20 February 2013

Rwanda: Don't Thank Me, It Is My Obligation - President

Thousands of jubilant Nyaruguru residents waved, in return, their little cloths in the colours of the national flag - blue, green and yellow - as Rwanda's President Paul Kagame marched in front of them waving his hands in greetings.

It's within the grounds of Kibeho Catholic Parish in Agateko village, Kibeho cell, Nyaruguru district in Southern Rwanda.

It's just here, lined up in columns of their respective 14 sectors making up Nyaruguru district, that these residents in their tens of thousands chanted and swayed to the rhythm of traditional songs - praising the development Rwanda has so far made in a number of areas: peace and security, reconciliation, economic development - just to name a few.

"The way you have gone through and where you are at the moment, it's a sign of what people can achieve when working together", said President Paul Kagame in his address, cheered with rounds of applause.

"This progress is just a result of your works and your courage", President Kagame added.

Southern Province Governor, Alphonse Munyantwali, hinted on the same view.

"Mindset change, change in ideology and changing the way of working are responsible for the strides the district [Nyaruguru] has so far made towards development", said Governor Munyantwali.

Official district figures, as Nyaruguru district's Mayor François Habitegeko read them out, suggest that 24 percent of the district population - now estimated at around 280,000 people - had gone up the poverty line over the last few years. The district, he said, targets to remove 30 percent more of its population from poverty in the few years ahead.

To date, around 7,000 new jobs have been created in the district. And residents interact with Savings and credit co-operatives (Saccos), and now about Rwf 700,000,000 lie in the Sacco coffers in the district for the benefit of the local population in terms of loan grants.

Call for "dignity"

"...Nyaruguru residents don't deserve a substandard life. They rather deserve a decent life because they [Nyaruguru residents] are like other people", said Rwanda's Head of State.

And one of the ways to achieve that, President Kagame pointed out, is through avoiding aid conditionalities.

"[Foreign] aid must come in as a reinforcement to our own capacities. It doesn't have to come in as a way of depriving us of our dignity. It doesn't have to dictate us what to do [with it]", said President Kagame.

Both Mayor Habitegeko and a local resident, Narcisse Karengera - head of a wheat growing co-operative - reminded President Kagame of the 30 kilometer-long paved road he vowed to build for them a couple of years ago. Once in place, they said, the road would ease more trade and transport, among other advantages.

To this, President Kagame vowed to keep his promise.

"About the roads you talked about, we are going to do our best to have them built", said President Kagame, adding that the same would apply to boosting electricity and water supply.

He also asked for the rest of Rwandans to take Nyaruguru's progress as "an example that life can change [for the better], that everything is possible".

This is President Kagame's last phase of his two-leg visit to the country's Southern Province, kicked off on Tuesday, with the visit to neighbouring Nyamagabe district.

And in less than three years, this is the third time in a row that President Kagame has come to Nyaruguru district.

His two previous visits were, respectively, in 2010 - a few weeks to the country's presidential elections, before visiting the district again in 2011 - partly to thank Nyaruguru residents for overwhelmingly voting for him.

Nyaruguru and Nyamagabe districts, which President Kagame toured over the last two days, have some commonalities.

They are known for their hills and valleys dotted with coffee and tea plantations and the growth of Irish potatoes, among others. They are also notorious for the soil - less productive in nature, according to agriculture experts. And, reports say, the bad leadership experienced in the previous regimes, had been adding to that to drag the two areas far behind in terms of development.

But with the good governance the two districts have been enjoying nearly over the last two decades, they have both emerged into what one senior government official recently termed as "no longer associated with famine."

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