“We the people are obliged to take responsibility ourselves and wipe out this scum. Their home is Ethiopia,” affirmed Leon Mugesera, the then vice president of MRND.
The Kagera River is a remote source of the Nile. The river originates in Burundi, forms the Rwanda-Tanzania, Tanzania-Uganda border and flows into Lake Victoria. Remarkably are the Rusumo falls on the Tanzania-Rwanda border.
Rusumo falls form a bridging point at the Tanzania-Rwanda border, but has no economic importance to Rwanda. They only hold a historical memory of the country since early 1890s.
“The falls were the scene of the first arrival of Europeans in Rwanda in 1894, when the German count Gustav Adolf von Götzen came across from Tanzania. The Belgians also entered Rwanda via the falls, when they took over the country during World War I in 1916,” said Jean Damascene Rwasamirira, 59, a Rwandan historian.
The river today is only used for transporting pet businesspersons, low profile fishing, etc. But, although the falls are not of a significant height in comparison to other waterfalls, they can be improved to generate hydro-electric power.
Unfortunately, the three countries Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda have had a sluggish initiative to utilize the river in an economically viable way.
“An environmental study was done some time back by the three countries. It is believed that the electric project on the river will begin in five years’ time. Otherwise the river remains just a useless natural thing,” said Jean Marie Vianney Dusengimana, the Director of development and economic planning - Kirehe district.
According to Vianney Dusengimana, such a river would be only useful if it served as an irrigation system.
“Look at how the Nile is serving the people of Egypt…we are left to watch as others reap benefits of the waters,” he added.
Although Lake Victoria is still often considered to be the source, the Nile can actually be traced back further, to the headwaters of the longest river flowing into the lake. It turns out that this is the Kagera River, and its remotest source was traced to the hills of Burundi by a German, Burckhard Waldecker, in 1934.
The river has thus been directly and indirectly boosting the economies of countries like Egypt, Tanzania and Uganda, whereas it is remembered in Rwanda with agony.
Akagera River and Mugesera Apocalypse
Kagera is remembered with many Rwandans as a death river, which was used to drown Tutsi during the 1994 genocide and before.
“Memories are still live in our minds, when extremists like Léon Mugesera announced an apocalypse,” said Jean Rutayisire, a 55 year old genocide survivor.
Léon Mugesera in one of his infamous speeches said that the Tutsi came from Ethiopia and identifies Kagera River, as of the short cuts (Inzira y’ubusamo) to there… Tutsi were thrown into the river.
Léon Mugesera thus legitimised the Hamitic Ideology, and successfully incited the Hutu to send the Tutsi “back to Ethiopia” through River Kagera and others like Nyabarongo.
Rwandans have nothing good to identify with the river, apart form death.
“Many Tutsi were drowned in the water bodies so that they may ‘swim –straight’ to Ethiopia via the Kagera River. After the announcement of an apocalypse by Léon Mugesera, R. Kagera and others started ‘serving its purpose,” Juliet Kayitesi, 36 reflected with sadness.
Treasures of Kagera River
The river environment forms permanent pasture fields with the grazing livestock and hike along the Kagera River. At some points, cows find their way to drink, while the rapids peacefully flow down along the green shores.
The other country, Tanzania is just a tree trunk away! If you are lucky you might even spot some wildlife on the other side.
The river provides us with magnificent views, while standing at the falls’ bridge at Rusumo border.
“I normally go to the place, so that I may enjoy the magnificent views, as at the same time exploring the natural miracles,” Gertrude Nyiraneza, 34, who had come to Rusumo border post, said.
As you follow the long stretch of the river, you will be stunned by the activities of the river’s human neighbours-cattle keepers.
When you go to areas of Ndego sector you will probably learn the skills of setting out cows to graze and all the sophistication involved.
You will be amazed at the complexity of this simple act done by young girls and boys.
“There are fewer things in life, and in our culture none, that compares in delight to taking cows to the water place and engage in the synchrony of giving water to cows,” Anet Batamuriza,18, said while taking calves to a well.
The 400 kilometre long river has a lot to admire by tourists at least, but nothing special for economic development of a country. For many Rwandans it reflects the bad memories of genocide perpetuated by past despotic regimes.
A river probably cursed by the likes of Mugesera and his apocalypse.