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Rwanda Launches Search for World War I Ship

by Jean de la Croix Tabaro
6:56 pm

A resident of Mushubati sector shows the site at which a German military ship could have been  intentionally buried onshore of Lake Kivu

Rwanda has launched intensive search for remains of a German military ship that was intentionally buried onshore of Lake Kivu.

The location at which a wide hole was dug and the ship buried, is still unknown but the search continues along the shoreline.

In 1909 when Rwanda was a Germany colony, Lutheran Missionaries brought a ship they used to navigate on lake Kivu but the Rwandan inhabitants were not aware of a hidden agenda.

When World War I escalated in 1914, a Germany military commander in Rwanda known to the local community as Tembage took the ship, equipped it with a heavy Machine gun and sailed on Lake Kivu to defend the territory against Belgians that were claiming Rwanda from Belgium-Congo.

When he lost the battle, the commander dug a huge hole on the shore of Lake Kivu and buried the ship at a place called Sure, Mushubati sector in Rutsiro district.

With time, the cruise penetrated deep in the ground due to erosion.

“We learnt from our parents that the Germany fighter buried the ship with so many weapons which he did not want Belgians to capture,” said Onesime Bimenyimana, a resident of the area.

“We tried to dig deep to exhume the cruise and take the advantage of the treasures, but we failed. Germans themselves came back in the 1980s to find their boat but their efforts yielded no results.”

Rwanda is interested in this ship which will be a very big addition in the country museums.

Germany colonial commander dug a huge hole onshore and buried the ship after losing a battle against Belgians

“Our team is working hard to get this ship. Unearthing it will be worth the task; it will help explain history of world War in Rwanda,” said Amb. Richard Masozera, Director General of Institute of National Museums of Rwanda – IMNR.

Germany history in Rwanda is rich. The city of Kigali is believed to have started with one single modern house by Dr. Richard Kant in 1908 also a German.

He was a colonial administrator. This house still stands intact at Muhima sector -it has been turned into a Natural History Museum, ‘Kandt house’.

At Kandt Museum is another indication that World War I took place in Rwanda. Last year, in Karongi district, the national museum discovered two rims of a tank that was used in the war.

Meanwhile the national Museum is celebrating the first museum ever in Rwanda today.

Located in Huye district, the ethnographic museum is the custody of all history of Rwanda; culture, technology, community interaction, leadership of Rwanda, wars among others.

Mushubati residents help in the search for the spot where the war ship may have been buried

1 comment

Dr. Wolfgang Völker December 11, 2017 - 3:05 pm

Dear readers of KT-Press
The story of the German armed vessel was published by Mrs Hildegard Neumann. She was the doughter of Gustav Neumann. He was involved in the transport and in the reconstruction of the boat nearby the mission station of Rubengera in 1913. It should be used by the missionnaries of the Bethel Mission. At that time, it was the only one boot with an engine on lake Kivu. It was named “Bodelschwingh”.
At the beginning of the first world war it was taken by German militaries. Commander was the First Lieutenant Wunderlich. It was succesfully used against the Belgians till May 1916. When the German troups retreated, it was sinked nearby the site where it has been built two and a half years before, – in the bay of Musaho. The pictures of the boat and of many other events of Rwandan history will be presented soon in the Kandt-Museum in Kigali.
You can find more details of Rwandan history in a book recently published in Germany by the authors Hans-Ulrich Duwendag and Dr. Wolfgang Völker. It’s a documentation about Musinga, the first mission stations, the founding of Kigali, the colonial war, and the construction of katholic churches in Rwanda by Brother Privatus. The figure legends are also in English.
Kind regards
Wolfgang Völker
Lengerich / Germany

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