Umuganura: Rwandan youth urged to be wary of foreign cultural influence

The Minister for Youth and Culture, Rosemary Mbabazi has called on the young generation to be selective of what they learn from foreign cultures, stressing the need to preserve the country’s heritage.

The minister made the remarks on Friday as Rwandans celebrated Umuganura, the national thanksgiving festival to celebrate national harvest.


The festival, originating from a 9th-century tradition, is celebrated on the first Friday of August every year.


Appearing on the state broadcaster, Mbabazi noted that foreign influence is inevitable, but can be controlled.


“We are not an isolated island. The way we influence other countries is the same way they can have an influence on us, some good or bad. But we have to filter out bad manners from what we bring in our culture. Let’s only fetch what helps our country develop,” the Minister said.

In the past, on Umuganura day, people gathered to share their farming harvest and plan for the next sowing.

The tradition was on the blink of extinction in the 1920s when colonialists banned it as part of their ‘divide and rule’ agenda to break the unity of Rwandans.

After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the new government resurrected the practice, alongside other nearly forgotten progressive traditions in order to reconstruct the country.

“Reintroducing Umuganura is meant to strengthen unity among Rwandans, inspire them to love working and strive for excellence,” said Mbabazi.

Mbabazi stated that heritage, art, and imported trends make up culture. The youth, she said, play a big role in the impact artistic developments and foreign cultural trends have on Rwandan culture.

Giving examples such as Gacaca courts and Girinka programme, the minister said a lot of mechanisms reintroduced from traditional practices have greatly contributed to the current development.

“And that development is likely to be more sustainable than what is based on what we import from foreign lands,” the minister observed.

For instance, Gacaca, an improvised community-led court system inspired by Rwandan tradition, tried nearly two million Genocide suspects in ten years after it was found that it would take hundreds of years if they were to be tried in conventional courts.

Others she mentioned included Rwandan tradition-based strategies also include Abunzi (community mediators) and Umuganda (monthly communal work) among others.

Celebrated at family level

Due to the Covid-19 health crisis, Umuganura celebrations are being held at the family level, as opposed to the ordinary national festival.

However, the national cultural dance troupe Urucyerereza will entertain people virtually on Friday evening. 

On Saturday, the community of Rwandans living in Europe is also scheduled to hold the feast in Poland.

The public has been encouraged to share their ‘harvest’ via digital technology.

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