“Kimironko, Nyenyeri, Nyabugogo in ijana na mirongo itanu” are the words that will hit your ears once you visit this street- turned vehicle stage.
This is the home to many of the city’s taxi touts who in an unusual style call out the names of different places. Given their big numbers, the touts have to shout loudly to compete through the noise and have their taxis filled up in a short time.
The deafening noise of the touts is ‘Kwarubangura’s trademark.
Disguising as a tout like I did after the help of many of my new friends at the stage, may be successful but will leave you drained and in dire need of several bottles of mineral water. Just like the name sounds, Kwarubangura is actually not somebody’s home but a place that was christened because of its proximity to the late Mzee Rubangura’s commercial building.
The old man passed away a few months ago, but his name still leaves on because even the most illiterate person can locate where Kwarubangura is.
If you want to get the real life taste of what this place is, forget about the chauffer-driven life or driving your own car through it, because you may miss out on a few things that exclusively differentiate it from many places in the city.
Advantageously positioned in the city centre, Kwarubangura borders with several of the city’s magnificent buildings like the Union Trade Centre (UTC), Centenary house and the Rubangura house itself.
From the exotic auras in air conditioned offices uptown the city, the park welcomes you to an environment where pushing and struggling to get a taxi back home is the order of the day. Getting a taxi to Kimironko or Remera has in the recent past been a matter of who eats ugali (maize flour) and who doesn’t as everyone pushes their way into the taxis.
But the hassling and pushing is not only done by travellers, the touts, while shouting convincingly, struggle to win the heart of a traveller who may be held in suspense and wondering about which taxi they should board.
A few hours to the end of the day, Kwarubangura is bustling with activity in a rather disorganised but profiting way.
This is the pivot of business and shrewdness where barbers, photo studios and conmen perfect their respective transactions.
As I walk through long lines of commuter taxis and coaster buses packed strategically in wait for travellers, I can’t resist sights of young boys and girls clad in yellow MTN clothes loitering with airtime cards in search of clients.
“Boss tuguhe iya senkisa cyangwa iyabitanu?” (Boss, should I give you that of five hundred or five thousand? Joseph Maniraguha, one of the telephone operators asks me with a hearty smile. As many of his friends go to bed as early 7.00pm, Maniraguha works till past 9.00pm when the stage has gone to sleep.
It is here that several of the city’s beggars and idlers stand and see the day come to an end. With either amputated arms or legs, the helpless beggars stand along the taxis begging for ‘agacyeri’ (a coin). Nice illumination from new street lights flashes as fruit vendors mostly women sit along the road.
Although the vendors considerably make big money compared to their colleagues along other streets of the city, they uncomfortably keep watchful eyes around to avoid being chased away by local defence personnel or police officers.
“We have now failed to really know what to do because those who steal are not caught but when we make money through the right paths, we are either chased away or our fruits taken” says Mukakalisa Josephine, a vendor.
For the last few months now, the park is changing its face from one full of scoundrels and idlers to a well organised park that can suit the client’s demand. What used to be a place of commuter taxis crowding over the place, has now has now turned into a subdivision of the two.
The area has been demarcated with the lower side next to the lush Kigali roundabout left for taxis and the space next to Rubangura’s commercial building now for coasters or omnibus trucks.
What remains unique with Kwarubangura is that the travelling fares keep alternating with time. It is impossible to get a taxi or coaster at 6.pm for one hundred francs yet an hour or thirty minutes later, vehicles going anywhere can be got at that fare.
Take note, you risk being discriminated, if you smartly enter the taxi without asking and knowing how much amount of money is supposed to be paid rightly.
A mere whisper of “Bite mwa, mfite ijana (watsup man, I only have one hundred francs) to the taxi conductor, may earn you a discount of fifty francs.
Col. Dodo Twahirwa, the president of the taxi commuters association commonly known as (ATRACO) attributes the life and activity of the stage to its closeness to banks and other commercial places like Mateus business centre.
He says that ATRACO in partnership with city authorities has plans of transforming the stage into a more orderly one. Twahirwa adds that although there are many other stages in the city like the Kigali central prison and Muhima stage, many people prefer Kwarubangura to the others.
“We are talking to different people asking them to embrace our programmes like having more and more coasters or buses along the stage to avoid transport problems. The revving of engines of Atraco, Tebuka, Yahoo and Onatracom coasters fills the air as they plan to ply Remera, Kicukiro and Gikondo routes.
Several groups of young men selling stylish ladies’ clothes and others selling shoes on valendars gang up adjacent to the park as they fight running battles with local defence personnel who want to confiscate their merchandise. Time is 9:30pm, am out of this busy and lucrative business place for many Rwandans.