In a world filled with turmoil and uncertainty, the significance of friendship and the freedom to explore one’s own country cannot be overstated.
A group of 25 friends, driven by our shared passion to foster critical conversations that contribute towards Rwanda’s and African integration and progress, recently embarked on a remarkable journey through the breath-taking landscapes of Rwanda.
Our destination: the enchanting region of Bigogwe, where nature’s splendour awaited us.
As the group ventured deeper into the picturesque landscape of Bigogwe’s lush green hills, we were greeted by an awe-inspiring panorama.
Lush green hills stretched as far as the eye could see, and a herd of cattle led by Pamela roamed gracefully, their presence blending in harmoniously with nature.
As the gentle breeze caressed the vibrant grasses beneath their hooves, the herd moved in a synchronized rhythm, painting an idyllic portrait against the backdrop of rolling hills and azure skies.
We were truly and firmly in the land of a thousand hills.
The herd’s glossy coats, a tapestry of earthy tones, glistened in the warm sunlight, a testament to their vitality and the abundance of nature’s blessings.
With each step negotiated in the hills, we left imprints on the fertile soil, a reminder of the symbiotic relationship between land and man, and the nurturing bond shared between humans and animals.
It was a weave of natural beauty that held us captive, our senses intoxicated by the magnificence of Rwanda’s landscape.
However, it wasn’t just the scenery that captivated our hearts; it was the encounters with the locals of Bigogwe and their profound connection to Rwandan culture.
In the embrace of Bigogwe’s warm hospitality, we found ourselves amidst the sacred symbol of Rwanda’s identity: the cows.
These gentle creatures, revered for their significance, hold a special place in the hearts of many Rwandans.
As we immersed ourselves in our rich traditions, we indulged in the taste of fresh milk, savoured the smoky flavours of roasted corn, and revelled in the genuine warmth of our fellow countrymen and women.
It was an experience that transcended the different ways we labour for a living, forging a bond between friends of all ages and reminding us of the inherent beauty of nature. “Uragahorana Inka n’abana Jigija ryijuse inshyushyu,” remarked Ngabo to one of us.
That journey had led us to a brilliant young man named Ngabo Karegeya, whose infectious enthusiasm for his homeland is genuinely contagious.
Ngabo, the epitome of Rwanda’s spirit of ‘be the change you want to see’, embraced our group with open arms, sharing stories of Bigogwe and the remarkable transformation the area has undergone.
“His Excellency also promised us a road,” remarked Ngabo. And evidently, as we negotiated our way around countless hilly bends up in the mountains, we witnessed the promise being delivered as heavy construction equipment littered across the dirt road.
Our odyssey did not end in Bigogwe. We continued our expedition to the mesmerizing Rubavu on the shores of Lake Kivu.
In the vicinity of the lake, tranquil waters and spellbinding vistas served as a poignant reminder of the heroes who have made it possible for us nearly 33 years later to travel freely in our own country.
Rwanda’s history, marred by tragic events, in particular the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi, has since been shaped by visionary leadership and dedicated citizens.
The unwavering commitment to building a secure country has allowed the nation to blossom into a safe haven, where exploration and friendship can be forged and flourish.
This remarkable journey of 25 friends serves as a testament to the power of having a country you call home, the strength of friendships forged to transform a country, and the transformative potential of seeing solutions close to home rather than having to always be thousands of miles away in foreign lands.
Rwanda, with its captivating landscapes and vibrant culture, continues to rise from the ashes and inspire the world.
As we celebrate the heroes who have paved the way for the privilege of traversing our own lands, let us also honour the indomitable spirit of friendship and the unyielding beauty of Rwanda.
Through our shared experiences and connections, we can forge a brighter future for all, where the freedom to explore knows no bounds.
Let this odyssey of friendship be a reminder that as long as we cherish and protect the sanctity of our own identity, we pave the way for countless journeys of discovery, celebration, and awe-inspiring beauty.
The author, Junior Sabena Mutabazi, in the photo above, is a social and political commentator. Photos by Gael Ruboneka Vande weghe.