ON Friday, thousands of Rwandans gathered in Kinigi, Musanze district to witness 23 baby mountain gorillas getting named at the annual KwitaIzina event. The traditional naming ceremony honored high level global personalities including former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel.
Kwita Izina 2018, focused on creating awareness of conservation efforts for the endangered mountain gorilla and ran under the theme; Conservation is Life.
Obasanjo, whose full names are Chief Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo, named a baby gorilla; ‘Aremu’.
“In my language, Aremu means every baby is useful in a family,” Obasanjo said after naming one of the 23 baby gorillas on Friday at a colorful event in Kinigi, Musanze District.
Obasanjo, who has been a frequent guest to Rwanda over the years, said that Rwanda is making incredible strides in conservation.
“Good people of Rwanda, I congratulate you for the unique way of conducting awareness of conservation. By celebrating certain animals will help us to fight climate change,” he said.
On her part, Mrs. Graca Machel named a baby gorilla URUGORI (from Kwitonda family) which means a crown woman in Rwanda wears symbol of motherhood, also a sign of respect of women in the Rwandan culture.
Other renowned global and conservation personalities who named gorillas included;
His Highness Sheikh Dr. Abdulaziz Bin Ali Bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, famously known as the ‘Green Sheikh’ and a member of the Ajman royal family in the United Arab Emirates, also named a baby gorilla ‘Nayombi’.
“I love the name. It comes from my spirit because it says open your heart, open your spirit for others,” the Green Sheikh said.
“I have a good heart, a good spirit like Rwandans do.”
The Green Sheikh said he has respect to the human being, regardless whom they are.
On his side, Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Media and Technology group Econet Wireless and Econet Media (Kwesé), named the baby gorilla ‘Ishusho’.
To explain his choice, he said “Ishusho means Image in English. Rwanda has become the image of what we want to see in Africa.”
Masiyiwa said he was doing what Adam of the bible did at the beginning of the world while naming all the animals that was given to him by God.
At the naming ceremony were also two legendary stars from English Premier League Club Arsenal FC.
Laureano Bisan Etamé-Mayer, the Cameroonian who was part of the invincible squad at Arsenal that went a whole season un beaten and also won two Premier Leagues while he was captain of the gunners named a baby gorilla Ikipe, (from Kwitonda family) meaning Team.
His presence in the country is part of the VisitRwanda – a deal Rwanda signed with Arsenal in May this year, to promote Rwanda to the world.
Etamé-Mayer was accompanied by, Alexandra Virina Scott – another Arsenal FC legend from the club’s women team. Scott made 100 appearances in the national team.
She named a baby gorilla ‘Zahabu’. “I have chosen the name Zahabu (from Isimbi family) meaning Gold for my baby gorilla,” or “a precious thing” she said.
Theo Kgosinkwe and Nhlanhla Nciza from Mafikizolo SA named a baby Gorilla IKIZA (from Agashya family) which means “Good” while Dr. Noeline Raondry Rakotoarisa from UNESCO named a baby gorilla IMBAGA (from Igisha Family) which means crowd.
The Chinese Ambassador to Rwanda Rao Hongwei named a baby gorilla UBURUMBUKE (from IGISHA Family) which means prosperity. He also added a Chinese Nickname as “旺旺 “Wangwang”. His US Counterpart H.E Peter H. Vrooman named a baby gorilla INTARUTWA (from Susa Family), which means “The paramount”.
In his remarks, Rwandan Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente thanked the esteemed international guests who attended KwitaIzina2018 for their partnership and their usual commitment to support Rwanda ‘s efforts of protecting the wildlife and Mountain Gorillas in particular.
“This ceremony is not just about tourism and travel. It’s about our people. When we protect our environment and our Gorillas, we help our people to improve their well-being,” Ngirente noted.
“Indeed, where there is peaceful co-existence of wildlife and people, there are mutual benefits.”
The Prime Minister also encouraged the private investors to look at new opportunities and contribute to the diversification of tourism products.
He said, “this would increase the length of stay for our tourists.”
The population of mountain gorillas, one of the world’s most endangered species, increased by 25 percent (in the virunga massif) from 480 in 2010 to 604 in 2016, according to a latest census commissioned by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC).
Rwanda’s tourism sector generated 438 million U.S dollars in 2017; however the country targets to double tourism receipts to 800 million U.S. dollars by 2024, according to Rwanda Development Board (RDB).