Africa Drink Rwanda Weekend

Weekend: discover Belgian colonialist who brewed pineapple wine on Lake Muhazi

On the serene shoreline of Lake Muhazi seats hundreds of acres of land that were once owned by a Belgian colonialist that was known as Decant (second name not yet known). This place is in a village known as Nyamabuye village located at Gati cell in Gishali sector.

This beautiful natural haven has since been acquired and developed into a 9-hole golf course under management of Falcon Golf Club which hosted the Rwanda Summer golf event on October 3-4.

Decant, the Belgian was an industrious colonialists he grew vast acres of pineapples which he harvested and used to process a very delicious and punchy wine that was mostly consumed by local chiefs and also sold as far as Kigali. The highly alcoholic wine was known as Ingwe (leopard).

According to stories from different elders in this village, Decant had built a concrete house for his family and another concrete reinforced hut about 100 metres away from the masters’ quarter. The hut stands majestically more than half a century later. Those who come to play golf at this property don’t know much about this mysterious concrete hut and simply ignore it.

It is said that Decant left Rwanda immediately after the Belgian supported constitutional referendum in 1961, a constitution that effectively abolished the monarchy, and established a republic. Elderly Residents of Gati remember that Decant was a returning officer for the referendum. He left the country later.

The spot where Decants home had been built is only survived by giant and very tall trees that host falcon birds and eagles from which they launch stealth and high speed attacks into the lake to pluck out fish. Watching these endless attacks into the waters by these birds offers a great connection with nature.

Thus the concrete hut was the house for a nanny that took care of Decant’s children, “whenever the he was so busy with meetings or processing wine, he would send the children to be with the nanny at her hut,” says one of the children of a former guard at this facility.

Also read: The promise of disease-resistant cassavas in Rwanda

Rwanda’s History Linked To Lake Muhazi

Lake Muhazi is 60 km long, in an east-west direction, but its width is less than 5 km. It is located in east-central Rwanda and has shoreline in three of the country’s five provinces.

The western third of the lake forms the border between Kigali (Gasabo District) to the south, and Northern Province (Gicumbi District) to the north. The eastern two-thirds or the lake is in the Eastern Province, forming the border between Rwamagana District to the south, and Gatsibo and Kayonza Districts to the north.

According to oral history the Kingdom of Rwanda was founded in the 14th century after disintegration of Kitara empire on the shores of Lake Muhazi in the Buganza area, close to the modern city of Rwamagana.

At that time Rwanda was a small state in a loose confederation with larger and more powerful neighbours, Bugesera and Gisaka.

By playing these neighbours against each other, the early kingdom flourished in the area, expanding westwards towards Lake Kivu. In this expanded kingdom, the region around the lake became a powerful religious site, being synonymous with the earliest and most revered Mwamis of the kingdom.

In the late 16th or early 17th centuries, the kingdom of Rwanda was invaded by the Banyoro and the kings forced to flee westward, leaving Buganza and the Lake Muhazi area in the hands of Bugesera and Gisaka.

The formation in the 17th century of a new Rwandan dynasty by mwami Ruganzu Ndori, followed by eastward invasions, the retaking of Buganza and the conquest of Bugesera, marked the beginning of the Rwandan kingdom’s dominance in the area.

Lake Muhazi became a border zone between Rwanda and the still independent Gisaka, a situation which remained in place for 200 years, despite several unsuccessful attempts by the Rwandan kings to subdue Gisaka. Eventually, in around 1830, Gisaka was annexed and the eastern borders of the state began to take their present form, with the lake fully under Rwandan control.

Under German and Belgian colonial rule Lake Muhazi became an important east–west transport route, linking Kigali and the west of the country with the north-south and eastbound roads from Gahini.

From 1922, the eastern area was temporarily fell under British control as part of the surveying process for the proposed Cape-Cairo railway, a period during which the Church Missionary Society (CMS), started missionary and medical work across eastern Rwanda.

This land was returned to Belgium in 1924 but the rulers allowed the CMS to continue its work, and a permanent mission and hospital was set up close to Lake Muhazi in Gahini village.

Original article on Taarifa Rwanda

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