Twenty years ago, Rwanda’s capital Kigali was wells flowing with blood as hatred and tribal bigotry exploded leading to the death of close to a million people.
At the time, many wrote it off saying it was ‘dead and gone’ and would take ages to recover from that human catastrophe.
Today, one wouldn’t believe that the famous land of a thousand hills two decades ago smelt of death, horror and hopelessness.
I got the chance of visiting the city during the just concluded 49th African Development Bank (AfDB) Annual Meetings.
It was only befitting that Donald Kaberuka, president of the continental financial institution brought this year’s meetings home considering the fact he will be giving up the seat when his second term comes to an end next year.
This year has been momentous for the East African nation. In April, nationals commemorated the 20 years since the genocide.
My journey to Kigali started on May 18th 2014 at 21:00hrs at Entebbe International Airport, my mind beaming with curiosity having heard a lot about the city at the heart of Africa.
After less than an hour, I knew that I were in Kigali and couldn’t wait for the sun to break the dominance of the night and allow me experience firsthand the beauty that God had bequeathed Kigali.
The cuteness and gorgeousness of the ladies who received us at the airport further confirmed to me that I was in Kagame land. And my one week stay in that part of the world forced me to draw comparisons with Kampala.
I tried to ‘squeeze’ time in the tight AfDB schedule to go through the city and witness first hand the glorious things that have been said about Kigali.
THE ROADS/Kigali at a glance:
One feature that is noticeable in Kigali is the well manicured, clean roads that are not only a preserve of the capital but dot the countryside as well.
The spotlessness of the roads make residents of Kampala envious considering the litter, dust, mud, sewage that have come to be associated with parts of Uganda’s capital.
This cleanliness did not just come by mere wishes and day dreaming.
It took strict Kagame leadership that was embraced by the citizenry in the monthly Umuganda exercise also known as community work.
Rwanda’s information portal defines Umuganda as ‘coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome’. In traditional Rwandan culture, members of the community would call upon their family, friends and neighbours to help them complete a difficult task.
The last Saturday of the every month, Rwandans engage in the cleaning exercise to make their country admirable as it has come to be.
Umuganda is treated with utmost respect that failure to participate in the exercise would deny one a certificate that could be of help when seeking registration. I t adds to your profile a sense of responsibility.
Locals between the ages of 18 and 65 are required to take part in the exercise.
Also, campaigns like “Security and Hygiene” are in place to ensure consolidation of the cleanliness drive.
Under this campaign, best performers among sectors, waste collection companies, transporters, artists and journalists recognized and awarded for their role in supporting and promoting hygiene and security in the city.
As president Paul Kagame pointed out during the meetings while discussing leadership in Africa, the time for talking and discovering our failures belongs to the ages and its high time we acted, a lesson Uganda and Africa can learn from Kigali.
As one traverses the city, the emergence of a new skyline is noticeable with the new buildings under construction going up.
Kigali is not a city like Kampala where you make an appointment but fail to meet due to the infuriating traffic jam.
The smooth traffic flow ensures everything goes according to plan and this probably explains why the country has registered commendable economic growth rates in the recent years. It is free of impediments.
For those Ugandans, both motorists and passengers who have gotten used to riding motorcycles without helmets, Kigali is not the place for you.
In order to ensure the safety of passenger and rider, a strict policy exists that requires commercial motorcyclists commonly known as “Motos” to carry two helmets.
Uganda that’s still grappling with the menace of Boda Boda accidents can borrow a leaf from what out counterparts in Kigali have done to reduce the carnage on our roads.
Unlike in Kampala, where most motorcyclists (boda bodas) stubbornly ignore the direction of traffic lights, Kigali’s Motos obediently and patiently allow the direction of the lights
The city administration has issued ‘profession’ cards that be used to track the professional conduct of the operators and those that lose marks have their licenses withdrawn.
Any script about Rwanda is incomplete without mention of the beautiful ladies that the country has become famous for especially in neighboring nations.
And speaking about women, the country tops the global league tables for the percentage of female parliamentarians. Fewer than 22% of MPs worldwide are women; in Rwanda, almost 64% are.
Women have also outnumbered men as primary school teachers.
RWANDA’S DEVELOPMENT PLAN
According to the World Bank, the country is now consolidating gains in social development and accelerating growth while ensuring that they are broadly shared to mitigate risks to eroding the country’s hard-won political and social stability.
Rwanda’s long-term development goals are embedded in its Vision 2020 which seeks to transform Rwanda from a low-income agriculture-based economy to a knowledge-based, service-oriented economy by 2020.
Rwanda was recently named top performer in the Rwanda Doing Business 2014 report, among the ten most improved economies in 2013 and Rwanda is now ranked as the second easiest place to do business in Sub-Saharan Africa.
From the accolades and praise the country is receiving over its commendable growth and development, only the sky is the limit for Rwanda.
I must express my gratitude to my creator for the journey mercies to and from Kigali, and Arinaitwe Rugyendo who made this life-changing journey possible. It is my prayer that this was the first of my many trips to the land of a thousand hills.
Facebook: Alex Joel Masereka