It’s interesting to stand on the side, fly-on-the-wall-like, and watch an interaction of the clear-headed, confident and articulate-to-a fault young bureaucrats of Rwanda. And, sure, a sprinkling of their elder greying ‘Gaguls’ (as we used to call oldies), as they all together bandy ideas about.
The seriousness with which they set about their work sometimes makes you wonder if these young souls ever remember to ‘live’. Not so much the Gaguls, who’ll have had their fair share of ‘living’, anyway!
Last Saturday, employees in this government department, call it “The Office”, were trading ideas in a day-long retreat. As usual, they boiled up their heads in a contest of ideas that saw their past performance shredded and minutely examined, then sewn back together into a bundle of improvement proposals for this year. These retreats have become the byword for the transformation of this country. All departments seek optimal performance to advance the smooth and value-filled running of the departments for better delivery to the country’s department heads.
The retreats are capped by the ‘mother’ of all retreats that brings together President Paul Kagame, cabinet ministers, civil society leaders, heads of public departments and heads of the private sector federation. Here all ideas from bottom up are crystallised into proposals of improvement on policies to advance the fortunes of the smallest villager, the departure point on the journey of transformation of the economy and Rwandans.
So, the Office set ‘their soul on fire’ to come up with better ways of ensuring: enhanced service. More efficient delivery. Empowering colleagues and earning trust. Better time management. Open auto criticism with fairness. Kindness of character marked by humility, courage and sharing after constant self re-examination. These and more are winners in team building: Team Office; Team Departments; Team Rwanda.
When finally the re-energised Office came up for air, they entered the ‘laughing hyena’ competition. First ‘laugher’: “Ha!”, second: “Haha!”, third: “Hahaha!”, on. After laughing themselves ‘out-of-breath’, they formed what the Congolese know best: ‘des orchestres’, with different names. Maybe if the orchestres’d been one, it’d have been named “Orchestre Alfa-Bet et OTP Jazz” (remember Lwanzo Makiadi/Franco?).......
It’s a long way from the freezing Office of yore! When two self-declared ‘scholars’ almost pushed the Office under, in their effort to each conceal their dark past and turn themselves into overnight millionaires. But for their boss who’d seen through their petty wickedness, they’d have succeeded in emptying the Office of everybody with an inkling of their undignified past and made off with moneybags of Government kitty.
One, a Dr always gnashing his teeth as if in unending stomach pains, still refuses to ply his trade and prefers to freeze in political demonstrations in wintry North. The other, a late-bloomer PHD skinhead who may’ve managed to escape with some of his loot, still manages to scavenge on a money mogul down south. The disillusioned mogul himself seems to have confused ill-gotten gains – evading taxes – with Rwanda’s sophisticated politics and pictured himself at the helm.
But for the constancy of the overall boss, the Office would’ve become an uncanny symbol of the past. It wouldn’t have involved blood, but it’d have been pushed to a point of no return.
And thus, the celebrations of the ‘orchestres’ just after the intensive retreat, a prelude to true celebrations that evening, with laughter and dance, food and drinks, medals and all.
Those medals! Best employee. Best dressed. Most loving of ‘pecks’. Biggest envy display. Even more, being inseparable pairs! Although, maybe, it might be a form of protective shield for the pair of Gaguls, against this implosion of youth. The pair has been here so long they could as well be counted as part of the furniture and so, that fear!.......
All of which showed that these workaholics, ‘twitterholics’, what have-you, have a life after all.
So they made merry. But before cockcrow the following day, they demonstrated that they are grounded in their context. Some fanned out to every village. Others pounded out computer sheets. Some yet again knocked heads together to sound out and share this or that strategy. Others prepared or hosted this or that event. And on.
The whole train of activity crunches ahead to inform what has come to be termed as the spectacular turnaround: this country.
Meanwhile, President Kagame is in the North today, educating the world on the essence of Rwanda, drawing on the departments’ work and on personal observations.
Tomorrow it’s the village, inspiring Rwandans to adopt best practices, working for the future. With youth the following day, stirring them to build their future. And so on and so forth. The train that’s Rwanda pounds its ‘piste’ into the future.
The war on corruption, ignorance, capacity deficit and everything prickly notwithstanding, it’s exciting to be a fly on the wall, as witness to the dynamic action-pack that’s this land.