I will always remember you. A small but beautiful and amazing country nestled in the bosom of Mother Africa like a well-loved child.
I will always remember the five years I spent with you, enjoying your cool climate, lush green lands, serene lakes, and majestic mountains.
I will remember your leaders for the vision, principles, values, and integrity that characterized the management of this land. While I lived here, I saw leaders more focused on the needs of their people than on their own.
I will always remember the outstanding Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Director-Generals and government staff that I worked with, and the way they embraced me as a partner in their nation’s development. I will always remember the great work we did together, the strength of the partnership we forged, and their warmth and friendship.
I will always remember your murakoze cyane and muraho neza, and the Rwandan smile that always accompanied these words, making me feel like a brother among family, rather than a stranger in a foreign land.
I will always remember the way your leaders and your people shook my hand and then held on to it – at first, this was strange to me, an outsider, but then I understood that it was a sign of friendship and brotherhood.
I will always remember my team – fine, outstanding Rwandans who believed in their country and its leaders, and the expatriate staff who came and made Rwanda not just a home but a mission. It was an honour to serve alongside these wonderful women and men.
I will always remember the development partners I collaborated with – some exceptional Ambassadors, Heads of Cooperation and their staff, the wonderful UN Resident Coordinator and Heads of UN Agency with whom I had the honour to serve and many of whom I have the privilege to call friends.
I will remember all the partners, both those who believed in Rwanda and those who didn’t, because, like you, I always knew that what was truly important was that you believed in yourselves.
I will always remember the days I spent by the shores of your lakes, basking in the glory of God’s creation.
I will remember seeing the mountain gorillas, our close relatives, living under the protection of not just God, but a government that believes in their preservation. And what a sight it was to behold these rare and regal creatures!
I will remember the delightful grilled tilapia and the heavenly mizuzu which reminded me of home. I will remember the sambaza, deeply fried with a touch of lemon and Akabanga chili. I will remember going night fishing on Lake Kivu, with the fishermen who caught these tiny specks of delight and sang songs that their ancestors sang to the star-filled nights.
I will remember everything that we did together, with the aim of building this great country. In some areas we may not have achieved all that we hoped for, but in so many other areas we made huge progress, our sleeves rolled up, working side by side, giving encouragement and feedback to each other, always with the past at our back and the sun shining towards the future.
Among other things, I will remember how we strengthened the media and civil society, championed the cause of the disabled, promoted gender equality, protected the environment, fostered unity and reconciliation, facilitated young entrepreneurs and innovators, tackled Covid19, and worked to build one country for everyone. I will remember the Drones and the Robots, and so many other innovations
In Jamaican patios we'd say Rwanda’s ambition “cyan dun”, meaning your ambition is endless. But you not only dream big, you act and you implement your vision.
I will remember you Rwanda, because I was blessed to have been here, to join you in your remarkable journey of transformation.
Who could have known that the country the world ignored, would one day become a lighthouse showing the way for others to follow. The stone that the builder rejected, has indeed become a cornerstone for the development of this continent.
I will always remember you Rwanda.
And I hope that you will always remember me, as a friend. I hope that you will always know that wherever in the world I may be, if there is anything at all I can do to help, I will. I will always be a friendly ear that still listens, and a warm heart that still cares.
I will remember you Rwanda, for all the days of my life. I will always remember you, with love
The author is the outgoing UNDP Resident Representative to Rwanda.