Lake Kamweru and Kyema: The formation of Rubirizi District’s twin crater lakes, Kyema and Kamweru, remains steeped in mystery, adding an aura of intrigue to the region. Situated within Magambo Sub-county, these lakes are part of a larger ensemble of 32 crater lakes and constitute one of the few pairs of twin lakes in the area, positioned along the western arm of the East African Rift Valley.
Separated by a small landmass, Lake Kyema displays clear waters, while the neighboring Kamweru possesses water of a distinct green hue, believed by locals to be attributed to fish droppings, known as “omuboyo” in the local Runyakitara language.
Scientifically, these lakes are attributed to volcanic eruption in the 17th Century. However, local folklore weaves tales of intriguing stories, contributing to the enigmatic allure of these lakes. According to Magambo Sub-county residents, Lake Kamweru was initially a crater that filled up with water from a nearby lake, Nzuguto, which now exists as a wetland.
Local folklore tells of Lake Kamweru’s origins, intertwining tales of a past tragedy and mystical happenings. Stories passed down through generations suggest that Lake Nzuguto’s waters shifted to fill the Kamweru crater in the 1930s. This event, purportedly unnoticed by governmental records, was accompanied by a loss of lives, leading to a lack of acknowledgment regarding Rubirizi District’s tourism potential and cultural significance.
Daniel Katugano, a 74-year-old resident, recounts his family’s migration history dating back to 1797 and narrates how the lake’s owner, Endyoka, mysteriously transferred water from Lake Nzuguto to Kamweru. According to him, waves referred to as “endyoka mukama we Nyanja” (Endyoka, king of the lake) surged through the soil, traversing a cave and transferring water from Lake Nzuguto.
However, Edmond Kansiime, Rubirizi District planner, provides a different perspective, attributing the formation of these lakes to volcanic activity. He dismisses the local stories as mere superstitions, emphasizing the absence of scientific evidence to support the folklore.
Nonetheless, Kansiime highlights the unique aspect of these lakes, noting that they are the only conjoined lakes in Africa, underscoring the district’s tourism potential. Lake Kamweru’s environs boast a heritage cave, surrounded by diverse tree species sheltering monkeys and other wildlife. This cave holds historical significance, serving as a refuge during past political upheavals and conflicts.
The heritage cave witnessed moments of refuge during the times of political turmoil under the regimes of Idi Amin and Milton Obote, as well as during the NRA bush war. Additionally, it was reportedly utilized for sacrificial rituals by the Bagesera clan, the lake’s purported original owners.
Nyanzibiri Eco-Tourism site, situated along Lake Kamweru, offers tourists canoe rides, bird watching, community wetland walks, fishing activities, and cultural interactions with the Banyaruguru community. Despite the apparent tourism potential, David Birungi, the site’s owner, expresses frustration with governmental neglect of Rubirizi District’s tourism features due to stringent regulations.
Kansiime, however, attributes this sentiment to the centralized nature of the tourism sector, leading locals to feel neglected. He emphasizes the district’s desire to fund and promote tourism, highlighting the challenges posed by the centralized nature of the tourism industry.
Local residents, like Katugano, hope for regulations to govern human activity around the lakes, aiming to curb overfishing, deforestation, and inappropriate land use. They advocate for sustainable practices to enhance productivity and generate revenue for the government.
Myths about the Twin Lakes
An intriguing local tale recounts how, during certain months, fish would float on the lakes’ surface, enabling residents to catch them easily. Termed as “Okufa kwe Nyanja” (dying of a lake), this phenomenon was attributed to heat at the lake bottom. However, the Bazumira clan, considered the lake’s owners, abstained from fishing during these times and were respected for their role in locating drowned bodies and performing rituals to prevent fatalities.
The District’s Natural Endowment
Rubirizi District, formerly part of Bunyaruguru County, emerged in July 2010 from Bushenyi District. The region’s location within the western arm of the East African Rift Valley blesses it with an array of natural wonders, including 56 craters, encompassing 32 crater lakes. Within Bunyaruguru County, Lake Kyema and Lake Kamweru, along with other pairs like Katinda and Murambi, present remarkable features in Magambo and Kicwamba sub-counties, respectively.