If there are people who need amusement and fun, it is the people of Rwanda. Our history demands it. It is amazing how we are able to remain sane given what many in Rwanda lived through fifteen years ago.
There are those whose memories of their loved ones who were brutally killed are still fresh and there are those who vividly remember what and how they did what they did to their neighbours and friends.
We all have memories which haunt us and a little amusement and fun could help.
The Soviets and other Socialists seem to have picked a cue from American Essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson who once observed that, “if you are to rule the world quietly, you must keep it amused”, so they established state funded ballets, circuses, amusement parks, musical competitions, cultural shows, zoos and parks for public use.
In the so-called Capitalist free world such sources of entertainment were left to private developers while in many developing countries it was a mixture of the state and private developers.
Such sources and areas of amusement keep nationals amused, entertained and refreshed. In Rwanda unless you have access to pay-per-view Television, you will be entertained solely by the numerous FM stations.
After a given period the FM stations’ programmes become monotonous, predictable and finally boring.
The most feasible form of entertainment should come from our rich culture. This should not be out of anyone’s magnanimity but a little bit of imagination and creativity and then business acumen.
The starting point should be the domestic tourism. Recently the National Office of Tourism and National Parks under RDB imported a boat to increase tourism on Lake Kivu which is a welcome step in the promotion of tourism.
However considering the competition for international tourists, the world over, domestic tourism in Rwanda is potentially an important source of business and entertainment and Rwanda will not be the first in this endeavour.
In Kenya for the year 2008, domestic tourism improved by 45 % earning the tourist sector 3.65 billion shillings out of the 8.08 billion despite the plummet in international tourist arrivals in wake of the 2007 post election violence.
UK residents alone took 76.8 million domestic holidays within the UK in 2007, spending £14 billion. In 2005, 51 million Brazilian nationals made ten times more trips than foreign tourists and spent five times more money than their international counterparts.
In Brazil domestic tourism is a fundamental market segment for the industry, as 51 million travelled throughout the country in 2005 and direct revenues from Brazilian tourists reached USD 21.8 billion, 5.6 times more receipts than international tourists in 2005.
In China the number of domestic tourists totalled 1.61 billion, with a total income of 777.1 billion Yuan in the year 2007. Tourism industry in India generated about US$100 billion in 2008 and a sizable fraction of it was from domestic tourists.
Many international tourists tend to join in what locals enjoy and the more locals have fun the more the former want to join in. In India, 2 to 4 million visitors annually, with more than 200,000 from overseas, visit the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal. In 2007 there were 6.2 million visitors, of whom 72% were locals from Bavaria State, to the Germany festival Octoberfest guzzling an estimated 6,940,600 liters of beer.
Every year 4 million people visit the Times Square in the US and many of these are domestic tourists. In 2007 the number of domestic tourists in China totalled 1.61 billion, spending 777.1 billion Yuan.
We do not have to build the Taj Mahal in Rwanda nor the Forbidden or Tianmean Square like the Chinese emperors of yonder did and we do not need to construct the Times Square.
However the role of the Government through ORTPN will remain crucial in leading the way.
Rwanda should start the Karisimbi challenge so that for those who can, there is the opportunity to “conquer the highest of the Virungas”.
It could be a source of fun, income and friendship for those who can join. Rwandans can start the Nyungwe-Akagera wooden canoe/kayak competition for competitors in wooden canoes/kayaks to row from Nyungwe natural forest to the mouth of Akagera in Nyagatare district in the Eastern Province.
Over a certain period of time this may become a national event with locals lining up to watch participants and in the process doing business by trading in commodities that are needed by local tourists.
There is of course the possibility of starting the annual Nyungwe-Gishwati natural forest trail with participants trekking on foot from the southernmost part of Nyungwe forest through Rutsiro and Karongi districts to the northernmost part of Gishwati forest.
This will be an opportunity to showcase the natural beauty and the need to conserve the natural forests in Rwanda and an individual triumph for participants.
The idea of a two day wild camp site on the borders of
Akagera National park in the Eastern Province for a weekend for those who can afford it would be exciting. Complete with individual tents for accommodation and lots of music, drinks and eats round a bonfire the campsite might become a weekly getaway for many in the cities.
RDB-ORTPN will have to spearhead many of these activities before the private sector can join in. In many cities the mayors lead festivals, galas and inaugurations; after all these are potential sources of taxes.
In Kinyarwanda culture there is a “harvest day” (Umunsi w’Umuganura) when families, neighbourhoods and communities share the new crop harvest.
It is a time to share and bond as families and communities. This should be extended from community to provincial and national level.
The occasion should be interspersed with music and drama and all members of the community should be encouraged to attend and participate. Communities could compete in different disciplines and showcase their innovations in cooking, crop varieties, milking, management of milk and it products and beer brewing.
This way, people will have an occasion to look forward to and showcase their achievements while having fun at the same time.
The Ministry of Culture and sports should wake from its slumber in the cemented floors of its offices and together with the Ministry of Local Government organize social and cultural events nationwide.
Football, listened to on the radio, alone will not generate the necessary form Competitions in music and dance, poetry, wrestling, masterly traditional music instruments and other activities should be organized from village to regional and national level.
This will be an opportunity to come together and have fun among the people of Rwanda particularly village folks for many of whom the only way of entertainment is alcohol.
The Ministry of youth could organize competitions in the same in song writing, singing and dancing for preteens, teens and old people. This will give confidence to our youth and unlock their potential.