The New Times (Kigali)

23 January 2013

Rwanda: Urugerero - Where the Ancient Meets the Modern

Another age-old practice has been brought back to life and given the place it deserves in national politics.

Urugerero (national service) used to exist in ancient Rwanda where parents would send their sons to a state-run training camp. Since there was no formal education, the training centres were used to transmit the basics of life needed to pass into manhood.

Warfare, dancing, poetry, good manners and good old competition were some of the virtues that marked a well-heeled Rwandan of the day worthy of his place in society.

In the footsteps of other traditional practices that have successfully been incorporated in modern society, Urugerero will also definitely pass through the delicate teething stage, and is bound to encounter some difficulties.

This is where the National Itorero Taskforce, in charge of implementing the programme, will have to step in decisively; It should draw up well thought programmes and cut down on slogans in order to mirror the success of Umuganda, Gacaca, Ubudehe and other traditional practices reintroduced in our society.

Ancient Rwanda was one of the few African kingdoms that had working and decentralised administrative structures; this was possible because the above ingredients were used in good measure, but above all, it was the collective attitude learnt in Urugerero that was the secret of success.

Once again, we have come to prove that imported western cultures that supplanted our traditions, can work well with our ancient practices, taking the best of each to come up with the right formula needed to build a modern society.

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