitation and Hygiene department, City of Kigali, says that they are aware of the problem and recognise the fact that these places are not up to the required standards of hygiene.

“We just finished two weeks of inspection but that’s not the end; district officials are also conducting inspections and City of Kigali will also continue to conduct inspections in partnership with other stakeholders. We also have senstisation programmes in place for bar owners but the situation is not as bad.”



What’s your say on filthy hangout washrooms?

Athanase Sibomana

Athanase Sibomana

It’s a shame that some bars have stinky washrooms yet they attract people who come and consume their beverages and food. I wonder what respect or value they have for the customers who have to hold their nose when in those particular places.

Jean-Marie Vianney Sibomana

Jean-Marie Vianney Sibomana

I hope the government intervenes and carries out more inspections because it has become intolerable to be in some bars and restaurants in Kigali because of poor hygiene. In some, you even wonder where to step or touch.

Michael Tangishaka

Michael Tangishaka

Surely hygiene needs to be improved in some particular bars and restaurants here in the city. Filthy washrooms make us worry about the food served to us. Inspections need to be made by the authorities.

Idephonse Murwanashaka

Ildephonse Murwanashaka

I recently went to a certain bar in Kicukiro but was shocked by the state of the toilets; they were filthy with water all over the floor. It makes me wonder why such places still have customers and why authorities let them operate.

Samuel Nishimwe

Samuel Nishimwe

I wonder if business ethics still matter to such places with filthy toilets. Our health is at stake whenever we consume beverages and food from such places. I think it’s time for this issue to be given priority by those in charge.

Ildephonse Nizeyimana

Ildephonse Nizeyimana

Crowding people at your hangout and ignoring health risks and comfort is not only irresponsible but inhumane. No wonder people suffer from diseases they don’t even understand whenever they consume foods from such places. Bars and restaurants should value sanitation the way they value our money.



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