Women, men and the uniformed personnel, last Saturday, gathered in Rusororo sector, Gasabo district, for the commissioning of power and water installations at the newly built Rugende settlement for former combatants living with disabilities.
By mid-day, all the houses were lit up with electricity as technicians put final touches to the installation of water pipes.
The well attended function started on a high note with residents, the army’s rank and file, Police, high ranking government officials and local leaders participating in communal work.
Several hectares of bushy area around the settlement were cleared. One would have been forgiven for thinking it was the last Saturday of the month.
Other activities and the tent erected meters away were the only things which showed it was a special day, at least in the eyes of the former service men with various impairments.
The water and power project worth Rw20million was initiated by the National Women Council in conjunction with Zigama Credit and Savings Society (CSS)—a military savings scheme, and the Rwanda Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (RDRC).
Trust women, the list of organisations which supported this very vital cause was endless. If the list was restricted, the mistress of ceremony herself would have been in trouble because names of other supporters kept coming in as she read those she already had.
“Our council sat down and came up with the idea of helping the ex-combatants,” Dr. Diane Gashumba, the president of the National Women Council said.
The women led by Dr. Gashumba, Mayor Assia Kirabo and the Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, Dr. Jeanne D’Arc Mujawamariya took to the podium.
Kirabo’s decision to take the microphone and lead in singing drew the excitement that had eluded the venue. You could mistake her for an artiste. She was clad in a blue T-shirt and dark blue trousers and appeared enthusiastic and very sure of what she was doing.
The Minister of Defence, General James Kabarebe, and a host of other dignitaries joined in singing.
Later during her short speech, the crowd excitedly cheered.
When it came to assistance of the former service men, the MC again had an endless list of commitments.
The women said they wished to be entrusted with the work of mobilising support for the ex-combatants, pledging support to all demobilisation commissioners working in the provinces and Kigali.
Two wheel chairs were handed out to beneficiaries who had worn out chairs. A new container worth Rwf5million was also donated as shelter and shop for one of the veteran soldiers who originally operated from makeshift shelter.
It was announced that the Minister of Infrastructure, Vincent Karega had pledged to buy the initial 20 units of power for each of the ex-soldiers’ houses, a computer was donated for proper record keeping of the transactions of the group’s business.
The chief guest, Minister Kabarebe, raised the women’s self esteem, by saying a woman’s request is more often than not, granted.
He appeared to make their work easier, by saying he had granted them a direct telephone line rather than the going through the usual bureaucratic system, on matters of initiatives for the former fighters.
Kabarebe recalled how women had played a significant role in the liberation struggle and described women as one of the most honest people.
Joseph Sabena, the chairman and also a disabled ex-combatants, welcomed the donation as timely. Sabena, appealed to local residents to support them by buying from their business.
The former fighters have a record book that ensures accountability for all transactions.
Sabena said, “Donating a new container from where our business would operate and the provision of electricity is a great boost.”
Most speakers indicated that disability is not inability. Kabarebe appealed to people to support former fighters who were injured in the liberation struggle.
“They deserve support for their sacrifice,” he said.
In the language of forces, he said, “such people could work as political commissars and instructors, both strong elements in armed forces.”