Saturday, 22 June 2013

All roads lead to Musanze for 9th Kwita Izina


Twelve baby gorillas will today be given names at the annual Kwita Izina, a ceremony that has greatly impacted on the growth of the tourism sector 
All roads will lead to the foot of the chilly Virunga Mountains in Kinigi, Musanze District, for yet another event of naming baby gorillas born in the Virunga National Park.

Rifai Taleb, the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is among those lined up to name the baby gorillas today. BELOW: Revellers at a past event. 
The event, popularly known as Kwita Izina, will today be held for the 9th time, with thousands expected to witness the naming of 12 young animals under the theme ‘Celebrating Nature, Empowering Communities.’

Celebrating and naming of baby gorillas started in 2005 and the usually colourful event has seen more than 140 baby gorillas named.

According to the Rwanda Development Board, the organisers of the function, international celebrities, conservationists and notable icons will grace this year’s ceremony.

Since the inception of the ceremony – which rates very highly on the country’s tourism calendar – the gorilla population has grown by 26 per cent.

Gorilla tracking is one of the major cash cows of the country’s tourism sector, with permits costing $750 for foreign tourists and despite the increase from $500 last year, the number of tourists has remained stable.

According to Primate Safaris, one of the main tour operators in the country, they receive about 80 tourists who come to visit gorillas daily.

The naming ceremony that has attracted to Rwanda, on an annual basis, international celebrities, conservationists and media personalities has seen Rwanda’s tourism grow to unprecedented levels.

The Kwita Izina this year started with a caravan that left Kigali yesterday, where participants visited key tourist sites from Kigali to Kinigi, including the twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo, Nyabarongo River, Buhanga Eco-Park and Red Rocks Cultural Centre among others.

Another event organized as part of the naming was the ‘Igitaramo’—a concert held at Musanze stadium where revelers were treated to a thrilling performance by Kevin Lyttle, a Vincentian soca artiste, Tanzania’s Bongo Flava king Ali Kiba, Burundian music star Kidumu and numerous local artistes including local dance troupes, acrobats, actors and drummers among others. 


The annual event that was launched in 2005 is ceremony of giving a name to a newborn baby gorilla. It is named after the ancestral baby naming ceremony that happened after the birth of a newborn in every family.

The ceremony’s main goal is in helping monitor each individual gorilla and their groups in their natural habitat. It was created as a means of bringing attention both locally and internationally about the importance of protecting the mountain gorillas and their habitats in the Virunga Mountains in the north of the country.

The occasion has been marked on international conservation calendar as a big day for Rwanda and conservation enthusiasts.

Economic impact 

The baby gorilla naming ceremony has positively impacted the growth of gorillas and transformed the social and economic wellbeing of the communities surrounding the park, as well boosted the tourism growth in Rwanda.

According to RDB, more than Rwf1.4 billion has been channeled towards community projects since 2005 in the 41 sectors bordering the three national parks.

The five percent tourism revenue sharing programme targets communities around the national parks of Volcanoes (north), Nyungwe (west), and Akagera in the eastern part of the country. 

Last year, the tourism sector generated $281.8m (Rwf178 billion) compared to $251.3m (Rwf159 billion) the previous year, an increase of 17 per cent, according to 2012 Rwanda Development Board (RDB) figures.

Rica Rwigamba, the head of tourism and conservation at RDB, said the event has greatly impacted on the growth of the tourism sector and Rwanda is now known as the country that leads in gorilla conservation. 

Gorillas contribute about 90 percent of the revenues from national parks.

RDB statistics show that visitors from neighbouring countries of DRC, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya accounted for 915,000 in 2012 compared to 714,000 in 2011. 

Visitors from non-neighbouring states increased to 161,186 in 2012 from 159,579 in 2011.

Leisure visitors accounted for about 97,000, while business visitors were about 422,000.


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