For the past 12 years, Musanze town has probably become one of the fastest growing towns in the country.
This is mainly attributed to the scores of tourists that throng the town and its environs all year round, to take in the different amazing destinations the area is blessed with.
VIDEO: How Kwita Izina has transformed Musanze. Source: TheNewTimes/YouTube
According to residents, Musanze town has in the past few years become the pride of Northern Province and indeed the entire country, earning the tag of ‘The Tourism City”.
From the volcanic Musanze caves through the breathtaking view of Virunga mountain ranges to the twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo, the ever-cold Musanze area is indeed one of a kind.
But according to Musanze residents, they owe the transformation story they have witnessed in the recent past to the mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park.
From tarmacked roads, to schools, hospitals and the new face of Musanze town, among other goodies; they say all these would not have been possible without gorillas and certainly so the annual gorilla naming ceremony, popularly known as Kwita Izina.
Today, Musanze will host the 13th edition of the ceremony that has become a permanent fixture on the global tourism calendar.
This year, 19 baby gorillas will be named.
Alice Uwineza, a resident of Kinigi Sector, Musanze town told The New Times that Kwita Izina is like "another festive season that reminds us (Musanze people) that we are lucky to host Volcanoes National Park.”
"Kwita Izina is such an important event. We name baby gorillas every year and on such day people tend to wake-up very early in the morning to attend the naming ceremony because we very well know the significance of gorillas to our area,” Uwineza said.
Indeed, quite often on Kwita Izina day like this, hundreds of Musanze residents are always on the way to Kinigi, as early 6 am, to witness the naming ceremony of baby gorillas.
Some 239 Mountain gorillas have been named in the 12 ceremonies since the first Kwita Izina in 2005.
Statistics shows that since the first Kwita Izina the gorilla population has grown by 26.6 per cent.
According to Rwanda Development Board—under which tourism and conservation falls--Mountain gorillas contribute up to 90 percent of government revenues from all national parks.
In 2016 alone, Rwanda earned $404 million from tourism. The target this year is $444 million.
"When tourists visit gorillas, it benefits us in so many ways. For instance the road to Kinigi has been rehabilitated. Kinigi township has grown bigger. Lots of arts and crafts are being sold at the RDB offices in Kinigi and tourists buy all these and proceeds go to communities,” Uwineza added.
Ellie Nzabamwita another resident of Musanze says that Kwita Izina event has gradually helped them appreciate biodiversity Musanze is endowed with.
“New roads have been built, health centres and schools established, cooperatives have been supported and trackers have earned money that has transformed their lives,” he said.
Jean Damascene Habyarimana, the Mayor of Musanze says the district owe her development to the gorillas and the Kwita Izina itself.
“Several people come from all corners of the world to Musanze town. This has inevitably stimulated economic activity. Hotels have come up, transport is booming and other businesses,” the Mayor said.
“I want to believe that Musanze town comes second only to Kigali to have the biggest number of hotels in Rwanda. This is all because the gorillas and of course annual Kwita Izina event.”
There are about 800 mountain gorillas are left in the entire world and half of these live in the virunga park.Follow https://twitter.com/AthanTashobya