It was conducted in the most open and transparent of ways.
While presentations by the Prime Minister and the other ministers were the major points of discussion, it was clear that the bigger part of the opening day of the 9th National Dialogue went to the people.
The citizens took the front seat, dominating the proceedings while their leaders resorted to responding to their concerns, in the discussions chaired by the President.
Rwandans from all walks of life were able to call in on a toll free line to give their suggestions and ask questions regarding what they believe should be done to improve their socio-economic well-being and for the country to progress.
More often, President Paul Kagame himself responded to the concerns raised, while in other cases, he would ask the responsible minister, mayor or parastatal head to respond, during the annual event which promotes public accountability.
As expected, technology played a major role, with the majority of the people who participated able to follow the proceedings live on TV and several radio stations, and then participate using the toll free lines, SMS, Twitter and Facebook.
The first day was also characterised by the participation of the over 250 members of the Rwandan Diaspora in attendance, including some who have been living in exile for more than a decade.
In one of the cases, Elena Nyiraneza, a Rwandan who has been living in exile in Senegal since 1992, finally had an emotional homecoming. And when she took the floor, she requested the President to intervene in a case involving her father, who she claimed has been in detention in a prison in Muhanga since 2005, without charge. The Head of State tasked the responsible authorities to look into the issue and address it accordingly.
Another participant, Seraphina Mukantabana, who had been living in exile in Congo Brazzaville for more than 17 years, said she was overwhelmed by the way she was welcomed home and the progress the country has made.
“I was not very optimistic when I decided to return. I had many doubts, but when I got here, I was humbled by the way I was welcomed home. I could not believe the progress the country has made.
We were being fed on lies where we were and I would like to call on Rwandans who are in a similar situation to put their fears aside, ignore the lies out there and return to their motherland,” Mukatabana said.
Perhaps the most outstanding of participants was the well-known businessman, Silas Majyambere, who after spending more than two decades outside the country, chose to return home to participate in the Ninth Umushyikirano. He spoke of how the current government has been able to build a country fit for all Rwandans.
Majyambere, who called on Rwandans living abroad to return home and contribute to their country’s economic transformation, pledged to invest US$10 million in the country.
He talked of how he was forced to flee the country in the early 1990s by the repressive actions of the former genocidal regime, saluting the current government for having created an environment where all Rwandans feel comfortable to return home, anytime, without any discrimination or threats.
He particularly commended President Kagame for leading from the front to liberate the country, saying Rwandans, today, feel proud and recognised worldwide.
Bella Nyirantezimana, a participant from Nkombo Island in Rusizi, commended the government for connecting the once-isolated island on Lake Kivu to the national electricity grid.
Hundreds of other Rwandans participated through Twitter @umushykirano and the hash tag #9thnationaldialogue, while others used the Umushyikirano Facebook page, to voice their concerns and make suggestions.
A big part of the discussions, yesterday, rotated around infrastructure, economy, governance, and land related issues. The discussions resume today.