The City of Kigali this week made it to the Forbes’ list of the 20 best places to visit in 2020.
The exclusive list, drawn up based on sales and client aspirations, was made by travel agents of the Ovation Travel Group, a 35-year-old $1.4 billion travel company.
Judy Stein, president of the Stein Collective, an affiliate of Ovation Travel Group, noted that people should visit Kigali to witnesses its dramatic success since the end of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
“Kigali is clean, safe and filled with enlightening cultural experiences from world-class modern art galleries to fashion, local crafts and even a coffee co-op run by women making the world’s best coffee,” she told Forbes.
“Rwanda in general and Kigali as the capital gateway city have really come into their own since the genocide a generation ago,” Stein said.
She also urged travellers to visit the recently opened Singita Kwitonda lodge in Musanze District, and One&Only’s Nyungwe House in Nyamasheke District, for wildlife exploration, especially gorilla trekking.
Speaking to The New Times, the Mayor of the City of Kigali, Pudence Rubingisa, said these were exciting times for the city residents are visitors.
The capital, he said, is “indeed a gateway to Rwanda’s incredible touristic attractions”.
We are increasingly becoming an ideal destination for travellers from around the world, he added, citing ongoing efforts to make travellers’ experience even more exciting.
Frank Benoit Kanyamutara, the owner of Golden Rwanda Safaris, reckons that the growing recognition of Kigali and Rwanda, in general, as a top destination presented an opportunity to travel agencies.
“Although the Government invests in tourism, we are the ones who host these visitors. As such, when the country is ranked highly, it means more possibilities for the people of Rwanda in general and for us in this sector in particular,” he said.
Frederick Ndikubwimana, the Managing Director of Rwanda Discovery and Travel Agency, said: “These rankings are good for the domestic tourism sector because they influence people’s perceptions and inform their decision-making when it comes to such things as holidaying.”
We expect more tourists to consider Rwanda in their travel plans, he added.
According to RDB, 1.7 million people visited Rwanda in 2018, representing an 8 per cent growth from the previous year.
Rwanda is home to hundreds of mountain gorillas as well as several national parks teeming with wildlife of all kinds.
The country also boasts the Big Five following the successful translocation of certain species to the Akagera National Park.
Most of these parks are less than two hours drive from the capital.
Other destinations on the Forbes’ list besides Rwandan capital city Kigali include Cape Town, Patagonia, Marrakech, Tel Aviv, Atacama Desert and Tokyo.
In Nigeria, politicians have the penchant of promising the electorate ‘dividends of democracy’ and to a very large extent, what these politicians mean by dividend of democracy is resurfacing, reconstruction and patching of existing roads and highways most of which are in terrible conditions.
In the last 20 years of the country’s return to democratic governance, many of the highways have seen considerable improvement coming after several years of budgetary allocations such that some roads, like Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Lagos-Benin-Ore Road, Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, etc have been under reconstruction in the past 10-15 years.
Now, at a time when the people should be celebrating the improvement on the state of these highways with pleasurable rides, less accidents, reduction in journey time, and safety of lives and property, they are contending with insecurity on these highways, making life miserable for them.
With what is happening on the highways today, it has become pretty difficult to understand what political office holders mean when they talk about dividends of democracy, more so, if this is all Nigerians can get from 20 uninterrupted years of democratic governance in the country.
In the last four years, the experiences on the highways have been, to say the least, horrible. Until most recently, especially since ‘change’ made a bold entry into governance, travellers on the country’s numerous highways dreaded only two major things- accident and highway robbers.
Unarguably, Nigeria had lost many souls owing to bad roads, reckless driving and armed robbery activities. Some years back, it was usual to see portfolio and itinerant pastors and prayer warriors at various motor parks in the morning rendering prayers and giving travellers assurances of safety on the roads.
The story appears worse today. Nigerians have returned to an era when journeys, whether in the day or at night, on any Nigerian highway, is a huge risk akin to what King David, in his book of Psalms, describes as “walking through the valley of shadow of death”. Kidnapping, killing and raping have become everyday occurrences despite the ubiquitous police and army checkpoints on the highways.
Nigerians so dread travelling by road now that, many days to a planned journey, prayer and fasting sessions are mounted, and pastors are contacted for special intercession. It is sad that, though Nigeria is not in a defined war situation, life is so unsafe that it seems as if there was a civil war going on.
From what has happened and keeps happening, it now seems that inter-state journeys have become rocket science while the roads themselves have been turned into ‘highways to hell’.
Many Nigerians are at a loss as to how these highways which criss-cross the entire country came to this sorry passé. Though some people attribute the on-going kidnapping, killing and rape to collapse of values and rise in cult activities, others blame it on leadership failure reflected in the action and inaction of government.
“Yes, I agree with you that values have collapsed in this country. People, especially the younger generation of Nigerians, neither believe in the dignity of labour nor do they believe in the virtues of hard work. Again, the society no longer interrogates people’s source of wealth but celebrates them,” Cyril Gbadebo, a social commentator, confirmed to BDSUNDAY on phone.
Gbadebo explained that most of the people who are engaged in these activities, which are acts against God and humanity, are young men who are not ready to work, but want to get rich quick. “They know that their activities are bad and even risky, yet they do it because they are driven by uncontrolled and inordinate ambition to dare the devil,” he noted.
But Ernest Makinde, a political scientist and convener, Good Governance for People’s Welfare, an NGO, thinks differently. He blames these social vices on what he described as “failings in governance fueled by leadership errors.”
Makinde explained to BDSUNDAY that the failure of government to create jobs is the reason for the high unemployment level in the country that has left many young people idle, pushing many of them into crime and criminality. “But that is the social and economic dimension to it,” he noted.
“There is the political dimension to it,” he continued, adding, “This is where the leadership errors comes in. If somebody from a particular section of the country wins a election and becomes the president of the country, it is expected that he becomes the president of the entire country; but that is not the case in Nigeria today which, to me, is the cause of our present travails.”
He said that many Nigerians believe, wrongly or rightly, that the insecurity in Nigeria that is holding the entire country hostage today is because government seems to be looking the other way as fellow Nigerians are killed, kidnapped and raped by criminals now dubbed ‘bandits’.
“We have succeeded, as a people and even as a government, in emboldening criminals because none of them has been arrested, prosecuted and jailed to serve as a deterrent to others. Social misfits are now lording it over the rest of honest Nigerians who can no longer move about freely in their own country for fear of being killed or kidnapped and several millions of naira demanded for their freedom,” Makinde lamented.
Increasingly, criminality, especially kidnapping, is becoming big business and those engaged in it are not only bold, but also daring as reflected in a recent kidnap incident in the Ode-Omi, Ogun Waterside Local Government Area of of Ogun State where kidnappers abducted three people, collected N3.5 million, a carton of schnapps, 30 liters of palm oil and 10 tubers of yam as ransom before releasing their hostages.
Social life, inter-state transport business, others shrink
Currently, families are rescheduling engagements, students are scared of traveling, and motorists lack courage to hit the road as the killers are increasingly laying siege to preys on highways, with hefty casualties every day. Moreover, businesses such as transportation, haulage, and logistics are at the verge of suffocation.
“When you hear someone was killed by these terrorists, you will hardly feel it until someone you know falls victim. My business associate lost his brother in an attack along the Abuja-Kaduna highway in March. The dead has not been buried because they are from Taraba State and insecurity is high in that area. It is sad seeing what Nigeria has degenerated to”, Luke Janah, an Abuja-based business man, said.
In same vein, Mbamara, an Aba-based business man, decried that the ugly development would disrupt business flow, decline transaction volume and also run many out of business if security is not restored soon along the highways.
“I know online payment is the in-thing, but I need to be at Tin Can Port Apapa to do some paper works in order to clear my goods. So, if I cannot travel again, that will delay the clearing, cause scarcity of the product, and increase cost if I have to pay extra to get someone to clear it. At the end, I will push the avoidable expenses to customers”, Mbamara decried.
Following the worsening situation, some transport companies are considering engaging police escorts to lead their busses across the country, but are deterred by the cost.
“We have over 100 buses that leave and enter Lagos every day, if you engage police escorts, it means over 100 police per day. If you multiple the cost per week and month, transport fares will rise from N7,000 now to about N15,000 from Lagos to Aba”, Lawrence Ezuma, a staff of a popular transport company with headquarters in Lagos, said.
Harry Isu, a passenger at Libra Park Okota, said that it is better to pay more for safety than to ply the ill-fated highways unescorted. But a driver with over 10 years experience with Young Shall Grow Motors, said what he has been seeing on the highways in recent times are beyond police escort. “If you have a police escort with one riffle and your bus breaks down along the dreaded highway, he cannot face five gunmen. The Army should flush them out”, he said.
Isu said that government can always tackle the challenge if they want to and also leave politics out of it.
As many people call off their trips by road, it presents good business opportunity to domestic airlines. Michael Ocheme, a business strategist with the Lagos Chamber of Commerce, said if flights are cheap, a lot more people would fly because we have good safety record in the air for now.
“To get more passengers to fly, domestic airlines need to deploy low-cost aircraft like in Europe, charge competitive fares and people will hit the airports for as low as N12,000-N15,000,” Ocheme said.
He noted that the airline business is about volume and frequencies of flight; hence airlines can get many flights a day at cheap fares to make up for the high fares small flight frequencies they have now.
But a domestic airline executive, who craved to be anonymous, said the tax paid to government agencies form 70 percent of air fares, and if government reduces such taxes, flights can go as cheap as N10,000 from Lagos to Kano or Maiduguri.
Safe journeys now pure miracle
Gone are the days when it was taken for granted that a traveller from one part of the country to the other would get to his or her destination in one piece. Today, as soon as a Nigerian takes off on a journey, all his/her relations and friends go into intercessory mode. They only heave a sigh of relief when there is a call from the traveller that he/she has arrived the destination in peace.
Killings and kidnapping of innocent Nigerians on the nation’s highways were treated with mere rumour until Friday, July 12, 2019, when the 58-year old Funke Olakunrin, second daughter of Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti, was murdered by suspected Fulani herdsmen.
Olakunrin, was travelling from Akure to Ore in Ondo State.
Long before this deadly incident, there had been series of reports that virtually all the highways in Nigeria have been taken over by alleged killer herdsmen.
These herdsmen have been accused of extreme violence in these parts of Nigeria. They have also been accused of masterminding series of killings, forceful abduction, rape of victims and extortion of monies worth millions of naira for the release of their kidnapped victims.
Formerly, it was Boko Haram insurgency, which thrived in the northeastern part of the country, but today, the game has changed from insurgency to kidnapping and banditry as many have been reported dead due to the reckless activities of these hoodlums in Nigeria.
A middle-aged lady, who gave her name as Joy, narrated her recent ordeal in the hands of killer herdsmen along the Benin-Ore Road on her way from Lagos to her country-home in Akwa Ibom State.
Joy told BDSUNDAY that she was abducted alongside five other passengers for over 5hours before only four of them were released.
“On approaching the popular Okada Junction, 5-hefty men with guns suddenly emerged from the bush and ordered all the passengers to come down and lie down flat with their hands on their heads. People were also asked to submit their phones and monies in their position without hesitation.”
“After that, five of us including were taken into the bush where we were brutally assaulted by our abductors and we sustained various degrees of injuries and in my case, my left foot was badly injured after it was hit with the head of the gun. I saw so many other captives, who were mostly travellers abducted on that route as well. People were also forced to tell them how much they think their families can pay as ransom for their release,” she added.
According to her, “They collected our phones and access codes, ATM cards with our pin numbers as well as our monies. It was after we were released that I realised that about four other 18-seater buses were captured by the hoodlums and their passengers also abducted.”
Another pathetic incident happened recently when the passengers of a Toyota Sienna car travelling from Lagos to Owerri was also shot at and the passengers were herded into the bush from where their family members were contacted by the kidnappers.
A mother of three children, who gave her name as Chioma, was travelling to her village in Imo State with her elder brother for the burial of their mother, when both of them fell into the kidnappers’ net.
They were taken to the bush from where her husband was contacted by their abductors. The husband was asked to pay the sum of N10 million for the release of his wife and brother-in-law. The husband of the victim ended up paying the sum of N3 million and the wife was released after being raped and brother-in-law brutally wounded before his release by the abductors.
Tales of escapes by a whisker
The social media is awash with stories of miraculous escapes of some people, whose vehicles were shot at, but they managed to evade being kidnapped. The Lagos-Ore-Benin road is the most notorious.
Ubiquitous check points, increasing menace
In its effort to arrest the unfortunate situation, the Federal Government, through the Army authorities appears to have flooded the highways with soldiers. As commendable as this is, some victims have also alleged that they were intimidated, molested and extorted by some of the uniform men on the road. Some Nigerians also do not feel comfortable whenever they run into these check points because, the kidnappers also are known to mount road blocks to confuse and deceive unsuspecting Nigerians.
“I travelled to my village recently from Lagos. I was scared at the number of check points we passed on the road. It dawned on me that Nigeria is in a serious trouble. From Lagos to Uyo, everywhere was militarised. At some points, whenever they stopped our vehicle, passengers would be edgy because anything could happen. When I got home, everybody was asking if I really came by road. It is a serious matter. What I don’t know is how serious government is taking the matter,” a civil servant, said, craving anonymity.
Construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Nairobi to Naivasha has entered the final stages.
According to China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) spokesperson Steve Zhao, 80% of the project has been completed including roadbeds, culverts, bridges and station buildings, despite compensation stalemate along the Ngong section delaying the railway completion by the proposed June 2019 deadline. Zhao is however optimistic that the compensation deadlock would be resolved so that the project could be finished before the year comes to an end.
“Before work was stopped in July 2018, the anticipated completion day was June 2019 and with the remaining section of work not being attended to, the launch date may be delayed,” said Zhao.
Standard Gauge Railway
The railway project is set to change positively the face of Nakuru County and spur the economies of Nakuru and Naivasha towns which for years been neglected in terms of infrastructure. This is already being witnessed with increase in value of land contractors have assisted in building some classes, and even rehabilitating rural roads.
“Naivasha will be few minutes train ride from Nairobi and this will ensure a huge stream of domestic and foreign tourists flock to enjoy all that Naivasha has to offer. horticulture farmers would also have quicker and cheaper transport for their produce via the Internal Container Depot to JKIA. This means fresh produce gets to local and international markets faster thus enabling these businesses to grow faster and employ more people,” said Kamau Njuguna, a Director at the East Africa Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
According to the current routing plan, the railway will follow the escarpment to Mai Mahiu, cross road B33, pass south of Mount Longonot and end in Naivasha. There will be another phase of 262 kilometres from Naivasha to Kisumu through Narok, Bomet and Sondu.
Additionally the government plans to develop an industrial parks along the SGR route. The railway line will help the companies move their heavy equipment quickly and affordably from the Mombasa port to their sites within days instead of weeks it currently takes.
Valentine’s Day is one of the sweetest holidays of the year…both figuratively and literally It’s the second-biggest candy holiday of the year, second only to Easter. And candy sales for Valentine’s Day are approaching $3 billion. America loves this holiday. And Americans love to have fun on this day. To treat themselves to special foods and flowers and fragrances and feasts. It’s a day – or, at least an evening – that we can all take a deep breath, decompress, and honor a beautiful tradition. And here are five great places to do it…
#5 – ROANOKE/VIRGINIA’S BLUE RIDGE – From the beautifully-preserved historic buildings in downtown Roanoke – now filled with interesting restaurants and galleries – to the surrounding ethereal beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this region is special on Valentine’s Day. The views of city and mountains here are memorable, making for a beautiful V-Day to start with. And it only gets better. The region actually offers then great places to propose (and what better time to do it than Valentine’s Day?), among them the Mill Mountain Star, an 85′-tall man-made star of neon tubing that lights up at night, or McAfee Knob, a ledge which juts out over some of the most famous scenery in America. At the base of Mill Mountain is The River and Rail, one of Roanoke’s best-loved restaurants…with good reason. Or you might enjoy a feast (and a room!) at the Hotel Roanoke, an historic local institution with Old South ambience and elegant dining. This region is one of the burgeoning wine centers in America, as well, and a drive down the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway will lead you and your sweetheart to Chateau Morrisette Winery, where the cuisine is just as wonderful as the wines. Also, Big Lick Brewery is holding a Big Lick Valentine’s Beer Dinner, putting a new twist on an old holiday. For another new twist, you can celebrate at a production of “My Fatal Valentine – Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre,” at Mountain View Center. But, really, anywhere you celebrate Valentine’s Day in Roanoke/Virginia’s Blue Ridge, you’ll be celebrating it amongst beautiful, dream-like scenery.
#4 – LATIGO RANCH, KREMMLING, COLORADO – Situated in the Arapaho National Forest, in the Colorado Rockies, Latigo Ranch offers a different type of Valentine’s Day experience. This is the real McCoy – an authentic, family-owned ranch with 75-mile views reaching out to the Continental Divide, which has been called one of the Top 50 ranches in the world. Here, they celebrate Valentine’s Day Western-style! For example, while the surroundings are Western, the cuisine is gourmet. And on Valentine’s night, you might be served grass-fed ribeye filet, Colorado lamb chops, or Bison Flank Steak Roulade, each surrounded by gourmet sauces and sides and garnishes. Before dinner you may want to grab a glass of fine wine from the lodge, and watch a spectacular Rocky Mountain sunset with your Valentine from the deck, with frosty views of some of the most beautiful country in North America. Or, you might decide to celebrate the day inside your cabin, with a roaring fire in the hearth and a great bottle of wine. At Latigo Ranch, you can choose an active Valentine’s Day, too, with cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on over 50 miles of sparkling virgin snow trails. So…grab your favorite cowboy or cowgirl and git along, Lil’ Doggie, to Latigo Ranch!
#3 – NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – While Nashville is, of course, the country-music capital of the world, the city has a definite romantic side to it, as well (along with definite culinary, cultural, and historic sides!). A walk down Broadway, especially on a weekend night, is like no other in America; the street is lined with colorful Country honky-tonks, with great music and joyful laughter coming out of every doorway. And Broadway – all of Nashville, in fact – lights up with a special glow on Valentine’s Day. In fact, DatingAdvice.com named Nashville the most romantic city in America. Several of the city’s top hotels are offering romantic packages for Valentine’s weekend, among them the “Be My Valentine” package at Thompson Nashville and “In Love In Nashville” at iconic Union Station, once an historic train terminal and now one of the city’s great hotels. The highly-regarded Adele’s Nashville Restaurant will be among those offering romantic packages for the weekend. You might check out The Bluebird Café’s “An Evening of Romance,” and you should probably also consider a romantic “Valentine’s Evening Cruise” on the General Jackson Showboat. Special events include all types of cooking classes; “Valentine’s Chocolate and Craft Beer” at the Tennessee Brew Works; “Valentine’s Wine On the Rails” at the Tennessee Central Railway Museum; and “Cupid’s Crawl,” a Valentine’s Day bar crawl. And, of course, that wonderful music coming from the live bands all along Broadway.
#2 – SUN VALLEY RESORT, SUN VALLEY, IDAHO – When Sun Valley Resort opened its doors in 1936, it became the first destination-resort in America. And within a year or two of that opening, it was hosting Hollywood celebrities like Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Ingrid Bergman, Claudette Colbert, Tyrone Power, Jane Russell, Van Johnson, Ray Milland, industrial titans such as Henry Ford, and kings, queens, prime ministers and Presidents. This place oozes romance, from its world-class facilities and its magnificent mountain surroundings…especially in winter, when the snow gives the town of Sun Valley a warm, intimate glow. You can start off your Valentine’s weekend here with a couples massage in the luxurious spa, with a $50 voucher to help you out. For Valentine’s Day, the resort is offering specials such as the Simply Suite Experience, with a couples massage, glasses of champagne and a sweet treat; or the Couples Suite Retreat Experience, including massages, lunch, and a gift to take back home. Valentine’s weekend will also feature a special five-course dinner and complementary glass of wine at the Roundhouse, at a breathtaking 7,700 feet with views you’ll never forget. Also, Gretchen’s Restaurant will be offering V-Day specials such as Crab Tagliatelle and Chocolate Fondue. And, for the perfect romantic touch, the Opera House will be having a special showing of “Love Actually” on the big day.
#1 – ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO –Albuquerque’s sort of romantic to begin with, with unique terrain, textures and colors you can’t find anywhere else in America. The downtown is a colorful mix of Western and beautifully-preserved Art Deco buildings. There are beautiful – and very unique – hotels such as Andaluz, a local landmark built by Conrad Hilton in 1939, with a lobby and restaurant and private entertainment rooms downstairs that seem more like you’re in Morocco than in New Mexico, and a whimsical mixture of Deco and Retro in the guest rooms upstairs. There’s another hotel, however, that emphasizes that you’re in New Mexico. That would be Nativo Lodge, perhaps America’s most unusual hotel, with Native American artwork displayed in brilliant colors on the walls – not hanging from the walls, but actually painted on the walls! – and ceilings. And, of course, an Albuquerque sunset is magical, with a burnt-orange ball sinking into a horizon behind purple-tinted mountains. Albuquerque being the hot-air balloon capital of the world, it’s appropriate to have a Valentine’s Day fest called the “2019 Friends & Lovers Balloon Rally.” Pueblo Harvest Restaurant celebrates Valentine’s Day with unique dishes with ingredients used by Native-Americans before European contact, and pairs them with special wines in its “Pre-Contact Valentine Wine Pairing Dinner.” Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, by the Rio Grande River, has a special Valentine’s Day package that includes dinner and special wine pairings at the excellent farm-to-table Campo Restaurant, turn-down treats from the Campo bakery, and your choice of couples yoga or a tour of the wonderful farm on the premises. At an intimate venue called Tablao Flamenco, you can pair authentic Spanish cuisine with the color and the passion of the flamenco dancers and musicians for a romantic Valentine’s Day, Spanish-style. And if you’re in the mood for a romantic stroll with your partner, take it in the Nob Hill neighborhood, filled with funky, colorful shops and very cool eateries such as Zacatecas, a colorful swirl of Mexican art and folklore, with amazing specialty drinks and some of the best-tasting Mexican food you’ll ever experience.