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Kigali City, Rwanda (1907-- )

Kigali, Rwanda
Image Ownership, Public Domain
Situated over several hills and valleys, Kigali is the capital city of Rwanda and is home to the main administrative and commercial centres of the nation as well as over one million people.

In pre-colonial times Mount Kigali was a site of magical renewal overseen by the Bami (kings) as well as being an important stopover on cross-African caravan trade routes.  In 1907 the city was officially founded by the Germans, who had been granted the colonial concession of Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi at the Berlin Conference of 1885.  After World War I, the Belgians gained control of Rwanda-Burundi through the mandate system of the League of Nations; however, since the administrative tasks for the region were centred in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, Kigali grew slowly throughout this period.

After independence on July 1, 1962, Kigali became the capital city of the Republic of Rwanda.  Because of its central location and its good transport links, industry and trade blossomed and the city began to grow.

During the 1994 genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi, Kigali suffered massive population loss; some of the buildings were damaged in fighting between the former Forces Armées Rwandaises (Rwandan Armed Forces: FAR) and the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA).  Other buildings were destroyed simply out of hatred and anger.  Since then, a period of intense rebuilding has seen Kigali develop and thrive.

“Cleanliness and Security” is the motto of Kigali.  In accordance with this motto, the city is a safe and secure place to live, visit, and explore at any hour of the day or night.  The police patrol the streets and the population is encouraged to report anything that may be of potential harm to others.  In fact, Kigali City is regarded to be the safest city in Africa by most international visitors.

Hygiene and cleanliness are also main policy areas for the governing of the city.  Cleaners, working for private companies and cooperatives, are hired by Kigali City to clean highways, streets, and public gardens.  In addition to this, on the last Saturday of every month, the citizens and friends of Rwanda take part in Umuganda (voluntary community work) and help to clean their neighborhoods and streets, build houses, hospitals, and schools.  There has also been a complete ban on plastic bags since 1998 to reduce litter.  Every six months the city’s cleanliness is reviewed and, if necessary, actions are taken, such as replanting gardens and improving pavement.  In 2008 the United Nations awarded Kigali a Habitat Scroll of Honour Award to recognise the work that has gone into the construction of this model, modern city.

Kigali is rich with culture and the arts.  The Kigali Genocide Memorial Center commemorates the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and explores other genocides throughout history and around the world, inviting visitors to reflect on the past and contemplate hope for the future.  The city is inundated with remarkable architecture, museums, recording studios, theatres, dance performances, and unique craft markets.  Kigali revels in its safe, clean, friendly, cultured and progressive atmosphere.

Sources:
www.kigalicity.gov.rw; www.unhabitat.org; Dickson Eyoh and Paul Tiyanbe Zelaza, eds., Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century African History (New York; Routledge, 2003).

Contributor(s):
Gasanabo, Jean-Damascene
Independent Historian

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