FEATURE:Monthly communal work ‘Umuganda’ makes Rwanda shine

Making it to the top creates an outstanding perspective from all around but maintaining the position is another task. In that view, when one moved around the streets of Kigali, among all the good and bad things one will notice and appreciate the city’s good and clean roads.
Matyazo Residents busy in Umuganda (Photo G.Mugoya)
Matyazo Residents busy in Umuganda (Photo G.Mugoya)

Making it to the top creates an outstanding perspective from all around but maintaining the position is another task. In that view, when one moved around the streets of Kigali, among all the good and bad things one will notice and appreciate the city’s good and clean roads.

However, although a visitor may praise Kigali City Council, the visitor will imagine how hard it is to maintain the standards and pass it even beyond the city given the costs that can be incurred.

However, the time at which guests come into the country might help them to realize how possible it is and the many strategies the Rwandan community has managed to enforce tidiness and other developmental projects all around the country.

Amongst the many strategies to ensure that the community is directly involved in developing their country and keeping it the way it appears which surely is outstanding today is the monthly communal work commonly referred to as ‘Umuganda.’

The monthly communal work for anyone who has just jetted in today or yesterday comes towards the end of every month particularly the last Saturday.

Local authorities countrywide lead the community to perform various activities in areas of residence that include clearing bushy areas, sweeping  and taking-up construction of public buildings, and working on projects such as building shelter for the vulnerable people, among others.

There is high respect of the communal work in that everyone in the country must contribute a part from those who may not be able due to health problems. To ensure effectiveness of the community in taking part, rules and regulations have been streamlined. 

 ‘Umuganda’ is not only limited to Rwandans in the country, but as soon as the day gets you in the country, you are entitled to contribute towards the country’s beauty.

Village or Local authorities are very strict on making the community effect the programme in that they make sure they are able to know who has performed and who dodged. In that case therefore, every village member posses a card known as ‘Umuganda card.’

These cards prove that surely you participate in the communal work thus it is equally respected. In most cases the identification card comes together with ‘umuganda’ card if one is to seek for some government services.

Meanwhile, last Saturday, President Paul Kagame joined residents of Ntebe sector in Rwamagana district to participate in the ‘Umuganda.’  In his speech, he encouraged residents to work hard and carry forward the Umuganda tradition saying that it has value beyond the one day activity since it promoted the principle of productive work.

He also said that no one should be left behind in development.  However, what should be noted about the programme is how effective our leaders have implemented it practically by joining the community.

Justice Minister and Attorney General,  Tharcisse Karugarama and his team were in Huye District, Southern Province for the Umuganda.

“Dodging to contribute in the communal work is denial of self development. This is one way through which we can help ourselves in a group. No one is to come to work on this road for you ,” Karugarama said in his address to residents of Matyazo cell, Ngoma sector,Huye district in the southern province.

However, despite the fact that some people are committed to contributing to the interests of the community and maintaining the strategy in place, others do not comply.
This is done in many ways but all aims at dodging hence less contribution by some members of the community to improving, maintaining and developing their areas.

On this note, the minister told the residents that they should not wait to be called upon to contribute in the communal work. “It should be part of your programme every last Saturday of the month,” he advised.

He also said that Rwandans should always be prepared for it since it has a specific day, the last Saturday of the month.  He pointed out that some residents deliberately form delaying tactics when they should be actively taking part in an activity that is to their general good.

“Your tools should be ready to avoid wasting the time you are meant to be working looking for hoes, slashers and so on,” Karugarama said.

However, the communal work comes once in a month which might not be enough to maintain the level of cleanliness attained.

Some people become fixated with ‘Umuganda’.  
According to Pascal Habimana, the in charge of community works in Matayzo cell, people should not only wait for the one day national community work to clean their compounds, work places and other relevant areas.

“It`s not proper to wait until it comes to having communal work that comes once a month so that people can take on other responsibilities in their homes. Perform those duties whenever need be,” he said.

He also said that residents should be organized in a sense of taking care of personal responsibilities to report on time to ensure that the work makes a significant impact in the community.
“Time keeping is not only important in offices, but in every kind of responsibility. Therefore, reporting on time will help us have reasonable work done in a specific period of time,” he noted.
The official pointed out that some residents come late and prefer going back early. He wondered if such residents can really achieve the activity’s goals.

However, although the official pointed out late coming and deliberate dodging, the turn-up that day ranged in hundreds of mostly hard working women.

In towns, mainly in Kigali, Umuganda is highly valued and amongst public institutions that effect it is the traffic police alongside the village chiefs. Traffic police ensures that movements on the roads are inspected and the time at which people move should be after Umuganda.

Jean Paul, a taxi motor-cyclist operating around Kigali Business Centre, says that he can never dodge Umuganda to go for work.

“The traffic police can not allow us to work before the community work is over. So I better serve my village,” he said.
He also explained that paying a fine to the village council is expensive most especially when there are no passengers on the road like during the Umuganda day.

Therefore to him, it’s first of all a loss to ride to town then be penalized by village authorities yet he will not be able to get customers during Umuganda time.

“Business is all about making profits. So making calculations before you go into any venture is very important. Sincerely it’s not possible that morning because passengers are carrying out Umuganda,” he stressed.

However, the business man pointed out that he has also seen the president physically contributing in Umuganda. He also says his village leaders also actively take part in the activity.
Given the rate of growth at which Rwanda is and expectations of development based on the regional trade that is under-way, many different economic activities among other developments are more likely to arise that can easily contribute to more waste products.

In that case, Umuganda culture and keeping our places clean is relevant to carry-on to ensure that investors and businessmen can adopt the culture to maintain the beauty of their country.

Email: mugoyag@yahoo.com