Early in the morning, along side the tarmac roads that lead in and out of Kigali city, cleaners are seen meticulously sweeping and pruning hedge-like vegetation.
For long Kigali’s consistent hygiene and sanitation has sustained the scenic reputation of Rwanda’s capital city. It has gradually evolved a ‘clean’ image for the rest of Rwanda. But do the latter exactly apply to other areas? Getting off the well swept tarmac roads onto stony and dusty ones that lead to residential houses, the picture is different.
In Kicukiro, a slope from Gisementi, the stony roads are littered with papers and attached are trenches meant to ease the erosive effect, but have gradually piled with garbage and appear clogged.
John a carpenter and resident of Rukiri sector blames the leaders.
“It is the irresponsible organization of our leaders. We hardly work for enough hours- and when we do, we mostly work inside our homes,” he said. He explains that people are stuck in a mentality of Umuganda- this is a monthly communal cleaning observed countrywide.
“We only clean during umuganda,” he revealed. But this is angrily refuted by Domina, the local area leader of Agashyitse cell, who defends that they clean regularly.
“We tell the occupants of this area to clean every Friday on the roads near their homes,” she said.
Vuguziga Assumpta in charge of sanitation in the same cell blames the littering/garbage, on the motorists and irresponsible people.
“People in cars toss papers out of car windows. There are others from other areas that dump rubbish around here,” she defended. Getting off the tarmac road that continues to Kicukiro Centre, one heads to a road heading to Bralirwa.
On the road, half buried polythene bags of black and white stand to welcome you. There is more scattered litter; empty yoghurt tins, mineral, empty plastic bottles and scratched yellow airtime cards.
Though residential houses have there hedges around them pruned, the after rubbish is not removed. More garbage in form of wrappings of biscuits, sweets, etc surround the shops in the area.
Mushumba, the area local leader says that according to the stipulated rules, all residential owners are supposed to do internal and external cleaning.
“We told them that they are supposed to clean inside and outside. The roads next to their places are also supposed to be cleaned by residents,” he said. However, most roads next to residential houses are littered with rubbish.
Deeper into the suburbs of the city in Kimisagara, the situation is worse. The front of Kimisagara Primary school is different from the back-from the back, the green grass numerously patched with white papers, behind classroom windows. Unfortunately, children are playing oblivious of the litter around them.
Talking to some of them, they explained that three workers are employed by the school, to ensure that general cleaning is done. This is a great irony!
“There are three workers supposed to do it. But they first clean toilets and administrators’ offices and toilets,” said Ali Mukunzi, 12 years, a pupil at the school. Making entry at the gate, the front is clean.
Eliezer Nyanduri, a teacher at the school in charge of sanitation admitted that keeping the place to the required standards, is a difficult task.
“Our school is big and the children are uncontrollable. They leave classes with papers and throw them around the school compound,” he said.
Nyanduri also accepted that the two cleaners were overwhelmed by the size of the school.
But he added “our focus is on the toilets.”
The school that started in 1982 has a population of over 5000 children. They attend classes in shifts-there is afternoon and the before noon shifts. The situation does not allow time cleaners to do their work properly.
“There are double shifts and the cleaners have to re-clean the toilets,” he explained. Just behind the school fence are piles of sugarcane crumbs that have overstayed and trampled over by-passers.
In the neighbourhood, is a deep man-made drainage channel-a deep trench in which youths are showering water from an under ground pipe. Few steps away, is a thick undergrowth of moss encouraged by stagnant water that was trapped by rubbish, causing a pungent rot stench.
Ngendahayo Claude, a local leader of Rwesamenyo cell explained that there is a combined effort by local leaders and government employed cleaners, to ensure that sanitation is maintained.
“We clean. We clean. The local people clean and there are also those that were put by government, they also clean,” he explained. It is evident that the place needs proper sewage system –otherwise, the efforts of the residents will remain with no impact.
It is easy to note that some of the dwellers, whose houses face the channel, sweep dirt into the drainage channel. The deposited soil/dirt form barrier for free movement of water. The stagnant water acts as a breeding place for mosquitoes, hence exposing many lives to the malaria pandemic.
Stretching to Nyabugogo town as the drainage channel winds up, most of the garbage from uphill is trapped by the bridge under which the channel passes.
And to as if to exacerbate the situation, Inkundamahoro Service Cleaners, have used the edge of the drainage channel, as a dumping ground for waste paper.
Isaac Nkiranuye head of the employees, pleaded that they wouldn’t do it again.
“Forgive us we won’t do it again. I am going to tell them to remove it,” the chief cleaner pleaded to a harmless journalist.
The company was contracted to ensure proper sanitation in part, around river Nyabugogo.
This mini-survey reveals the big gap in keeping proper sanitation in some parts of Kigali. Local leaders are therefore, put to task to ensure that people live in a disease free environment.