It would be reasonable to say a prayer for each person traveling to Karongi by road, especially when they do so often.
Living in a place where the road is repaired before it even cracks can make you wonder if the potholes are that bad, until they travel a good four hours, where two are for bouncing in your seat, and maybe banging your head against the window a few times.
The potholes on this road won’t even let you say a word at a unique pace and tone.
This is not the worst moment of the trip! The way the road meanders, taking endless turns every 10 seconds causes dizziness, and if you’re on a public bus, there’s a good chance a few people will vomit, what’s informally called “planting flowers”.
As if throwing up wasn’t enough, passengers won’t pass up grilled corn without buying. Skewers too, and peas, bananas, peanuts and candies.
Miss Rwanda 2022, Muheto along with others were among the visitors who came to the former residence of Kigeli IV Rwabugiri.
The inhabitants of Rubengera during a play to represent what it was like when Kigeli IV Rwabugiri was king of Rwanda.
It will take you about four hours to reach it, and changes may depend on the trucks not having flat tires and you having to share a narrow lane.
The journey softens a few kilometers to Karongi. Then the beautiful mountains are visible, although frighteningly steep. Seeing a car overtaking seems too risky, as a car would easily roll down the hill.
Interestingly, almost everyone on the road wore a jacket or sweater, even children. You might think it’s the rainy season coming, but apparently it’s usually a cold place.
Some landscapes, you can’t see them because of the fog, and the objective is then to warm up by rubbing your hands.
This road, usually taken by Kigalians who want to enjoy Lake Kivu, quietly, also leads to Rubengera, in a rather muddy road where there is a sign indicating “The house of King Kigeli IV Rwabugiri” in Kinyarwanda.
A group of journalists and visitors visiting the residence of Kigeli IV Rwabugiri known as ‘ibigabiro by’umwami’ at Rubengera in Karongi district.
Rwabugiri, the 28th monarch of Rwanda, who reigned between 1853 and 1895, is known for different things, from being a military genius to being the first Rwandan king to meet Europeans. He received Von Gotzen and his caravan at Kageyo in May 1894.
Rwabugiri had several residences all over Rwandan territory, including those built on the shores of Lake Kivu, from where he launched attacks on territories across the lake to expand Rwanda.
Researchers say he built more than 60 royal residences, and they were not only located in the heart of the kingdom, such as Mwima in Nyanza district and Bumbogo in Kigali, but also along the shores of Lake Kivu and other border sites considered strategic. places, of which Rubengera is most famous, Nyamasheke, Ruganda and Ngeri, from which he prepared and launched military expeditions, imposed and reinforced central rule in newly conquered areas.
Different sketches have been made to show the past history of the kingdom.
It is also said that near the shores of Lake Kivu was a shipyard for the boats used to transport his soldiers and a place where they rested, waiting to present him with the situation report on the progress of the battle.
His residence at Rubengera, built in 1874 on his return from Butembo to the Congo, was not only famous for having been the place where Rwabugiri launched military expeditions to Ijwi and Bunyabungo, it is also known to have been the place of the celebrations of ‘Umuganura.
Rwabugiri celebrated this event, which was the most important at the time, seven times in Rubengera; in 1874, 1875, 1879, 1880, 1881, 1891 and 1892.
He set a record of conducting more than 16 military expeditions in total against neighboring states, and he carried out many structural transformations during his reign which remains the model of pre-colonial Rwanda.
King Rwabugiri was not only a military genius, he also went to the battlefield. He died in 1895 while leading an expedition in Bushi, west of Lake Kivu.
A few years before his death, Rwabugiri had appointed Rutarindwa as his successor, whose reign was unfortunately short-lived, as he was killed in a military conflict known as the “Rucunshu Coup”.
Many locals from the same place show up to watch plays and learn about ancient Rwanda.
Rwabugiri’s house now
I made this trip with a team from the Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy and some journalists. I expected nothing less than a traditional Rwandan house, and maybe some tools that Rwabugiri could have used.
Even before we started to digest that his house is now a banana field, the local traditional drummers, “Abakaraza”, greeted us with different types of beats, while the dance troupe did the same in their song “ Ngwino urebe” (come and see).
This royal residence, after more than 100 years, was indicated by the Igihondohondo tree, but when we arrived the locals had cut it down too!
Nothing in this place indicates that there ever lived such a great king, and from an informal chat I had with a local, when the monarch ended and the first republic came to power, the people who lived around the residence fell out and shared Rwabugiri’s land to the extent that when his great-granddaughter went to claim it less than ten years ago, there was nothing left.
They ended up bringing small pieces to give him something as a souvenir.
Nonetheless, while Rwabugiri’s residence may be gone, residents of Rubengera speak of him as if they saw him with their own eyes. He remains among the greatest kings, fighters who have ever existed, and his efforts to expand Rwanda remain appreciated.