While the city of Bujumbura is crossed by many rivers, the lack of bridges constitutes a challenge for mobility between different districts. In several places, passers-by are obliged to go there on foot. The lack of bridges between the Jabe and Kigobe neighborhoods is a good illustration of this challenge. We made a descent on the ground to realize the situation which prevails there.
It is early in the morning. The hand of the watch indicates 7 hours 05 min. At the avenue de l’Imprimerie, the traffic is intense. We can see women and men with fruit baskets on their heads or handbags slung over their shoulders. Students in uniform struggling to get to their classrooms on time, parents accompanying their children to school. Everybody is in a hurry.
In one adjoining the small valley along the Ntahangwa River, students in uniform and other people walk the slope near the road. Others descend, crossing the first. We descend by this path which seems very busy this morning. After about two minutes of walking, we arrive at the Ntahangwa River, between the Jabe and Kigobe districts, about 500 meters from the Republic Bridge. A few men are already there. They watch for anyone who wants to reach the other shore to offer them their service. The passenger is forced to ride on the back of a smuggler to be taken to the other side of the river. Passers-by can be divided into different groups. Some of them are students going to school. Others are people living in small trades such as masons and carpenters and small traders practicing itinerant trade. Students are visibly more likely to cross the river.
Smugglers take advantage
On arrival, we are welcomed from afar. The passers raise their hands to call the customer. There, the means of transport is rather rudimentary. The absence of a bridge at this point benefits the smugglers. They claim that helping people cross the river is their livelihood. Those with whom we spoke indicate that this profession allows them to live and that they have practiced it for many years. “I have been in this profession since 2000. You will therefore understand that it is not new,” explains the man who is known by the nickname of Jodani. “We rely on our own strength,” adds his friend, who also claims to have worked there for a long time. These people indicate that they work all day to help passers-by cross the river. They can carry up to 25 people each for a day. According to them, it is difficult to give up this job because it is already their way of life despite not having a job.
The users interviewed request the establishment of a bridge linking the Jabe and Kigobe quartiles to facilitate the crossing of the Ntahangwa River. According to a student from Kigobe district who attends a school in Jabe district, the daily crossing of this river costs him a lot. When the rain fell, the river overflowed and he arrived at school 40 minutes late.