Century-old German World War I boat discovered in Rwanda’s Lake Kivu

By Esther Muhozi
On 21 February 2024 at 09:56

A historic discovery was made in Rwanda’s Lake Kivu on Tuesday, 20th February 2024, as a German boat, concealed since the First World War (1914-1918), was finally located. This significant find was announced by the Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy, marking the culmination of persistent efforts to uncover this relic from the past.

Despite an unsuccessful attempt in January 2023, a dedicated team of researchers embarked on a renewed mission, leading to the successful identification of the vessel.

Amb. Robert Masozera, Director General of the Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy, shared insights into the discovery process with IGIHE, highlighting the critical moment of evidence emergence on Monday, which eventually led to the boat’s definitive pinpointing the following day.

In his message sent to IGIHE journalist on Tuesday, Amb. Masozera revealed, "Preliminary information received today confirms the boat’s location, though we are still compiling further details. A more detailed update will follow shortly."

The backdrop of this discovery is the First World War, a four-year global conflict that, within Rwanda, spanned from 1914 to 1916, featuring clashes between German and Belgian forces, the latter based in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The boat’s hiding spot, Musaho, lies in Kagugu village, within the Mushubati Sector of Rutsiro District, a site rich in historical narratives of the war’s aftermath, where defeated German forces concealed the vessel.

The successful recovery of the boat was facilitated by a blend of modern technologies, including underwater and subterranean metal detection tools and drones, showcasing a collaborative effort between the Rwandan Government and the Cultural Heritage Academy.

Given the boat’s lengthy submersion, Amb. Masozera previously speculated on the preservation challenges, suggesting an innovative approach to keep the boat submerged as a submerged exhibit for diving enthusiasts, thereby avoiding the potential degradation that could occur if removed from water.

Amb. Masozera recently told IGIHE that if the boat were found, it might not be removed from the water due to the risk of rapid deterioration after such a long time submerged.

He suggested that it could be preserved in the water for tourists to explore through diving.

It is said that the boat was sent to Rwanda in pieces and assembled in the country.