Be merry this Christmas; there is much to celebrate

It is once again the festive season. Tomorrow we celebrate Christmas. Christians will mark the birth, over two thousand years ago, of Jesus Christ, whom they are taught came into the world to save them from sin and damnation.

A week later, all of us will mark the end of the year and beginning of another. New Year’s Day is an occasion for gratitude for being alive and for achievements in the previous year.

It may not have been all nice and sweet. Many might have been bruised, battered even, but still thankful to have come through.

Even where there hasn’t been much to be proud of, the passage of time offers the chance to leave failure behind and start afresh.

The festive season As we come to the end of the year and during this Christmas, Rwandans have a lot to celebrate as a nation.

We can be all be proud of the double digit economic growth rate registered during the year. That means a number of things.

One, as President Kagame told the nation in his State of the Nation address during Umushyikirano, the country is now able to finance 84% of the national budget. It has been building the capacity to progressively reduce dependence on external support.

Two, we are edging ever closer to the middle income status we aspire to. And so, after achieving much of the goals of Vision 2020, the successor development plan, Vision 2050, is not a distant dream; it is a realisable goal.

That growth also means continued improvement of the general welfare of Rwandans. It has been getting better with each year. Poverty has reduced. People live longer. More are going to school. Awareness of what it requires to have a decent life is steadily growing, as are the means to achieve it.

is therefore a period for reflection, celebration and renewal. It is also a time of goodwill, generosity and peace.

There have been strides in science and technology and innovation. This year Rwanda became the first country in Africa to make smart phones. It is also among a small group of African countries that have sent satellites into space.

The year is ending with an important campaign to make smart phones available to all households. The campaign, codenamed Connect Rwanda, is a challenge to all Rwandans.

President Kagame has been first to answer the challenge. On Saturday he pledged 1500 smart phones. Companies and individuals have since then made similar pledges.

It is only a matter of months before the nearly three million households each own a smart phone.

It is also making cars and motor cycles (assembling if you will) – and not just any vehicles, but those of the future, electric-powered.

These advances and innovations are backed by an education infrastructure of world class universities that have set up here and are already producing scientists and engineers that will drive further innovation.

For years, genocidaires organised in several armed groups and other terrorist organisations, with support from foreign countries, organisations and individuals, have posed varying degrees of security problems to Rwanda. As the year ends, that threat has greatly been diminished.

Hardly a day passes without reports of self-styled generals being killed in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and hundreds of their fighters either being killed or captured.

Compatriots whom they had held hostage all these years are being repatriated. They will probably find a country very different from the one they left a quarter of a century ago and will need help to adapt to the new environment. That they will readily get.

However, much as there is a lot to rejoice about, there are some regrets about some things that are still happening when they shouldn’t.

Take for instance, the removal of people from wetlands where they had settled. Everyone knows that such places are not suitable for human habitation. They are risky, prone to flooding and other disasters.

Yet people settle there, and what is worse, sometimes with authorisation from government officials.

To remove settlers from wetlands is, of course necessary. It is to protect their lives. But to allow settlement to happen in the first place and then to act late is a failure of duty by government officials.

Related to that, which President Kagame has also pointed out on many occasions, is the fact that most of us are not working to our full potential. We are only using a small part of our capacity.

Finally, relations with our neighbours could be better. This, of course, does not depend on us alone. Much of the problems actually come from our neighbours and they have a duty to resolve them. We want to live in a peaceful region and make progress together with them.

Let the spirit of the goodwill of Christmas touch them so that we can live in harmony and brotherhood.

These are obviously the challenges of the New Year. The prayer is that they too will be resolved so that when we take stock at its end, we shall have a lot to celebrate.

In the meantime let us celebrate what we have achieved. Merry Christmas to you all.

The views expressed in this  article are of the author.

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