There are fifteen bus stops between Kigali downtown bus park and Kimironko, one of the busiest suburbs of the city, but all of them are just stages until you are adjacent to a 4 storied commercial building belonging to veteran soldier, who was in uniform for about 30 years.
“Kwa Rwahama” stage was named after the owner of the house which is situated between the road to Kimironko and Heroe’s Corner. It is owned by Col. (Rtd) Jackson Rwahama.
One may wonder why this name because, in the Rwandan policy roads or places are never named after individual people, they are rather labelled with names that indicate the country’s vision, for example ubumwe, African Union Boulevard, to mention but a few.
Even Rwahama 68, himself does not know how his identity came to be famously associated with this bus stop.
However, after KT Press met Rwahama at his building and had an insight about his life and the building’s history, reasons that pushed people to tag the bus stop and the whole neighbourhood ‘Kwa Rwahama’ became obvious.
How the building was constructed in itself is an interesting story.
In 1995, just months after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwahama acquired a plot in the area, and started construction of the first storied house in the area.
The project was huge at the time banks were money-stricken and the country having less than Rwf100 billion budget.
“The way I built this house was miraculous,” Rwahama, once Commander of Rwanda’s Military Police admits.
“My job could allow me to go around the city. Wherever I could see idle bricks, stones and sand, I would just pick them, which was more like cleaning the city,” Rwahama said.
Rwahama recalls the hustle he went through to erect the building as if it happened yesterday.
“It was a long journey. But finally this building was completed in 1997. At the time, this place was a bush. This was the first business structure to come here,” Rwahama said as he guided KT Press reporters around the structure.
When you meet him at his office inside the building, Rwahama welcomes you with a sense of hospitality. No wonder, all his words are business centred.
“Business is part of my life but mostly I enjoy construction,” said the seemingly physically strong Rwahama despite advanced age.
When KT Press asked Rwahama why the bus stop and surroundings are named after him, he laughed out loud.
“It disturbs me too,” he said. “Imagine people attributing a public tarmacked road to me. You can go and ask people why they decide to name so many things after me,” he told the reporters.
Currently, ‘Kwa Rwahama’ has become a busy commercial center, known for being home to numerous hardware shops.
But at some point, Rwahama admits to have been a pioneer of the area.
The building is home to multiple businesses including Brewery supply companies, Churches, transport companies; warehouses, among others.
Once a soldier, always a soldier
Rwahama is not known just for the bus stage Rwahama is written in golden letters among the men who contributed to the liberation struggle for Rwanda, back in July 1994.
In 1960s, a young Rwahama fled Rwanda during unrests that put thousands of Tutsi in danger – forcing them into exile.
He fled to neighbouring Uganda where he studied Education and graduated with advanced diploma in Education. However, his career of becoming a professional teacher fell-through.
“I had to abandon education and join the military. I joined the Uganda army in 1970s,” he told KT Press.
Having been in the military until early 2000s, Col. (Rtd) Rwahama still offers security services – but this time, privately.
He owns Royal Security Consult – a security company based in the capital Kigali.
Established in 2013, the company secures contracts to maintain security for companies, corporate organisations and individual homes.
When Rwahama is not at work, reading and swimming from his home are the two pass-times he enjoys.
His swimming passion has a history
A native of Gicumbi district in Northern Rwanda, Col. Rwahama attended Petit Seminaire St. Dominique Savio de Rwesero.
The 62-year-old Seminary is located on the shores of Lake Muhazi in Bukure sector. The school’s proximity to the Lake triggered Rwahama’s love for swimming at a tender age.
“Part of our extra-curriculum activities was swimming. I learned how to swim while in School,” he told KT Press.
As for reading, Rwahama buys books and has libraries as a result of years of collection.
“I own a library in my home and at the work place. I consume a lot of information both from books and internet,” he told KT Press.
His favourite book is Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’.
Chinua Achebe was a Nigerian novelist, poet and a professor. His first novel Things Fall Apart, often considered his best, is the most widely read book in modern African literature and Rwahama is one of its ardent readers.
Rwahama is married with children, despite one of them having died last year after completing his studies in the United States of America.
A very principled man, Rwahama wakes up at 5am every day and heads to the swimming pool.
After the swimming exercise, he takes breakfast before heading to work from 7:30 am through 6pm when he heads back home.
Rwahama does not like eating every type of food.
“I like eating nutritious food in small quantities. Eating too much especially at my age is hazardous to one’s health,” says the 68-year-old.
Rwahama has one simple message to the youth: “Work hard and earn a decent living. Avoid engaging in drugs.”
All photos by Plaisir Muzogeye