BY MARGARET THATCHER
Kigali is still engrossed in celebrating 100 years of existence. But, what is the story behind Kigali the capital city of a country of a thousand hills rests.
During the 14th Century, after Kilima Rungwe one of the Rwandan Kings had conquered the parts of Kigali and Bugesera, he stood on the mountain of the present Kigali and he is reported to have said these words: ‘Burya iki gihungu ni Kigali’ meaning this country is vast. And, it’s from then that Kigali City got its name.
One of the oldest buildings in town is that of the first European administrative residence of in 1907, under the advice of a German Dr. Richard Kandt. This building is close to the current market of Gakinjiro in Cyahafi sector.
In 1909, twenty commercial houses were built on the banks of Nyarugenge Market and a military camp was built at the current site of the Kigali Central Prison commonly known as 1930.
At this time, a small village occupied only a part of what is now the field hospital complex of Kigali. Kigali remained a small colonial outpost with little link to the outside world until World War 1.
On May 6, 1916 Belgian troops entered Kigali and declared victory over the Germans. The Belgians criticized the choice of the site of Kigali and decided to create another administrative residence in Nyanza-the traditional residence of the King of Rwanda.
After the war ended in 1919, Rwanda became a mandate territory under the League of Nations and continued to be administered by Belgium. In 1921, Kigali again became a colonial administrative centre for Rwanda, but the main administrative centre for both Rwanda/Burundi was located in Bujumbura, the present day capital of Burundi.
The growth of Kigali under Belgian rule was very slow, and was limited primarily on the top of the Nyarungege hill. When Rwanda gained its independence on July 1, 1962 Kigali remained a small village with primarily administrative functions.
In 1962, Kigali population stood at about 6000 people and the urban area was approximately 3 square kilometres. Soon after independence, The Rwandan Republic decided to make Kigali the capital of Rwanda.
From 1962 to 1984, the population and the area of Kigali expanded rapidly .The population grew at around 16 per cent from round 6,000 people to over 150,000.
However, during the 1994Genocide, Kigali experienced a massive population loss but there was relatively minimal damage and destruction to the built environment.
Kigali City is at the Rwanda’s geographical heart, Kigali is not only the national capital, but also the country’s most important business centre and main port of entry. It is the gateway and nucleus of the Rwandan economy.
Serviced by an efficient international airport and connected to neighbouring Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi by surfaced roads.
Despite such concessions to modernity, Kigali City retains the feel of a garden city, with a satisfyingly organic shape dictated by the luxuriant slopes over which it sprawls.
The compact, low-rise city centre surrounds a busy, colourful market, and is decorated with souvenir stalls displaying a wide range of lovingly executed local crafts and gifts to your memories always.
Kigali has moved from being a colonial outpost into being today’s modern metropolis with an outlook of the modern world and a player in the globalised economy.
Kigali City has made great strides in its recovery from the devastation of the 1994 war and Genocide. Although damaged, the city’s structure has considerably recovered; today it forms a unique strategic site for its inhabitants, investors and tourists from all over the world.
Kigali City is made up of three districts namely Gasabo, Kicukiro and Nyarugenge. It is presently inhabited by approximately 1 million people. The population is relatively young with the youth making up about 60 per cent, with women making slightly more the 50 per cent of the population.
The Director of communication in Kigali City Council, Bruno Iyamuremye revealed to The New Times the challenges Kigali faces today and top on it that 70 per cent of Kigali City is settled in unplanned way.
He says Kigali faces a problem of narrow roads and there is need to expand the traffic lights, and deal with the wide spread problem of unemployment among the youth.
The government has evidently tried its best to make Kigali City clean, in achieving this, Iyamuremye said the population of Kigali participates in keeping the city as clean and green which makes Kigali one of the cleanest cities in the region.