Home Society Kwita Izina: When Rwanda Became a Celebrities’ Corner  

Kwita Izina: When Rwanda Became a Celebrities’ Corner  

by Jean de la Croix Tabaro
5:16 pm

Strive Masiyiwa(2nd right) with Olusegun Obasanjo and Graca Machel, the other namers during Kwita izina last year

Gorilla naming ceremony, an event commonly known as Kwita Izina, whose main objective conservation of the rare mountain gorillas only available in Virunga Transboundary Park is around the corner.

The event will fall on September 6, 2019 despite ongoing events that consist of giving ten percent share of conservation gains to communities around national parks.

Kwita Izina is increasingly an event of the celebrities from all walks of life who enjoy gorilla trekking.

Latest to name baby gorilla could be former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo. During the Kwita Izina last year, he named a baby gorilla after self.

At the ceremony which took place on September 7th in Kinigi, Musanze district in Northern Rwanda, Obasanjo, whose full names are Chief Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo, named a baby gorilla his middle name; ‘Aremu’.

“In my language, Aremu means every baby is useful in a family,” Obasanjo said then.

South Africa’s duo Theo Kgosingwe and Nhlanhla Nciza alias Mafikizolo at Kwita Izina 2018

At the event, Obasanjo named the baby gorilla after Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Nuaimi, famously known as the Green Sheikh. The member of  United Arab Emirates(UAE) royal family, the Green Sheikh is known for his wildlife conservation enthusiasm, which explains why his frequent visits to Rwanda are not an accident.

He named a baby ‘Nayombi’ which reflects what he believes in Rwandan culture – welcoming visitors with all hands.

“I love the name. It comes from my spirit because it says open your heart, open your spirit for others,” the Green Sheikh said.

“I have a good heart, a good spirit like Rwandans do.”

The 2018 Kwita Izina was also the first year when Rwanda entered a Visit Rwanda deal with English Premier League’s Arsenal to promote country’s tourism.

This explains why Laureano Bisan Etamé-Mayer, the Camerounian who did wonders at Arsenal by winning, among others two Premier Leagues while he was captain of the gunners named the gorillas Ikipe, meaning Team.

Alexandra Virina Scott from the club’s women team who made 100 appearances in the national team was also part of Etamé’s delegation.

Dr Abdul Aziz, the Green Sheikh

She named a baby gorilla ‘Zahabu’. “I have chosen the name Zahabu meaning Gold for my baby gorilla,” she said.

On his side, Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Media and Technology group Econet Wireless and Econet Media (Kwesé), named the baby gorilla ‘Ishusho’ at this event which was a superstars’ corner.

The year 2017 was not small neither. At Kwita Izina were Laurent Lamo the former Prime Minister of Haiti, Nollywood actress Patience Ozokwor, Veronica Varekova, a super model and conservationist, among others.

Among guests who named baby gorillas in 2016 include Mary Ann MacDonald-an American renowned Gorilla tracker, who sealed 91 first Gorilla tracking in that very year.

Olusegun Obasanjo(Right) at the gorilla naming ceremony

She named a baby gorilla ‘Ntamupaka “no border” which she had photographed a year earlier when it was just 7 days old. MacDonald has been tracking Gorillas for the past 16 years.

For the 3rd time, the 2016 naming ceremony saw twin baby gorillas named following others that were named in 2005 and 2012 respectively.

In 2016, President Paul Kagame , a regular guest of Honor at Kwita Izina asked Rwanda Development Board(RDB) to also think about Lions’ Naming Ceremony.

The number of lions is picking up in Akagera national Park after extinction in 1994 and restocking in 2015.

Notable guests who named baby gorillas in 2015 included the managing director of Best Western Plus Lusaka Grand Hotel, Dr. Hans J. Heuer, Manager of Phinda Reserve that donated lions to Akagera National Park.

Others were Simon Naylor, Pioneer of conservation work with mountain gorillas and Yale  University Professor, Amy Vedder, World Wide Fund For Nature and Senior Conservation Advisor, Dr. Allan Karlsson and Senior Fellow, Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, U.S. Department of State, Dr. Janaki Alavalapati among others.


The list goes down to include many more celebrities since Kwita Izina started in 2005. In 2006, co-founder and former chairman of Microsoft, billionaire Bill Gates. When rewarded with the honour to name a baby Gorilla, Gates could not look further than the Sabyinyo group; he had visited back June 2006. He gave Keza the name on July 17, 2006.

More are coming this year as it was indicated by RDB and it is slated to be an event one would not afford to miss.