How Rwandan twins are proving they are not just multiple births

They came in pairs, but you had to rub your eyes once or twice to tell who was who. A thrilling fun-filled day at Olympic Hotel in Kimironko where identical and fraternal twins, of all age groups graced the Rwanda Twins Day last week.
Rwandan twins have used the platform to connect. / Sharon Kantengwa
Rwandan twins have used the platform to connect. / Sharon Kantengwa

They came in pairs, but you had to rub your eyes once or twice to tell who was who. A thrilling fun-filled day at Olympic Hotel in Kimironko where identical and fraternal twins, of all age groups graced the Rwanda Twins Day last week.

The Rwanda Twins Day, organised by Rwanda Twins Family, is an annual social event that brings twins, triplets and quadruplets from all walks of life, across the country. The network began with a small group of twins who gathered for a small social gathering to get to know each other.

Twin pregnancy is among the multiple pregnancies which have lately become common than they were in the past. Albert Rugema, a twin and one of the founders of The Rwanda Twins Family, explains how the Association was formed and how it expanded to become a bigger network.

“Being a twin, people confused me with my brother but I also had difficulty differentiating my identical twin friends. We had a small circle of about 20 identical twin friends and one time while sharing coffee we decided to expand it by inviting other twins to join,” he said.

The group eventually held their first social gathering in 2013, after it rose to one hundred members that included children and teens. Since then the twins have been returning every year to celebrate their twinness.

“One of the things that attracted twins countrywide, to join, is the marriage of the twins Bukuru Cecile and Bukuru Jeanette to identical twin brothers Bukuru Alphonse and Butoto Jean Claude in 2013,” explains Pascal Niyomuremyi, who is in charge of social affairs and development of the Rwanda Twins Family.

“It proved to us that the bond between twins is unlike any other sibling connection. It's powerful and unique. It also revealed the importance of knowing each other”.

Soon enough the group was able to get sponsors amongst themselves and organised yet a bigger event, last year, at Tella Vista Bar & Restaurant in Kigali.

However this year’s event saw 200 members turning up, the highest since association was formed.

“We want to connect and know each other just like our motto: ‘Gathering twins, making society strong.’ We strengthen our societies by discovering hidden talents and potentials and portray peace and unity, a trait in most twins.”

For those who aren't part of this small club, it's fascinating to think about what life is like as a twin. Twins and other multiples, like triplets and quadruplets, have a special connection between them, and can sometimes possess a supernatural bond.

Sandrine Kayinganwa, a tourism officer at Rwanda Development Board, and her twin sister are followed by a set of identical twin brothers. The pair’s bond could be noticed by how they played together, went to the same school and even sat in the same class. “It’s like having a built-in best friend for life.

It is comforting knowing that Sandra and I have each other. We have the same passion and enthusiasm for what we do and can bounce ideas off each other. It doesn’t matter where Sandra and I are because we always feel connected,” said Sandrine.

Their resemblance fascinated and confused many people, ‘which was fun’ Kayinganwa reveals, adding that they can sense when their sibling is in pain, and telepathically respond to the situation.

Niyomuremyi with his brother and nieces at the event. / Sharon Kantengwa

More than just a social gathering

The Rwanda Twins’ Family vibe is a mix of social events where they contribute to their weddings, visit patients, empower and connect through social media.

Some parents of the twins have also since joined the network and created their own group to support the twins. This year, they resolved to help families with twins that cannot support themselves financially and fundraised money to help vulnerable families.

Saidath Gato, a twin and mother of twins joined the network to not only help her and her children connect with other twins, but also share her experience and learn from others about many things including the challenges of raising twins.

“Being a twin, I know it’s not easy raising them as it can be stressing. Meeting with other parents to share our experiences and challenges and fundraising for vulnerable families will make our lives easier,” she says.

Niyomuremyi added that the Rwanda Twins Family will help its members to improve their skills in terms of business and culture through the Twins connect, another network connecting twins all over the world with the aid of ‘Youth Works Africa’ who are in the process of developing an application where people can make business plans and collaborate in one place.

“Most of the members of Rwanda Twins Family are young people who are talented, with different passions and skills.”

“We are going to conduct a thorough research on how many twins we have in this country, for proper documentation. We are already working with Muhima hospital to give us the numbers and we want to work with Government institutions to determine the statistics,” Niyomuremyi says.

The twin influencers are now contemplating organising another event in the middle of the year.

It is not yet decided if it is an organisation or just a social gathering but we want it to be recognised. We are connected to other twins in East Africa and we want to make it big so by inviting them to our social gatherings.

Twins in the Rwandan culture

Modeste Nzayisenga Rutangarwamaboko, founder of Rwanda Cultural Health Centre reveals that the Rwandan culture considers twins a blessing that earn their parent superficial respect and healing powers.

“In the Rwandan culture, married couples are not allowed to greet their in-laws. Your spouse’s parents should be the first to say their greetings and bless you. However, giving birth to twins gave you automatic blessings and authority to greet and bless your in-laws,” he says.

Parents who had twins also had supernatural healing powers, and would cure rare illnesses, oral thrush in children and eye herpes by spitting on the affected area. He reveals that this practice is still used by some Rwandans, who use their saliva mixed with a traditional herb. 

Also, twins were not allowed to clean the kraals at home as it was believed to kill the cows that slept in that kraal. 

It was forbidden to punish a twin and leave the other, as this would emotionally hurt the unpunished one. 

Twins were also required to wed on the same day because it was believed that the one left behind was going to live in misfortune the rest of his or her life and never find a spouse. Alternatively, the one who was not getting married was not allowed his or her counterpart's wedding ceremony.