Visiting services of the Bishop of Nyundo Diocese and the nearby Saint Pie X Seminary in Western Province, you would thank God that despite all the dreadful recent damages, river Sebeya known to its new alias ‘Bad Neighbor’’ did not kill any student or staff in that institution.
On top of landslides across the Western and Northern province respectively, in the night of May 2, the overflowing of River Sebeya, a tributary of Lake Kivu which meanders along the diocese facilities resulted in horrible floods which left 131 dead in Rubavu and other areas.
Most of these deaths and losses are blamed on Sebeya. From experience at Nyundo Minor Seminary, river Sebeya “visited” them at different occasions in the past.
Sebeya would come ushered by floods that could be managed for a couple of hours until the river decides to ‘go back home’ after a few hours, but last week, it came as a killing machine targeting properties, livestock and human being on its way.
Father Emmanuel Hakizayezu, in charge of movable properties in Nyundo Diocese is one of the people who witnessed the worst experience of Sebeya since the first minute.
“At 3AM, the guards woke me up and told me that Sebeya was invading us. Waking up, the water had started to ravage stuff n the floor, and it quickly increased until I was obliged to jump on the cupboard,” he said.
The water filled up this compound and invaded offices, store rooms, the kitchen, dormitories, classes and chapels to mention quite a few.
Computers, printing machines, books, including the library, tailoring machines and the carpentry equipment, clothes, some were carried by water, while others were destroyed to an extent that they are not repairable.
“For the first time, we have seen a case where Sebeya carries away students’ desks from classrooms and they disappear completely. Sebeya opened the chapel, carried away all desks from the Chapel. Strange!” said Hakizayezu.
“The heart of the Diocese was here, but Sebeya destroyed everything.”
Sebeya did not even spare the students’ kitchen; it destroyed their muvero, proceeded in the storage room and invaded the maize flour, rice, beans, sugar and other food items.
As for the students at the Minor Seminary, they escaped from Sebeya miraculously. Earlier during the day, the school noted an increase in water of Sebeya, and from experience, they advised that those who were sleeping on the ground floor move on the first floor. However, they left their belongings in their place and Sebeya invaded them.
Our Dear Books that we shall never see anymore
On this day, Sebeya did not allow anyone, even the youngest student to eat lunch.
“None could even think about food. We were all wondering what next, because we thought that the rain would even reach us at the upper floor,” said Muhayimana Aimé Serge, a Senior six student at Saint Pie X Seminary.
On this fateful day of May 3, the leadership of the Diocese moved the students at Centre Pastorale, a guest house on the hilltop that was not affected by the floods. They stayed there and afforded a meal at around 4PM.
The students remained there until May 7 when they were relocated to Saint Fidele, a school with some classrooms in Gisenyi town which accepted to host them momentarily as the officials work hard to clean the school and bring them back.
On May 8, the students managed to return to school with quite new books.
“This looks like day one of our school. All our books were carried by Sebeya. We all wrote on page one of a new book today,” said Muhayimana who is actually concerned about the national exams without notebooks.
“Remember, for national exams, we have to revise three classes, but we don’t know how we shall manage since our books have been carried by water.”
Muhayimana, a part from losing all his books to Sebeya, he also lost his national ID in the floods.
At Saint Fidele, some of the students were in uniform, others in casual wears, and this was acceptable “because so many uniforms were carried away by the floods.”
“May 3 was quiet a difficult day. We were wondering where rescue would come from,” Mugisha Hirwa Bruno, a Senior 3 student said also sharing a concern about his books.
Meanwhile, the school was quick to inform parents who came to assist them on Sunday May 7 and to bring the basic equipment that they need.
On Monday, May 8, staff, neighbours and all the community of Nyundo diocese gathered at the Minor Seminary and the Diocese Service Complex to clear the mud which made a huge stock in the compound.
“I think someone angered Sebeya, reason why it became bitter against us,” joked one nun during this community work.
Sebeya is our bad neighbour, our enemy now
Besides Nyundo Diocese community, other affected people are also cursing Sebeya while proposing a solution that would allow them a peaceful cohabitation.
Ncamubandi Frederic from Kabirizi cell in Rugerero sector also lost his properties in Sebeya, but was also lucky to survive.
“All the buildings collapsed in front of our eyes. I lost a piggery of ten animals and a poultry of 25 birds, on top of several equipment,” he said.
A graduate of Geography at University of Rwanda, Ncamubandi said, that Sebeya can be deepen, and widened to give it more space, so that it does not overflow and shed its waters in the neighborhoods.
“If necessarily, it can be given at least one-meter high wall. This would be a long lasting solution against our bad neighbour Sebeya,” Ncamubandi said.
Ndamubandi said that the river should not trigger decision to relocate the citizens along its shores, because, “in several countries, rivers cohabitate with people, it’s all about management.”
“We already know our enemy Sebeya. Instead of relocating the traumatised community, you would rather control the river,” he said.
“Kinshasa and Congo Brazzaville are two cities in between River Congo and damages of the river are not many. We should rather manage the river, too.”
Inside the flood damaged school library of Petit Séminaire de Nyundo in #Rubavu district. Students were evacuated to Saint Fidèle in Gisenyi town after the entire school was submerged by water.
— Richard Kwizera (@Muzungu4) May 8, 2023