Upcountry passengers stranded
For long I have been planning to go shopping for the festive season but it has taken me weeks to clear my desk and process my leave in preparation for 2009.
Yesterday however, I managed to travel from Remera to the heart of the city. It is quite surprising though, that as one approaches the famous Kwarubangura, you would be amazed how busy the city has become within a short time.
Unlike the mid 1990’s when many Rwandans had no particular interest and excitement about Christmas, it just gets a lot busier and interesting each year. For the first time people are hawking chicken along city streets.
“Sister, if you buy two of these you will pay only Rwf10,000 but if you want only one cock, then you have to pay Rwf5,800,” Jean Paul Mweneyezu, a hawker, said.
Downtown, at Beijing shop on a busy street towards city plaza, the shop attendants are overwhelmed by the number of customers buying Christmas presents and decorations.
A Christmas tree goes for Rwf6,000 while the magnificent lights that are meant to brighten the tree are for Rwf1,500. People are trekking from one corner of the city to another.
Meanwhile many places have been beautifully decorated as well. At night, the Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) headquarters, Rwandatel city offices and some shops at Union Trade Centre shine as bright as the stars in the sky.
When you enter some hotels like Novotel, some banks like the Remera Ecobank branch all Rwanda Commercial Bank (BCR) branches and the famous MTN Centre in Nyarutarama are as well lit.
Although business may be relatively booming in downtown Kigali and in some other suburbs, the big shopping centres like Nakumatt still expect much more from the public.
According to Stephen Makau Muthiani, the Assistant Branch manager, the one-stop shopping centre has stocked every product that one may need during the festive season; however the general turn up of the shoppers is just like it has always been.
“We also have a number of promotions for example if one buys a farmers’ choice product, we deduct 10 percent off, so we are optimistic that the number of customers will increase as we get much closer to the big days,” Muthiani added.
Nakumatt has also got a Christmas Jumbo promotion that is yet to be finalised in January.
World over, the Christmas season is a family re-union time and towards the end of the year, many people opt to join their families.
It is however absurd that as we count down the hours to Christmas, most passengers are still stranded at the bus parks in the city.
“I can not seem to get a bus or taxi to Cyangugu despite the fact that I have enough money,” a desperate Janet Mukagatete said. She was among the hundreds who were stranded at the Nyabugogo Park.
The bus and taxi operators also claim that they have no solution to the high number of travellers.
“We are doing the best that we can but the passengers are only increasing each day,” Jean de Dieu Bazirake, an officer in the Onatracom bus express office at Nyabugogo told The New Times.
Bazirake adds that most of the stranded passengers are going to Cyangugu, Ruhengeri and Kibuye. Another officer, Faustin Ntaganga of Jaguar Executive Coaches, is however excited that business is booming around this time especially because people book ahead of time.
“So far, so good. We are happy that the numbers are high and apparently our buses that should travel on the 27th of December are already being booked as well,” he added as he shook his head in disbelief.
Interestingly though, most town service taxis have also diverted operations to upcountry routes, to cash in on the increasing demand for commuter taxis.
Generally, it is better to shop and travel ahead of time to avoid inconveniences after all, the closer we get to Christmas and a new 2009, the higher the number of shoppers and travellers.