March 26, 2020

Seven Men Walk Over 250km to Escape COVID-19 Lockdown

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The route displayed on the map is the main highway connecting Rubavu district in western province, to Huye district in southern province. Driving takes about 4hrs, while it could take you nearly two days walk

A group of men who were working more than 250km away from their homes did not believe the government-imposed lockdown to control spread of COVID-19 virus will end soon.

So they set out to return to their villages. The problem though, there are no vehicles, and security personnel are detaining anyone found outside yet everyone is required to be inside their home.

The seven men surfaced at the Huye district headquarters yesterday late evening, saying they just needed a place to spend the night. Indeed, officials at the district let them sleep there.

Today morning, the group restarted their walking journey to their villages in neighboring Gisagara and Nyaruguru districts. Their story, confirmed to local media by Hagumineza Protogène, Huye district official, reads more like a an amateur video shoot.

The seven men are: Minani Emmanuel (27), Nsabimana Jean Pierre (30), Ndayisaba Alexandre (23), Gilbert (26), Sibobugingo Emmanuel (17), Ndayisenga Eric (25) and Nsekanabanga Eric (40).

Their story goes that; the men are employees of Kivu Belt, a public-private partnership project extracting methane gas from Lake Kivu, Western Rwanda. Their work place was Rubavu district.

Last weekend, government ordered a total lockdown of the country in attempt to stop spread of the COVID-19 global pandemic. As of this Thursday morning, the confirmed cases in Rwanda had reached 41, but fortunately no deaths yet.

For the seven men, their work place was in Western province, but home villages are in southern province. Due to lockdown, their work place had come to a halt. They may have been left with not much of a choice; either stay in Rubavu without money and food, or find a way to reach their villages.

The men chose the latter option; and opted to walk. The date when they began their journey is not known, for now. According to Huye district official who spoke to them, the men walked through villages, not using the main highway as it is much farther, and risky as the authorities would find them.

“When they arrived at Huye district headquarters, they said they were very tired and couldn’t walk anymore. They said the safest place for them is at district,” said the official, quoted in local media.

The men said they didn’t have permanent contracts with their employer Kivu Belt, their jobs were no more.

From Rubavu district to Huye district is 213.1km. This morning, they set off for their districts. For those from Gisagara district, thet will walk for another 30 or so kilometers, while those going to Nyaruguru district will walk for an additional 60 or so kilometers.

In a vehicle, it takes about 4hours to cover this distance. It is estimated, it could take about a day and 8 hours when on foot.

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