History of rail transport in Rwanda

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This article is part of the history of rail transport by country series

The history of rail transport in Rwanda is limited to three industrial railways, and a number of proposed railway projects that, as of 2012, had not been implemented.

Industrial railways[edit]

Rwanda has only ever had three 600 mm (1 ft 11 58 in) narrow gauge industrial railways. None of them has never offered passenger services.

The industrial railways were operated initially by:

  • Société Minière de Muhinga et de Kigali, in the (SOMUKI) Muhinga and Kigali mines from 1924,
  • Société des mines d’etain du Ruanda-Urundi (Minétain), in the Katumba mine from 1928,
  • Société des Mines de Rwanda (SOMIRWA), in the Karuruma tin refinery from 1982.

Until 1988, all three of these businesses were united as the Régie d’Exploitation et de Développement des Mines (RÉDEMI), which also operated the three railways. However, in the ensuing 20 years the railways were severely damaged by the Rwandan Civil War and Rwandan Genocide. It may well be that they are no longer in operation.

Proposed railways[edit]

Since around the turn of the 21st century, there have been several proposals for a railway between Rwanda and neighbouring countries. The existing railway networks in nearby Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania use 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge, but TAZARA and other nearby countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) use the 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge, leading to some potential difficulties.

As early as the 1980s, the Kagera Basin Organization carried out economic feasibility studies into a would-be KBO railway system linking Burundi, Rwanda and the DRC, but that proposed system never came to fruition.[1]

In 2000, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) launched the Great Lakes railway project involving both rail and water transport on Lakes Tanganyika, Kivu, and Edward connecting Burundi, the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia. The aim of that project was to improve connections between the Great Lakes and the southern African 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge rail network.[1][2] COMESA commissioned a South African engineering firm, Makhosi Holdings, to carry out a feasibility study into several Great Lakes railway project routes agreed by COMESA members.[3]

Simultaneously, another team of South African engineers was engaged by COMESA to undertake a feasibility study for an alternative rail link in Rwanda, running 150 kilometres (93 mi) southeast from Kigali to Isaka, where it would have connected with the existing metre gauge Tanzanian railway network.[3] As with the would-be KBO railway system, however, the COMESA proposals were not implemented.

By 2004, the newly founded Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority, based in Mombasa, Kenya, was promoting a project to link Kisangani with Mombasa using a new line from Kasese to Kisangani, with feeder lines linking Kasese with Goma and then via Bukavu to Kigali and Bujumbura.[1][2][4] Two years later, at a meeting in August 2006 with members of the Rwanda Patriotic Front, Wu Guanzheng, of the Communist Party of China, confirmed the intention of the People's Republic of China to fund a study into the feasibility of constructing a railway connecting with the Tanzanian railway network at Isaka, and running via Kigali in Rwanda through to Burundi.[5]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Investment Opportunities in the Northern Corridor with Emphasis in Transport Infrastructure (PDF). Kampala, Uganda: Transit Transport Coordination Authority of the Northern Corridor. 7–8 June 2004. p. 16. 
  2. ^ a b Bullock, Richard (November 2009). AICD Background Paper 17 - Off Track: Sub-Saharan African Railways (PDF). Washington, DC: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank. 
  3. ^ a b "Great Lakes rail study". Railway Gazette International. 1 October 2001. Retrieved 23 September 2012.  External link in |newspaper= (help)
  4. ^ "African links could bring peace and stability". Railway Gazette International. 1 September 2004. Retrieved 23 September 2012. 
  5. ^ "China to Assist Rwanda". Railways Africa website. Railways Africa. Retrieved 21 September 2012.  External link in |work= (help)

Further reading[edit]

  • Robinson, Neil (2009). World Rail Atlas and Historical Summary. Volume 7: North, East and Central Africa. Barnsley, UK: World Rail Atlas Ltd. p. 64ff. ISBN 978-954-92184-3-5. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Transport in Rwanda at Wikimedia Commons

This article is based on a translation of the German Wikipedia article Schienenverkehr in Ruanda as at September 2012.