Kwita Izina still excites in its 13th year

Friday September 09 2016

A stage designed in the shape of a Silver Back was erected at the venue of the Kwita Izina ceremony in Kinigi-Musanze, Northen province of Rwanda where thousands gathered to name 22 new baby gorillas. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

It’s no secret that Rwanda has a good number of gorillas but not as many compared with neighbouring countries of DR Congo and Uganda that share the Virunga Massif.

The gorilla naming ceremony dubbed ‘Kwita Izina’ is a Rwandan tradition that brings together people from the countries that share the heritage, and visitors from around the world.

The Rwanda Development Board has come up with events to reignite the ceremony’s pizzazz.

As is the tradition various pre-event activities precede the main event, such as unveiling what the five per cent profit garnered from tourism has done to the communities surrounding the three major national parks that is Akagera, Nyungwe and the Volcanoes also known as PNV by the locals.

This project that began in 2005 has seen schools built, hospitals and also helping co-operatives in the tourism sector.

As a cherry on the top there was a gala dinner a second of its kind the first one being last year. The sum whose value is yet to be gazetted included auctions of conservation merchandise and the entry was $120 (Rwf96,000) per person while a table of 10 cost $1000 (Rwf797,000).


A trade exhibition and a conservation dialogue were also held. Lastly pre-event was a familiarisation trip for various media local and international to show them the various tourism attractions available.

The event which is mainly conservation-oriented is brought to life by men in gorilla suits performing acrobats, and Rwandan dancers express their prowess at the traditional dances.

The rain was gracious enough not to fall on that day which is a common thing in Musanze’s vast Kinigi area where the event has diligently taken place annually for the past 12 years.

The newly acquired lions in Akagera National Park were also included in the naming ceremony and as the president put it albeit half-jokingly, “In the near future we can be able to name baby lions and that will be a huge step taken. This in part will allow a return of the depleted resources and conserve that which is already there for growth to take place.”

The invited guests were treated to coffee by Bourbon, one of the sponsors of the event, then a seat in the tents away from the seemingly shy sun. Soft drinks and water were readily available on tables within the tents.

A gigantic gorilla structure was the centrepiece of the dais. The structure that took approximately three weeks to make will stay on longer.

Every individual that gave names to the 22 baby gorillas from 12 gorilla families was painstakingly chosen by RDB team because of what they stood for in terms of success, conservation and positive impact in the community at large.

They included a top achieving student, business men and women, musicians to veteran conservationists. Famous British broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough, 90, named one of the babies “Inshungo” in absentia through a recorded video. Inshungo is a Rwandan name that means replacement. All the names given were Rwandan and had different meanings depending on the name-givers idea.

The babies named between the months of June 2015 to late May this year were documented on a special series that can be found online on the official Kwita Izina YouTube channel.

The baby gorillas that will later be Blackback gorillas and finally silverback gorillas have a long journey to maturity “the oldest officially known is 38 years,” according to Prosper the chief park warden of the Volcanoes National Park.