Kigali – A pleasant surprise

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“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”  –  Marcel Proust

When I embarked on this crazy trip, Rwanda and Kigali did not feature anywhere on my list of places to visit.  As far as I was concerned Rwanda was this small little appendage at the bottom of Uganda and little different in landscape.  As luck would have it on-route to Nigeria my flight schedule was changed meaning that I had to spend a night in Kigali.  Kigali turned out to be a pleasant surprise.

The first thing that struck me about Kigali is how organised everything is.  At the airport there was an orderly queue with officials walking around ensuring that everyone was in the right place.  The whole immigration and visa process was so quick I had picked up my luggage and was out of the airport within ten minutes of landing.  Outside there were no taxi drivers fighting for my business, instead I was approached by a gentleman who led me to the next taxi in the queue and we were off.  During the drive to the guesthouse I was amazed by the level of organisation and development.  All the roads were clean and tarmacked and well lit, the traffic lights worked and drivers obeyed traffic regulations.  Now this would not have been such a big deal had I travelled directly from London but having spent the few months prior to the trip in the chaos of Kampala I can be forgiven for being overawed.  When I commented to the taxi driver how clean and organised their capital is he proudly said it was all due to their president. 

A suburb in Kigali

Kigali is certainly one of the cleanest and most organised African cities I have been to (not that I have been to that many).  I did not once come across a pothole and all the streets were well lit.  The boda boda men were so well behaved, once I told them I did not need their service they left me alone.  Furthermore, unlike their brothers in Uganda, they are licensed, they have to wear uniform, they are not allowed to carry more than one passenger and they must wear a helmet and carry a spare for the passenger. Had it not been for my hair, I would have taken a ride on one I am sure.  The mini buses (or taxis) as we call them in Uganda are just as organised, they are new and clean, they issue tickets to passengers before they enter and do not cram as many people in they do in other African cities.  And there are plenty of private taxis to hire at not too high a price making travelling around the city more pleasant.  Paul Kagame is often accused of ruling with an iron fist, if these are the results of his controlling disposition I for one would not complain.  Uganda could certainly do with someone like him.