Today, the last Saturday of the month, Rwandans are once again engrossed and working as hard as ever in their respective communities.
The community work locally known as Umuganda, is something that most Rwandans are proud to be a part of. For the last four years a policy that was introduced by the government called for all people in their respective villages called ‘Mudugudu’ to come together in unity as they partake in the general cleaning of their neighbourhood.
For many this has been extremely helpful in the process of reconciliation and healing as they deal with issues that directly affect them.
Especially after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, many homes were not ready to open up to those who were not family, given the fact that thousands of neighbours betrayed one another.
The result was a ‘blackout’ on neighbours and strangers. Engulfed by the over-high fences erected to keep out intruders, many Rwandans never felt safe at all- even after the genocide was over.
A situation where no one knew their neighbour was very common. Trust was an alien vocabulary in any Rwandan’s dictionary. It was a ‘One man for himself’ and a ‘Thou shalt not trust thy neighbour’ commandment, that ruled.
Well, like we all know, reconciliation, trust building and forgiveness are impossible things to achieve without confronting the ghosts of the past. These had to be taken head on and dealt with openly.
Neighbours had to come out and speak out on ways in which the community can develop and move after the genocide. Today, the utter necessity of ‘Umuganda’ as a tool towards reconciliation and networking at the community level cannot be ignored.
Today, people are no longer afraid to know who their next door neighbour is just because Rwandans are coming together to clean up their neighbourhoods, brainstorm on ways to overcome challenges in their villages and also solve one another’s problems.