They flocked the meeting venues in thousands, sang and danced to welcome President Paul Kagame during his recent visit to the Western Province districts of Nyamasheke and Rusizi.
'But mayor, don't you see that this child is like your own?' - President Kagame asks Nyamasheke district Mayor Jean Baptiste Habyalimana
President's interaction with citizens is like a parameter oThey asked a number of questions as is the norm, which the President answered.
Thus has been the signature atmosphere whenever President Kagame tours upcountry.
In Nyamasheke district, the Head of State and the crowd greeted each other, in a manner only friends who haven't seen each other for so long would do.
But that was not all. After a brief speech, in which he told them that none can destroy what Rwandans have built and that, with a nice country God gave us, no Rwandan should beg, the floor was opened for the locals to share their experiences and ask questions.
During the interaction, five people asked individual questions which Kagame answered directly or referred it to the concerned institution for immediate redress.
In Rusizi, the President's next destination after one day in Nyamasheke, residents gave testimonies and shared success stories attributed to President 's Girinka (cattle stocking) programme and other development policies.
They were also thankful of the current security which has facilitated doing business.
Sometimes, the President became overwhelmed by some of the issues at hand.
"But mayor, don't you see that this child is like your own!," he asked Jean Baptiste Habyalimana, the mayor of Nyamasheke district over a teenager who complained to the Head of State that she was defiled by a health staff and the court released the suspect citing lack of evidence.
President Kagame said the mayor should have helped the 15-year-old girl get fair justice and wondered why some institutions take serious cases lightly.
One resident from a cooperative of coffee growers testified how, among others, they have built a coffee washing station worth over Rwf 30m.
Like always, Kagame will show contentment with such success stories and advised the rest of the people to learn from them.
Another resident requested for an ambulance because the one the President gave them broke down and now they risk walking long distances to access medication.
"Sometimes pregnant women deliver by the roadside before getting to hospital," he said.
The President promised he will continue supporting them.
The interaction was very interesting. Kagame had great patience towards those who were struggling to put right their questions.
Previously, the President has visited other districts and locals have raised serious issues related especially to land conflicts delayed in court processes, while other citizens have come to him to request for individual support.
In April 2011, he visited Huye district, where the main questions were related to the individuals acknowledging him for the convincing steps he helped them make, a statement supported with tangible facts.
But the question is why do people wait for the President to raise their concerns.
The Mayor of Huye district, Eugene Kayiranga Muzuka, says the situation is changing.
"When our citizens see the President , that's the first reaction; to show him that they are thankful for what he has helped them achieve; obviously they do not hesitate to ask more, because they know, he is generous," Muzuka told The New Times recently.
However, Muzuka says people have learnt to live as a community and, therefore no more individual questions.
"Questions like 'Your Excellency, I need milk, give me a cow...my son is no longer going to school...I have no shelter' are no longer featuring," he said, adding that if the President visited the district now, the problems would be of general interests.
"They would be asking for markets, electricity, roads, etc," he said.
The Minister of Local Government James Musoni, said it's because times have changed. "Things are changing for better, the problems are becoming fewer and land issues are getting sorted out. The remaining problems can be worked on slowly by slowly."
And that is what the government is doing. In a bid to reduce poverty, the government established the Rwanda Local Development Support Fund (RLDSF) which gets 10 per cent of internal revenue of the fiscal year. This money is meant to support development projects such as Vission Umurenge Programme, Ubudehe and Himo, where some citizens are employed in public infrastructure construction. Other beneficiaries make small projects which are funded while the disabled get money to survive.
According to a report (2010-2011), RLDSF supported different projects worth Rwf 62.5 billion from the government and donors.
They include in 2011, Rwf386,750,000 granted to the poor households projects.
Other programmes that have improved the livelihoods of the Rwandans is the Girinka, the one cow per poor family programme, an initiative of President Kagame that was validated by the Cabinet in 2006.
So far, this programme has given out 141,499 cows to the poor families. In this exercise, the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry (Minagri) chooses improved breed of cows to boost the quality and quantity of milk. These are then distributed to poor families.
Thus, Andrew Kagabo, an official at Minagri, the per capita milk consumption in Rwanda was 13 litres per year before the programme, while today it is more than 40 litres per capita per year.
Other programmes like the Nyakatsi campaign put an end to grass thatched houses countrywide.
However, Musoni argued there is no reason why the local leaders should wait for the President to air their grievances. According to him, the President's interaction with citizens is like a parameter of good governance and development in local institutions, because people deliver first hand information.
"After the President's visit, we always sit with district local leaders and see how we can improve according to his guidance" he said.
This meeting, according to Musoni, attracts local leaders and the coordination committee made of the Office of the President, Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) and the Office of the Ombudsman.
Amb. Fatuma Ndangiza, deputy Chief Executive Officer of RGB said among other programmes of the recently launched Governance Month, they will organise forums between leaders and people who will share the problems they have in a programme dubbed Governance Clinics. This programme, she said, saw 2,300 cases resolved last year within one month. It intends to help leaders to timely resolve all the problems that used to delay in courts like land issues.