Cry, beloved Rubavu! People are leaving as shops close

Wednesday June 09 2021
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According to Mayor of Rubavu district, Gilbert Habyarimana, 2,393 houses were damaged by seismic tremors that followed Nyiragongo volcano eruption on Saturday May 22. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

By Ange Iliza

Life in Rubavu, Rwanda’s vibrant city, recently came to a standstill due the volcanic eruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The aftermath of the eruption has shocked Rubavu town and its residents to the core, many of them deciding to relocate permanently from the town.

On Friday morning, the town was eerily deserted. According to Mayor of Rubavu district, Gilbert Habyarimana, 2,393 houses were damaged by seismic tremors that followed Nyiragongo volcano eruption on Saturday May 22. About 348 of the houses were completely ruined and 170 residents have been provided with tents or renting support.

The district and the Rwanda Housing Authority have been assessing the damage done and advising residents if it was safe to return to their homes. The fissure is said to be part of a big rift developing underground.

The situation has caused the local government to relocate residents and public services situated around the fissure.

One of the affected residents is Adelphine Mucunguzi, from Nengo cell, well known as Braceli. When she spoke to Rwanda Today, she was preparing a bed in front of her damaged house. There were dozens of such beds in her neighbourhood.


Mucunguzi, her 8-year-old son and neighbours had been sleeping outside for three days with fears that houses might fall on them.

“My house is too damaged; it is too risky to sleep in. Tremors can occur any time. So we decided to sleep outside until we can find alternatives,” she said on Friday, almost a week after the eruption.

Mucunguzi and her neighbours were promised support by the district officials but it had not arrived days later. “Authorities visited us several times and promised to help us get the basics.

Many people I know have left Rubavu, some for good, others temporarily. It has been a tough week and we only hope the government will help us recover,” she narrates.

Some residents fled Rubavu when the situation worsened. Mama Diane spoke to Rwanda Today when she reached Musanze town, 52km away from Rubavu.

She had already rented a house for two months, brought her family of four and house equipment.

“I was tired of sleepless nights, panic, fear and the uncertainty around the situation. In two months I am hopeful the situation will have settled,” she said.

The tremors were not the only reason for some residents to flee the town. Basic services were shutting down as well. Shops, restaurants, markets, banking services and other basic activities were halted by the aftershocks.

Ange Uwera and her mother left Rubavu for Muhanga on Wednesday, reasoning that the city was fading.

“The tremors are scary but the town is shutting down. Many services were suspended, shops were closed and business people were leaving as well,” Uwera said.

On Monday, May 31, affected families were being provided with basics including tents, blankets, mats, foodstuff and hygienic products. The Mayor of Rubavu district says the support started with the most hit residents.

In addition to ruined houses, the flowing lava from Nyiragongo volcano damaged between three and five hectares of crops in Cyanzarwe Sector. No lives were lost.