It is not one of the most popular events in Rwanda, but planned halloween parties drew attention of the government.
Most restaurants had made preparations for halloween celebrations before the government’s shocker that prompted outrage from a section of the public.
The day also known as All Hallows’ Eve is an annual celebration observed in a number of countries on October 31 by some Christians in honour of the dead and especially saints, martyrs and all faithful departed.
But Minister for Sports and Culture Protais Mitali issued a public notice warning to homes, residences, hotels, restaurants, bars and night clubs against holding any events related to halloween.
Mr Mitali said the day, which is marked for honouring the spirits of the dead is inappropriate and against Rwandan culture.
“Halloween does not resonate well with the Rwandan culture. We therefore warn all Rwandans not to hold or take part in halloween activities,” said Mitali.
Some Rwandans and expatriates had organised events to celebrate the day and even placed notices on social media to attract revellers.
But a section of citizens reacted angrily to the ban, arguing that it is not government’s responsibility to dictate how people spent their leisure time.
“Dear Mitali, halloween parties don’t affect us or waste our taxes — beauty pageants like Miss Rwanda definitely do waste time and money,” wrote Lucy Mbabazi on her Twitter handle.
Nasra Bishumba, a journalist and public relations practitioner, protested the ban, saying the government should not interfere with citizen’s leisure time.
“I am not a fan of halloween, but what people want to do with their time should not be their [govt] business,” said Bishumba.
“Culture is great and I support it 100 per cent, but where do we draw the line? When do we recognise that we are violating people’s rights to do what they want with their time?” Bishumba posed.
Robert Sebufirira, a Rwandan living abroad said the government has better things to do instead of banning harmless celebrations.
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“We can’t love foreigners for their money but hate their cultures. Banning halloween celebrations is harsh. The government should at least set up a controlled environment for celebrations,” added Sebufirira, who lives in Canada.
However, some Rwandans argued that locals in the past celebrated and participated in rituals to honour Nyabingi, a spirit of long gone gods whose roots are found in Rwanda.
There were seasons to offer sacrifices and alcohol to the Nyabingi spirit and it was accompanied by merrymaking similar to halloween’s.
However, some Rwandans supported the ban, saying there are a number of celebrations, which locals can participate in instead of honouring the spirits of the dead.
They said Rwandans commemorate their dead in a sombre mood unlike halloween celebrations which are rocked by immoral acts.
For instance April is commemoration month for genocide victims and is characterised by a quiet, sombre atmosphere where bars and clubs refrain from playing music and drinking can only be done in private.
Shamila Muganga, a Rwandan who leaves in the US where Halloween is celebrated defended the ban, arguing that Rwanda is not ready such, even if it means violating people’s rights.
“Maybe banning it is could have been a little harsh, but you don’t want People getting it the wrong way. You don’t want Rwanda to become like some countries where people are paranoid about witches and getting bewitched.”