City inferno leaves traders ruing failure to insure goods

Traders who lost their merchandise in a mysterious fire that razed shops in Quartier Matheus, a commercial hub in downtown Kigali, are desperate and say they have lost hope of recovering their property since most of them had no insurance.

Traders who lost their merchandise in a mysterious fire that razed shops in Quartier Matheus, a commercial hub in downtown Kigali, are desperate and say they have lost hope of recovering their property since most of them had no insurance.

Property worth millions of francs was destroyed when fire gutted 15 warehouses at Quartier Matheus on July 20.

Speaking to The New Times last Friday, Jean Marie Rucogoza, one of the traders who lost property worth millions of Rwanda  Francs, said life will never be the same again for him.

“I lost merchandise worth about Rwf40 million; this is a lifetime loss. I don’t know how to cope up with this loss,” he said.

Rucogoza had not insured his goods, leaving him at the mercy of government if  authorities would deem it necessary to compensate the losses as a way of supporting the traders.

The traders said they are waiting for Police report to ascertain the cause of the fire.

Police at the weekend promised to get back to this paper with information on ongoing investigation into the cause of the fire. However, by press time, they had not yet done so.

“We have learnt a big lesson from this incident. I will not start any other business without insuring it. If I had insured my property, I wouldn’t be in this desperate situation,” he said.

Rucogoza remains with few items in his shop as he plans to continue with the business or try other sources of income. 

Hub and insurance

When The New Times visited the scene, last week, most traders who lost their merchandise seemed to have moved on and the situation appeared to have returned to normal.

Dozens of businesses operate from Quartier Matheus, most of them dealing in clothes, mattresses, electronics, and general consumer goods.

Emmy Uwamahoro, another trader who lost her property in the inferno, said she had not insured her property and she has no hopes to recover it.

“I had just imported my goods from China. It’s a big loss for me because I had not sold anything, the stock was still intact,” she said.

Uwamariya is planning to seek loans from financial institutions to try and restart her business.

Nyarugenge mayor Solange Mukasonga said district officials were following up on the incident to establish the cause of the fire in the area currently referred to as Central Business District under the city’s new master plan.

“Traders should be equipped with fire extinguishers for safety measures. We are encouraging them to insure their property to avoid such losses,” Mukasonga said.

In the past, Kigali has experienced fire incidents that have left million-francs worth of properties destroyed. In 2010, fire gutted the then B-Club Discotheque in the posh Nyarutarama suburb.

Other Kigali hangouts that have been ruined in similar circumstances include Executive Carwash in Kimihurura, Downtown Café, La Classe, and New Cadillac.

In 2012, Volta Super Factory in Gikondo, Kicukiro District, also went up in flames.

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