The New Times (Kigali)

6 June 2010

Rwanda: World Descends On Kinigi for Gorilla Naming, WED

Kinigi — ALL roads, yesterday, led to Kinigi, Musanze District, on the foot of Virunga Mountains, where thousands of people, both local and guests from around the globe, gathered to celebrate the 6th edition of the Gorilla naming ceremony (Kwita Izina) and the World Environment Day (WED) that was hosted by Rwanda.

The colourful ceremony, with a fusion of local and international touch, attracted people from many countries, including Japan, China, the United States as well as Hollywood stars.

During the colourful ceremony, 14 baby gorillas were named and President Paul Kagame received the Energy Globe Honorary Award for Environment on behalf of the people of Rwanda, to whom he dedicated it for their daily contribution to the conservation of biodiversity.

President Kagame expressed gratitude for Rwanda having been chosen to host this year's World Environment Day, which coincided with the International Year of Biodiversity, and said that the country attaches great value to environmental conservation, and hosting the event cements the country's commitment.

"Our country is endowed with landscapes and water resources with a rich biodiversity that has shaped the livelihoods of our people over centuries. Rwanda is home to numerous rare and endangered species, including the mountain gorilla," the President said.

"Although we still face environmental challenges such as deforestation, erosion and landslides, our government has resolved to redress that situation by pursuing and implementing green policies."

The President added that consequently, Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), was created to, mainly, oversee programmes geared towards preserving the environment; including conservation of wetlands and forests, promoting country-wide tree planting and curbing the effects of climate change.

"We have dedicated almost 10% of our territory to the conservation of our biodiversity and we continue to sensitize our people so that they understand that, indeed, we have one future as far as this planet is concerned," "We believe that protecting the environment entails, among other things, empowering communities so that they change their attitudes and find alternative livelihoods that can promote sustainable and equitable development. And we are making headway," Kagame added.

He continued pointing out that by putting forward environmental protection, combined with prudent economic planning, the country has reaped many benefits.

Communities around the parks now have safer drinking water,, new schools for their children, medical centres, more jobs from various economic activities, including tourist hotels, and a market for their produce.

The newborn gorillas and newly formed families were given names by people chosen locally as well as international figures and renowned conservationists.

The whole world was involved in the exercise, online, by helping Hollywood star,Don Cheadle, choose a name, for the baby Gorilla assigned him, with participants settling for Zoya.

Diplomats alike were chosen to name baby gorillas, including the Charge de Affaires of the US Embassy, who named a baby gorilla Ubuhamya (Testimony) while her counterpart from the DR Congo Embassy named a baby gorilla Igihembo (Gift).

The Under Secretary and Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Achim Steiner, named a baby gorilla Umurage (Legacy) while the Speaker of Parliament Rose Mukantabana named a baby Icyamamare or celebrity, while the name selected by children across the planet and given to another baby gorilla was "WakaWaka", announced by Chinese wildlife photographer and environmentalist, Luo Hong.

The Commissioner General of Police, Emmanuel Gasana, named a baby Isabukuru (Anniversary), while the Director General of Immigration and Emigration Anaclet Kalibata named one Teta.

Other Baby Gorillas named include Inshuti, Turate, Inyungu, Isoko, Agatako, Murakaza, Ntambara, Imbuto, Agashya and Gasore.

"We celebrate the birth of baby gorillas because every birth is an important step towards achieving our vision to see the mountain gorillas move from being one of the world's most endangered species to being some of the world's best protected animals," said John Gara, Rwanda Development Board's CEO.

Don Cheadle and Achem Steiner hailed Rwanda for being a leading example in environment conservation, where even superpowers have failed.

"You would think that a superpower like the United States, or some of the countries in Europe, would be leading in this area, and we are trailing, in some regards, behind Rwanda," said Don Cheadle in an interview.

Kwita Izina was marked with a series of events, including a cycling tour which attracted over 80 riders from the region, the launching of community projects worth Rwf86m, and an international conservation conference that was attended by over 150 renowned conservationists and environmentalists.

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