The 2011 annual National Dialogue (Umushyikirano) is set for this Thursday at the Parliamentary Buildings, Kimihurura.
As always, it will bring together central and local government officials, the civil society, members of the diplomatic corps, the private sector, as well ordinary citizens, including Rwandans from the Diaspora.
The two-day meeting, where leaders and citizens collectively take stock of the government’s performance since the last National Dialogue, and set new goals, will be presided over by the Head of State, as required by the Constitution.
Again, citizens are expected to participate in the Ninth Dialogue via live call-ins and also follow the proceedings live on television and on the web.
They will also contribute ideas and pose questions through text messages as well as social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, according to the organisers.
Prominent among the issues that dominated last year’s proceedings were the problems associated with the implementation of the national programme to eliminate thatched houses, commonly known as Nyakatsi.
While the anti-Nyakatsi drive was generally praised, delegates questioned what some described as harshness and overzealousness with which some local leaders executed the programme.
Some leaders, particularly in the Eastern Province, were accused of destroying thatched houses for the poor before providing them with alternative shelter, rendering many homeless and exposing them to various risks.
It was also alleged that some local leaders stole materials meant for the programme, some of the cases having been documented in a report by the Auditor General’s Office.
Speaking to The New Times, yesterday, the head of the Rural Settlement Taskforce at the Ministry of Local Government, Augustine Kampayana, said the implementation of the anti-Nyakatsi programme currently stands at 98 percent.
“There has been tremendous progress over the last one year; current figures indicate that 98 percent of the target has been achieved, and our team is in the field assessing the progress of the remaining two percent,” Kampayana said.
The official, who was speaking from Nyanza following up on the remaining cases in the district, said that all the remaining cases will be dealt with by the end of the year.
He insisted the programme, has since achieved its goals and lived to its billing.
“A lot was said about the anti-Nyakatsi programme, but some of the earlier concerns have since been addressed and the results are there for all to see,” Kampayana said.
Historically marginalised groups are some of the people who had criticised the programme’s implementation process, with advocates saying the communities had not been offered enough time to transition from their traditional shelter lifestyle.
“Those were just fears for the unknown, but now everyone has seen the results,” insisted Kampayana.
“The anti-Nyakatsi drive attracted a lot of support, from the civil society to religious groups and individuals. The Military and Police, particularly, did a great job”.
He added that, so far, about 77,000 houses for the vulnerable, worth more than Rwf 6 billion, have been constructed countrywide.
But not everyone is entirely happy. In an interview with The New Times, Zephyrin Kalimba, the head of the Porters Community of Rwanda (COPORWA), said that although progress was evident, a lot more needed to be done.
“What has been achieved so far is good and promising but the progress varies from district to district depending on the commitment of leaders. In Nyamasheke, for example, you find a lot of progress and, in Kayonza, you find they still lag behind,”
“About 65 percent of our members have been given decent housing but we still have about 330 families still sharing houses. The remaining 35 percent are yet to receive houses, with the majority of them still renting,” Kalimba said.
He also cited unemployment and illiteracy as other major concerns.
“These are the issues we intend to raise in the National Dialogue.” Kalimba said.
The Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Protais Musoni, said that preparations for the annual meeting were in high gear, with a number of pertinent issues expected to be raised during the two-day meeting.
“The whole country will come together to discuss pertinent issues regarding the wellbeing of Rwandans,” said the minister.
“We expect it to be highly interactive; to bring in Rwandans from all walks of life, who will be participating through calling in, or through the internet,” Musoni said.