Operating at night is a major feature of behavioural patterns of all nocturnal animals. Bats are the typical examples of such mammals. Surprisingly some people have adapted to similar behaviour.
In Matongo village in the country’s Eastern Province, life begins at dusk. Here, the market starts business at about 5pm.
“You need to wait until 5pm, to start heading to the market. If you go there any time before that, then be sure you will wait for long. It is quite a good market with almost all that you need for domestic use,” Mukagatare Gorethe, one of the business women in the market told curious visitors from Kigali, who wanted to buy cheap produce to take home.
The lady was absolutely correct, the market operates in darkness for reasons that some residents do not even hide.
“You know this place boarders Burundi. There are therefore many business transactions going on especially at night. It is true that Burundians bring small fish (Indagara) to sell to us, and in turn buy food stuffs like cassava. But it goes beyond that, when some goods are smuggled in and out of the country,” Habimana Eugene, a resident of Mutenderi observes.
Mugabo Eugene may be right because if you see the close proximity of the market to the Rwanda-Burundi boarder, you can guess there is something ‘fishy’ going at the market.
Otherwise, how do you explain why a market in a deep rural area, operates at night, especially one without electricity? And another thing that emphasises this observation, is the fact that even the food they claim to be selling, is not available by the time the market is in full swing.
In addition, the prices are exorbitant. This is understandable since it is actually an ‘international market’.
“It makes no sense to buy food here, because it is more expensive than in Kigali. You know people from Burundi buy all the food. There are also many people involved in mining. They have enough money to buy at high prices,” Uwineza Jane said while talking to the strangers from Kigali.
Some of the most remarkable ills in the market however, include child abuse and poor hygiene. You will find children as young as 10 years, carrying food or hens to sell at the market. They may even be involved in other nasty business due to their exposure.
“My mother sent me to sell this hen and take back the money. I therefore have to wait, until a client takes it at the price she instructed me. However, if it gets to 8.00pm, I will take it back to her,” says little smiling Jack Niyonzima.
Niyonzima is not supposed to be out in this kind of environment and at this time of the day. Leaving him at the market at night, with all manner of people anddrunkards roaming around, is dangerous for his young life. Surprisingly though, the parents do not see it as a problem.
“Children have to work hard and help their parents. If the parents are busy cooking or digging, then the children should also do some other business. I support the parents of these children selling things here in the market,” says Kayitsinga Alfred as he staggers home after having one, too many.
The traditional and modern attitude towards child labour, is no doubt contrasting. Hygiene is the other disturbing issue. People do not know the dangers of sharing sharp machines at the barbers.
“When I need to shave my hair, I just join the men you see in a distance and have it done. There is normally a long queue and it may take a while before you are shaved,” says Mutabingwa Richard, a young man waiting for his turn to be shaved.
There is general danger to spread diseases, since about two machines are used to shave about a hundred people. The most dangerous part of it is that it can spread HIV. This problem is however not unique to Matongo village. It can indeed be seen even in the so called urban areas of Rwanda.
However, the Matongo market, if developed and properly managed has the potential to be a good source of revenue for the residents and the country at large.