Two Hundred Francs will get you a bus ride and free exercise

Last week, I wrote in these pages, about the chaos that used to engulf the Rubangura area before people began to make orderly queues for their buses. About five or six years ago, there used to be a taxi park that was only slightly larger than a football pitch where Kigali’s legions of commuters would scramble on and off their minibuses.
Oscar Kabbatende
Oscar Kabbatende

Last week, I wrote in these pages, about the chaos that used to engulf the Rubangura area before people began to make orderly queues for their buses.

About five or six years ago, there used to be a taxi park that was only slightly larger than a football pitch where Kigali’s legions of commuters would scramble on and off their minibuses.

If the commuter had any complaints about the congested taxi park at the time, the moment the park was closed to allow for construction of Kigali’s tallest building, Kigali City Tower, the rose-tinted glasses of sweet nostalgia came out.

Closure of the park meant that the buses and minibuses were now forced to park on the sides of the road. For some time, it was not immediately obvious to commuters where buses to their destinations were parked, meaning that it was quite possible for one to join a scrum for a bus without being entirely sure whether that bus would take them to the rightful place.

Last year [and this January], things took a dark turn when the grenade terrorists began carrying out an un-articulated war on the long-suffering Kigali commuter.

On top of time wasted searching for and travelling with public transport, getting continually pick pocketed and paying the ever increasing bus fare, passengers now had to worry about whether their end would come in a loud explosion of terror.

The Rubangura experience gradually improved when buses to specific destinations were allocated stands, a few metres of asphalt, and passengers began forming orderly queues.

 Then the city council decided to move all the buses to the 1930 area where the new park is to be built presumably to reduce the city centre congestion.

If commuter purgatory is lining up for 20 minutes to get a bus and then spending another 20 to 30 minutes in rush hour traffic, welcome to commuter hell where one is expected to huff and puff up the hill to the city centre, come sun, rain or wind. It would seem that when it comes to clogging up the city centre, the solution is simple – do away with the buses. 

And if the commuters are inconvenienced, what of it? They should think of it as free exercise included in their Rfw200 bus fare. 

The city has invested a lot in its roads but spared scant thought to solving the problem of public transport.

In a country obsessed with the environment [that even worries about carbon emissions] this neglect is puzzling.

We will plant trees, terrace hills, ban plastic bags and protect the wetlands but encourage private car ownership? The Catholics say that when a soul goes to purgatory, prayer by the living can ensure that this soul makes it to heaven. Here’s to hoping that we shall all reach commuter heaven within our lifetimes. It will take more than prayer though.

Last week, I also wrote about the curious case of the Christian river worshippers in Gicumbi District who found themselves banned from the river after one of their number drowned in the river during night time prayers.

There was quite a bit of response on the issue with the majority in support of the riverside patrols that the local authorities said they would put in place to keep away stubborn worshippers of the river. 

Their arguments ranged from concerns over public safety to the un-Christian nature of river-worshippers and suggestions that these worshippers may actually constitute a security threat of the ‘Kibwetere’ variety. Kibwetere was a rogue Catholic priest who started a cult in western Uganda that culminated in the fiery deaths of about 530 of his followers in 2000.

I still believe that Rwanda is big enough to accommodate as many faiths as followers choose to come up with, for as long as they operate within the law.
 
okabatende@gmail.com

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