Despite the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, there are still plenty of fantastic events in Kigali happening throughout 2021.
Most will be much smaller than usual, and event organizers have had to adapt to the uncertainty of this difficult time. But an eye out for upcoming events and every month.
Umuganda is a day of mandatory community service for all Rwandans held on the final Saturday of every month. Between the hours of 8 am and 11 pm, all non-disabled adult Rwandans are expected to participate in communal cleaning of the country’s streets and common areas.
Kigali Car-Free Day happens on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month. On Car Free Day, the main streets in Kigali are closed to private motor vehicles (cars and motorbikes) throughout the day. Residents are encouraged to walk, cycle, and enjoy the space and lack of traffic.
On February 1st every year, Rwanda celebrates National Heroe’s Day to honour and commemorate Rwandan’s who have lost their lives defending the country or fighting for Rwanda’s liberation. Heroe’s Day is a public holiday, with commemorative events held throughout Rwanda.
In 2021, to reflect the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, frontline workers will also be recognized for their bravery and sacrifice.
April 7th is Genocide Against the Tutsi Memorial Day and marks the beginning of 100 days of mourning for the victims of the 1994 genocide. This period is known as Kwibuka (Kinyarwanda for ‘to remember’), with a full roster of events taking place across the country throughout the 100 days.
The most significant memorial services and commemorations occur in the first week, but expect smaller ceremonies to continue until July 4th (the date officially recognised as the end of the genocide).
The Rwandan government has adapted plans for this year’s Kwibuka events to fit within Covid-19 restrictions, with the official website providing updates and guidelines to follow.
The 2021 Tour Du Rwanda will take place from May 2nd-9th, with international teams of cyclists taking part in events across Rwanda. On the 2nd, 16 teams will be competing in the main event – a 116 km race from Kigali to Rwamagana.
Throughout the rest of the week, look out for smaller events that celebrate the beauty of Rwanda’s natural landscape, while promoting cycling as a sport and pastime throughout the country.
The 2021 Kigali Maraton is still going ahead on June 20th. The marathon takes a 42 km route through the city, starting and finishing at Amahoro Stadium. Kigali is an AIMS Certified professional marathon, and prizes are awarded to those who finish in pole positions.
There’s also a half marathon and fun run for those of us who don’t feel confident enough to run 42 km.
On June 22nd, the latest Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will be held in Kigali. CHOGM is held every three years, bringing together the heads of state from every Commonwealth country and many other diplomats and dignitaries.
Leaders from all 53 Commonwealth countries are expected to attend, with a whole week of events in and around the Kigali Convention Centre.
The first week of July sees two hugely important holidays in Rwanda. On July 1st, the country celebrates Independence Day, marking Rwanda’s independence from Belgian rule on July 1st, 1962. July 4th is Liberation Day, commemorating the day in 1994 when the Rwandan Patriotic Front secured Kigali, defeated the army, and ended the genocide.
Both dates are public holidays, and celebrations will be held within the restrictions in place due to Covid-19.
Umuganura is Rwanda’s national harvest holiday, held on the first Friday of August (the 6th this year) to celebrate the beginning of the harvest season. “Umuganara” closely translates “Thanks giving day” in English. For Rwandans, it’s a day of reflection, gratitude, and family gatherings.
Umuganura Day is also a public holiday, which means everyone gets to enjoy a long weekend off work.
On August 15th, Rwanda will observe Assumption Day, the Christian holiday celebrating Mary’s ascension to heaven. Assumption Day is a public holiday in Rwanda, and a very big deal, so you can expect events to be held across the country to mark the date.
Kwita Azina is an annual naming ceremony for baby gorillas born in Volcanos National Park. It’s a huge event held every September to bring attention to the importance of protecting Rwanda’s gorilla population and their habitat and to celebrate the communities living in and around Volcanos National Park.
It’s unclear how Kwita Azina will held in 2021, so keep an eye out for updates.
By the time December comes along, You can expect some form of celebrations for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. However, at the time of writing, it’s unclear how we will be marking both occasions. Hopefully, the worst of the pandemic will have passed, and we can join our friends and families to celebrate the end of the year together.