The downpour that started Saturday afternoon had threatened to ruin the festive mood as the country prepared to usher in the New Year.
But the gods smiled later in the evening when the rain subsided and the skies cleared, allowing Rwandans to welcome 2012 in the most memorable of ways.
The coldness and wetness that remained after the downpour did not dampen the mood. Thousands of Rwandans turned up for various concerts that had been planned for the night, overnight prayers, while those who didn’t remained indoors to enjoy in house parties.
Perhaps the biggest crowd puller proved to be the East African Party at the Expo Grounds in Gikondo and the overnight prayers organised by Pentecost churches at Amahoro National Stadium.
Music lovers thronged the open grounds at the Private Sector Foundation (PSF) Expo grounds to catch a glimpse of a mixture of local and international artistes, who included Nigerian sensation Mr Flavour of the “Ashawo” fame and Burundian Kenyan-based crooner Kidum.
The crowd, mostly youthful, was treated to mouth-watering performances and blaring music as it clocked midnight. Security was tight and despite the huge crowd, there were no major incidents.
“All I wanted was to have fun with my family and be with them as we see off 2011 while welcoming 2012,” said Emmanuel Muganga, a businessman and father of three, who along with his family attended the East African party.
“It hasn’t been an easy year given the high cost of living and the economic crisis which did not only affect Rwanda but the whole world. It was, therefore, important for me to come here and celebrate the past year while optimistically looking forward to the coming year,” he added.
The Gikondo show ended at around 3p.m, with revellers going home with a sense of satisfaction.
At Amahoro National Stadium, thousands of believers, government officials including the ministers of Presidency Venancia Twagirayezu, and Youth, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, converged to pray for the nation into the New Year.
Apostle Joshua Masasu of Restoration Church prayed for further progress of the nation, peace and stability as well as the country’s leadership in 2012.
The renowned cleric dedicated the nation to God as believers sung and ululated into 2012.
Masasu also held special prayers for Rwandan peacekeepers to continue serving God’s purpose of spreading the seeds of peace and stability from wherever they are, and for their protection.
The worshippers also prayed for the economic prosperity of all Rwandans.
Minister Nsengimana called on the youth to desist from drug abuse and alcohol and rallied for public support of initiatives designed to raise relief for famine-hit Somalis.
Meanwhile, at the popular Happy People Party, held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs grounds in Kimihurura, locals and Rwandans from Diaspora converged to usher in the New Year.
South African based DJ Bego thrilled the crowd, which also included expatriates and tourists. The show was characterised by five-minute colourful display of fireworks at the stroke of midnight. The party went on till the wee hours of the morning.
According to the Police Spokesperson Supt. Theos Badege, the night of December 31 into January 1, 2012 did not register any fatal incidents while security remained intact as Rwandans partied till morning.
“Over the last 24 hours, we registered three minor accidents without death. Among the three, two occurred in Kigali and one in Eastern region. Two were motor cycles and one accident involved a car,” Badege said.
He noted that New Year’s Eve generally saw a pattern of safety as revellers and police ensured that the celebrations pass without incident.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Public Service and Labour, Anastase Murekezi, told The New Times last evening that there was no public holiday today.
“There is no public holiday today. We want people to work in 2012. Monday is a work day for both the public and private sector. There shouldn’t be any confusion,” he said.