THIS WEEKEND, the whole of Rwanda will be engrossed in yet another Umuganda, one of those activities that don’t epitomise a typical capitalistic setting Rwanda is today.
Umuganda, loosely translated as community work, a thing so olden or rather similar to a school discipline, is unimaginable but an actual monthly communal initiative that implores people to come together in common purpose to achieve an outcome – usually taking the form of general cleaning for the entire citizenry in Rwanda.
Forgive my indiscretion but how do Rwandans do this?
The world became so busy; too much that people are contracted to clean up after others for a hefty sum. The comradeship exhibited in Umuganda at least validates the fact there are still well intentioned people, perhaps the last of a dying breed.
My very modest opinion is that, it isn’t just communal work but solidarity for a genuine cause. Lest I forget, I don’t know of any other place in our good and new federation that does the same; save for the charity funded and founded initiatives like Rotary and Lions’ clubs and failed attempts like “City Yange” in Kampala that only came off as a pompous activity attended by mainly city socialites and many in similar circles.
Back to the enigmatic question; how do Rwandans do this?
Realistically, it is not practical until there is a sort of legal framework to ensure that the entire populace into such a noble activity; and still, it is the same case for Rwanda.
Once something is considered to be law, then the odds of having a wild goose chase with people isn’t by any chance an option. So it is actually supervised with a penalty worth Rwf5, 000 for those that elude the exercise.
It is quite amazing that Umuganda can be out rightly shunned and the proposer probably declared a public enemy in any other East African member states.
In Rwanda, leaders get involved. During last month’s Umuganda, President Paul Kagame was seen together with residents of Rusheshe village in Kicukiro district equally getting his hands dirty in Umuganda.
Now that is what they call commitment and its one sure way of clearly developing any cause at a national level and above all patriotism.
Unless otherwise, with the planned East African Federation, it is only prudent that some of these policies are embraced by the other partner states in a similar manner. After all, a union is only one where its members share common interests driven by comradeship.
Admittedly, I have on many occasions dared my colleagues that I would never, even when trapped, allow to join crowds cleaning up on the basis that I am a foreigner, but my pleas recently landed on deaf ears; too deaf that my “captors” could hardly comprehend the little broken Kinyarwanda I spoke; so that is how I got the chance to look at Umuganda differently.
That, notwithstanding, it all boils down to how one is nurtured. What we leave behind upon death as humans is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.
If I am to borrow some wisdom from the Bible, in one of its many pages goes a verse thus: Teach thy children good deeds, and they shall remain with them forever.