Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) has launched a citizen outreach programme to support socio-economic development in the country.
Launched at the national level in Rwamagana District in Eastern Province, the drive started with community programme (Umuganda) that featured residents, RDF commanders, local leaders and the Minister for Local Government, Prof. Anastase Shyaka.
With agriculture being a priority area alongside health, housing and infrastructure, among other areas, the launch was held at Nyirabidibiri Valley Dam, which benefits four sectors; Mwulire, Gahengeri, Nzige and Rubona.
RDF Citizens Outreach Programme started in 2009, under the name "Army Week". It changed the name last year, after expanding its focus and timeline.
"We were educated by the President of the Republic, our Commander-in-Chief, to serve the citizens," Lt Gen. Jacques Musemakweli, Reserve Force Chief of Staff, said.
"The first security is when people are able to work and prosper, that way, they will not have negative thoughts," he explained.
Musemakweli announced that their specialist officers will be in three hospitals in Eastern Province; Rwinkwavu and Gahini hospitals in Kayonza District and Bugesera Hospital in Bugesera District, to provide free services of dentistry, ophthalmology, as well as minor surgeries.
According to the Minister for Local Government, Prof. Anastase Shyaka, the military's cardinal responsibilities include defending the nation and supporting other countries with security challenges.
"The third responsibility is to contribute to the development of the country, which is what we are here for today," he noted.
"Security and development are siblings," he added.
Shyaka challenged residents to take care of their own homes if they want a developed country.
"If you love your country, seek peace and development in your home," he said.
For local leaders, the minister said, the programme should be an opportunity for them to learn from RDF's worth ethos, and determination.
"We hope that as we keep working with the RDF, it will make local government leaders do better," he stated.
Jean de la Paix Gasirimu, 33, a resident of Agasharu Village, Bicumbi Cell in Mwulire, has been working in the valley for two years.
He said: "The role of army is so visible to all."
Soldiers in the past governments never participated in other sectors, he pointed out.
Lt Gen. Musemakweli said the RDF will support the farmers in the valley throughout the season with technical expertise, materials, among others. The next season in the valley is for growing vegetables.
The dam, which cost Rwf 2.096 billion during construction between 2014-2017, is 14-metre deep and contains 1 million cubic metres of water.
Nyirabidibiri valley covers 215 hectares.
Season A starts in September, Season B starts in February, while C starts in June.
At least 1,142 households from the four sectors directly benefit from the valley dam.
The agricultural activities of the programme include 11,139 hectares that will be cultivated around the country, and 453 kilometres of erosion control and environmental protection. Some 1,114 hectares will also be developed.
Meanwhile, the RDF plans to provide free medical services that will benefit at least 137,900 patients. They will also construct 1,141 houses for vulnerable families.