KIGALI, 12 December 2012 – The 10th National Dialogue (Umushyikirano) has been officially opened by President Paul Kagame under the theme “Agaciro: Aiming for self reliance.” .
The 2 day event will bring together close to 1000 participants including representatives of local government and grass roots organisations, Cabinet members, members of both chambers of Parliament, the judiciary, army, police, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives from the private sector.
Bellow we bring you the history of Umushyikirano
2003: Beginning of idea
In accordance with Article 168 of the new constitution which had just been adopted in May 2003, government organised the first ever ‘National Council of Dialogue’ or Inama y’Umushyikirano. The event held June 30-31, brought together Rwandans representing different sections of society.
The dialogue was held in the Parliamentary chambers – where the annual event continues to take place till today. The 2003 event was to discuss national issues ahead of multi-party president elections two months later.
President Kagame told delegates leaders that dependency on foreign assistance should be uprooted. “How do you call yourself a leader yet you depend on begging?” Kagame asked.
2nd Dialogue tackled good governance, security, patriotism
Over 800 participants attended the Conference held December 21-22, 2004 in Kigali. The recommendation focused on entrenching good governance to for poverty reduction and economic prosperity.
In both the opening and closing remarks, President Kagame criticizes nation’s officials for allowing misbehaviour and lack of accountability.
The dialogue also came just days after the resignation of Sam Nkusi, State Minister Energy and Infrastructure on the back of accusations of corruption. Earlier in the same year, the country witnesses the disgraceful departures Supreme Court Vice President Gerald Gahima, who had previously been Prosecutor General, and Gahima’s brother, Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa, who abruptly announced taking a leave of absence from his position as the President’s chief of staff.
The dialogue also called for action on the continued danger of genocide ideology, the subject of a major parliamentary report adopted in early 2004 that led to introduction of new restrictions on NGOs and to the suspension of some teachers around October the same year.
In closing the session, Kagame called for a “beginning of new methods of action that must characterize Rwanda in the near future”. “I would recommend that participants in the next Forum come with measurable steps to implement the recommendations of the current Dialogue Forum,” he said.
He also condemned the supposed cases of corruption. “Corruption is sometimes justified on the pretext of poverty. Obviously, there is scarcity of resources, but it cannot be a pretext for misusing resources. Let’s work step by step,” he said.
2005 Dialogue: How to operationalise government
The 3rd national dialogue held December 14-15, 2005 with attendance of over 800 people reviewed progress on what had been recommended at the previous two sessions. At the session, speakers raised concerns over the implementation of dialogue’s decisions.
Prime Minister Bernard Makuza presented a report on government policies and what had been done as per the previous dialogues. As one of the measures to strengthen good governance, the PM said rules and procedures of awarding tenders had been streamlined to eliminate corruption during the tendering processes.
The Prime Minister raised the issue of child abuse and domestic violence which has since remained on government agenda up to today.
In opening the session, President Kagame again called for more efforts to deal with genocide-related problems such as support to the survivors and increasing cases abuse directed them.
“Problems especially genocide ideology and administration of justice to the genocidaires still pose a big challenge to the government,” Kagame said.
The 2005 dialogue came following local elections from village level up to the district.
2006: Diplomatic corp not invited for first time
The Fourth Dialogue held December 18-20, 2006, was perhaps the most dramatic. It took place following months of international scrutiny of government. On day one the three-day session, President Kagame spoke at length on political space and freedom of press. The following hours saw speaker after another lambasting foreign donors and campaign groups which preach good governance to Rwanda.
Coincidentally, envoys accredited to Kigali had not been invited. The 2006 Dialogue was combined with the National Summit on unity and reconciliation, as well as a ceremony for signing performance contracts between the President and 30 district Mayors – it has remained part of the event ever since.
In the same dialogue, one of the most sweeping policy decisions was introduced. After spending hours discussing the reported killings and harassment of genocide survivors, delegates demanded government do all its power to stop the situation from getting worse. The measures were stringent, and with results. By the following dialogue of 2007, a ministry of justice report recorded a significant drop in abuses of survivors.
2007: Diaspora invited for first time
Unlike the previous year, this time ambassadors were invited to the Fifth National Dialogue December 27-28, 2007. As a new innovation, Rwandans living abroad were invited – which has remained the norm ever since.
Chaired by President Kagame, as usual, 5th Dialogue discussed the state of the economy, education system, genocide ideology, the gacaca courts, and the role of the diaspora in Rwanda’s development efforts. Among the 19 recommendations, the diaspora was to take centre-stage in hunt for exiled genocide suspects.
The President formally announced the formation of an inter-ministerial team charged with addressing food self-sufficiency, value-added export products, affordable banking services, and responsible management of the environment. The issues have remained on government agenda.
The Ministry of education came under fierce criticism from delegate after delegate for doing too little amid the worsening problem of genocide ideology in schools. The Education Minister at the time, Dr. Jean d’Arc Mujyawamariya missed the event – reportedly sick. But rumours circulated in the conference hall that she expected fire so she stayed away. Her deputy Joseph Murekeraho was booed several times as he presented his Ministry’s plans for the future.
MINEDUC was accused of failing to settle the status of UNILAK. The conference recommended it be submitted to cabinet – another thumbs down for MINEDUC. UNILAK status has since been rectified.
2008: Sovereign Development Fund raised (Agaciro Development Fund is born)
The Sixth Dialogue held December 18-19, 2008 saw the usual issues being raised – instead delegates calling for intensification of efforts. Among the 24 recommendations was the establishment of a Sovereign Development Fund as part of the strategy to wean Rwanda off donor aid.
The chorus was to turn Rwanda into an “African Tiger”. In the same year, the government’s hybrid development strategy EDPRS has been launched in November.
Genocide memorial sites would be built in all sectors of the country. Census of genocide survivors would be carried out.
The high side of the conference was when the President lambasted the UN for a report that had been published a few weeks earlier alleging Rwanda was supporting dissident DR Congo rebel Laurent Nkunda. Just a month after, Nkunda was taken into custody – where he remains up today.
Former Ombudsman Tito Rutaremara also unusually castigated local officials over corruption. At the end of his grapic presentation, he said: “there are people in this room abusing their office. I won’t name you, but I will be watching you.”
It is in the Sixth Dialogue that the planned transition to English as the language of instruction in Rwanda’s schools was announced. All schools now teach in English. But the conference also recommended the Kinyarwanda be preserved as a national language. A French-Kinyarwanda dictionary has since been born.
The new innovation was the whereby at end of each presentation, there was a question-and-answer segment, in which officials from across the country would to put questions directly to President Kagame and his ministers.
2009: “One Cow per leader” instead of “one cow per poor family”
For the Seventh Dialogue held December 10-11, concerns were raised by speaker after another over issues that keep coming back – suggesting there were weaknesses in the implementation. This time round, each of the 23 recommendations also named the departments responsible.
The event was broadcast live on the internet as well as on national television and radio. Rwandans at home and abroad participated through unscreened call-in questions and SMS texts which were projected on a large screen and read out loud.
The high end to the event came when President Kagame public grilled different officials over the Gira Inka program (‘One cow per poor family’) where it emerged the cows had instead been taken by officials. The issue was discussed for several hours. At some point, President Kagame directed that he wanted a report in not more than a month on how the problem had been solved. And indeed, hundreds of supposedly well-off people lost the cows they may have acquired illegally.
Engagement with the diaspora introduced two years earlier was paying off. Figures presented showed that Rwanda earned more from remittances – an estimated $175m in 2009, than it did from coffee and tea exports.
In a response to months of international scrutiny over political space, President Kagame fired back asserting that the entire two-day event was an example of “political space” and democracy in action. “Can you have more political space than this?” he wondered, adding that if anything, its him that needed political space from critics who were even shy to abuse him.
For the first time, the issue of homosexuality briefly came up for debate. A small-scale health survey on homosexuals has been released in prior months. The penal code was also being reviewed.
A few weeks before the Dialogue, the World Bank voted Rwanda the world’s star “reformer” for 2009 for introducing business-friendly reforms.
The MINAGRI and district leaders came under fire over worsening soil erosion.
As a response to months of negative propaganda being spread outside Rwanda deemed genocide denial, MINAFFET and MINIJUST were instructed start a campaign encouraging countries to come up with laws to counter the problem. Genocide suspects would also be targeted.
2010: More than 100,000 follow event online
The Eighth Dialogue taking place December 20-21, 2010 came with its own innovations. Various other events were organised on the sideline of the main conference.
Streamed live (httpss://www.umushyikirano.gov.rw/ and httpss://www.orinfor.gov.rw), 70,000 people followed proceedings via the Internet for day one. On the second day the number rose to 100000.
Irrigation programs would be strengthened in a public-private partnership with plans to cover at least 100,000 hectares in the next 7 years. The rising cost living also came up for debate. Among the 23 recommendations, line departments were instructed to look into the issue. It emerged that food was becoming expensive in Kigali yet just across in Bugesera, produce was rotting.
Kinyarwanda language would be given more hours in schools. Encouraging all Rwandans still in exile to return home and “see” with their own eyes the “new Rwanda” and thereafter consider returning home.
President Paul Kagame chaired the event during which the Prime Minister Bernard Makuza presented a report on the implementation of the 2009 resolutions. President Kagame said Rwandans should not to be distracted by those who trade in rumors and falsehoods for a living because they don’t deserve anyone’s time.
“I keep mentioning them once in a while because when you have white linen you need to keep cleaning it lest it gets dirty. A large majority of Rwandans want clean linen and therefore we will have to clean it once in a while to keep it clean,” Kagame said on day one.
Follow on Twitter
Fred Mwasa (@mwasa)
Arinaitwe Rugyendo (@RugyendoQuotes)