Is it possible to save the funk of Nyamirambo?

In Africa –as in other developing countries– managing the cities is an overwhelming task.  For this reason, as well as for other econo-political ones, wiping out parts of the cities is still a common strategy to solve urban issues for authorities.  Despite the existing, more responsible approaches democracy and people’s participation is limited, and planning can yet be a despotic procedure.

Nyamirambo is part of Kigali’s Nyarugenge District.  With a population of over 98,827 inhabitants (2002 census) and a 21 km² surface, its density goes over 4,700 inhab/ km².  This area was the center of Kigali, and during Belgium colonial times urban development was limited within Nyarugenge hill.  Today Nyamirambo shows its evolution in a complex mix of population and activities, and easily labels itself as the liveliest area in all Rwanda. 

As could be imagined, Nyamirambo’s sprawl doesn’t look the best compared to new areas in Kigali.  Small streets and sidewalks, great mix of land use, high population density in a small housing area (plus a fragile housing condition) do not fit the image of the “new Kigali” proposed by authorities, with suburban-like housing projects and medium-rise buildings.

For this reasons, sound rumors run about the future deletion of Nyamirambo to foster a better city environment.  But why to erase the place where everything started for this city? 

Before 1960 the only developed areas were the top of Nyarugenge hill and the Muslim core down the same hill –areas that ended up merging into a unique quarter.  This quarter exhibits values and is testimony of the Rwandese evolution (freedom, colonialism, independence, genocide, and its aftermath); it is evidently connected to the dynamic African spirit, while associated with events, traditions and beliefs.  

Then how to protect it from a wipe out?

Despite the criticism of its informal housing quality, real upgrading programs are running slow –or not running at all– and the apparent chaos seems to keep running high pace.  Nevertheless, its limited surface could be the ground for a medium-to-major upgrade proposal.  Funds will be there as development agencies would be interested due to its “humanitarian, development” outcomes –including avoiding forced evictions.

Furthermore, to protect Nyamirambo the historical argument could be strong enough to prepare a candidature for a World Heritage Site.  The proposal would be most likely held for long (there are few listed towns or centers in Africa), but joining the Tentative List is at least one step that could be achieved, knowing the UNESCO’s game-like support to disadvantaged countries.


Districts of Rwanda:


Kigali Master Plan:

First image:


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