The Nile-Kagera River

NileThe Nile-Kagera River is one of the tributaries of the longest river in the world, the River Nile. Also known as Akagera, it is the furthest upstream tributary of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa. Its source is Burundi, at the confluence of two rivers that rise from feeder streams. The section of the Nile-Kagera that carries water for the longest distance is Kagera River. From its source near Lake Tanganyika, the river flows northwards for about 400 kilometres, forming some parts of the boundary between Tanzania and Rwanda. It then turns and runs eastwards to form part of the boundary between Tanzania and Uganda.

River Kagera carries a very high volume of water and drains into the river Nile, emptying approximately 6.4 billion cubic meters of water yearly. This voluminous contribution led explorers to believe that it forms part of the North stream sources of the river Nile, hence the name Nile-Kagera. As the river flows downstream, it contributes significantly to the livelihoods of people and animals that live near the river, and aquatic organisms. The Akagera river basin in particular is a rich agricultural ground that supports close to 14 million people. It runs from Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda, covering approximately 57,364 square kilometres.

The river Nile-Kagera has made significant contributions to the economy of most countries through which it flows. For instance, its hydrological regime influences the way Rwandese people use their land. The rainfall patterns in the region affect the hydrological regime. Floods occur during the rainy season while farmers have to irrigate their crops during the dry season. The governments of communities living within the Akagera basin has started sustainability schemes to boost food security, which can be a dire problem if not handled with care. For instance, the Kagera Trans-boundary Integrated Water Resource Management Development Project is a US$614.72 million, five-year investment committed towards promoting catchment conservation and sustainable use of the Kagera river basin.

The river Kagera has however contributed to some of the most violent events in the history of Africa. One of the facts documented about its role is the infamous Rwandan genocide of 1994, the mass murder of the Tutsi population by the Hutu-led government. According to the statistical information given by the Rwandese media, the 100 day massacre left about a million Tutsi dead. The perpetrators of the genocide used the river Kagera to dispose off the mutilated bodies of the victims. Its huge water volumes allowed the dead bodies to remain buried for long without emerging. The river dragged those carcasses to Ugandan waters, posing serious health problems to the Ugandan people.

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