Rwanda returns to life.

Author:Misser, Francois

Our Central African Correspondent, Francois Misser, just back from a fact-finding trip to Rwanda, says that although daily life is returning to normal in that devastated country, the new administration still faces enormous challenges.

THREE months after the end of the war, Kigali shows some sign of a return to its pre-war ways. The central market is as crowded as it was before - beans, tomatoes, cassava are on sale as are a number of goods imported from Burundi and Uganda.

Electricity has returned, but only to the centre of Kigali; the outskirts of the city still have no power. Gitarama too remains without power since the Rwandan Patriotic Front artillary knocked out a number of key installations during their invasion.

The only utility that continues to supply Kigali and the northern cities of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi is the 6MW Mukungwa power plant, which produces only one fifth of the country's pre-war power needs.

Mr Prosper Higiro, the Minister for Industry, believes pre-war supplies will be matched by the end of the year. But today the major problem remains that those factories not actually destroyed by the war are still unable to operate without electricity.

Heady success story

One success story has been the reappearance of the national beer, Primus, brewed by Bralirwa. The efforts of a Dutch engineer, Heineken's Mr Wim, to return the shattered brewery to its former glory not only brought Primus to Kigali by 1 October, but catapulted Mr Wim close to the status of national hero.

All of a sudden, the price of a 75cl bottle plummeted from RF1000 (US$5) to RF400 (US$2), only RF50 more than the price before the fighting.

The reappearance of Primus may have overjoyed the public at large but, it seems to have depressed the importers of the Ugandan Nile Special, the Kenyan Tusker and also Primus and Amstel beers shiped from Burundi. However, it seems the good cheer might soon be severely disrupted by distribution problems caused by a shortage of empty bottles.

Meanwhile the Kigali Nights and Cosmos discos are as crowded as before the war, possibly even more so with Rwandans celebrating their survival of the conflict dancing alongside UNAMIR Blue Berets.

Even though rain still pours through holes in the roof to the offices of the Minister of Public Administration, Alexis Kanyarengwe, every day more telephone lines are being restored and the municipal workers are cleaning out the streets and trimming the grass in the public gardens.

People return...

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