Kigali, 26 November 2011
President Kagame today participated in Umuganda joining residents of Nduba Sector in Gasabo District in planting trees in the Nyaconga area. President Kagame was accompanied by senior government officials as well as the staff of the Office of the President in the monthly community work.
Arriving at the Umuganda meeting site in a bus with other participants, President Kagame addressed Nduba residents, thanking them for taking part in the tree planting exercise.
“This Umuganda that we are participating in, and want all to be a part of, has a purpose – to awaken Rwandans to know that there is a lot we can achieve with the abilities we possess.”
President Kagame pointed out that although in the past Rwandans had been led to believe outsiders would feed them, build them schools and fulfill all their needs, while they sat back, the reality was different and that dependency came with strings attached that diminished one’s dignity.
“When you are someone else’s burden, at one point he will tire of you, drop you hard and you’ll fall apart. As Rwandans, if we are not careful and accept to be the burden of others, we will find ourselves in a bad place.”
President Kagame noted that the way to avoid dependency and indignity is for Rwandans to value work, to work together, as is the practice with Umuganda, and to do the right thing including planting trees, productive agriculture, building schools for Rwandan children, subscribing to mutuelles de santé and to promote commerce and business in order to generate wealth.
President Kagame emphasized that Umuganda is in line with the philosophy of building a new Rwanda;
“We have been talking of schools and new roads – that is what Rwandans deserve. These shouldn’t be something out of the ordinary. We may need assistance from others but use it so we can reach where we want to be. Any initiative based on these principles is worthwhile and will be sustainable.”
President Kagame also called into question the tendency of those who speak of Rwanda to acknowledge the country’s many achievements but fail to connect these with the choices and participation of Rwandans.
“I have yet to understand this – all our children are in school, we care for the health of all Rwandans and are working for their welfare, for food security, good nutrition; providing access to new technology, including computers for our school children so they can communicate with whomever they want and Rwandans can access all the information they want; Rwandans choose the leaders they want to work with; we do everything to promote citizens’ development. But after listing all this, the conclusion of some is that that Rwandans don’t have space to express themselves.”
President Kagame pointed out that when over 11 million Rwandans can say what they want, where they want, using means that the government has put in place, including modern internet infrastructure, it was inconceivable that a handful of people felt entitled not only to express themselves but also not be challenged, particularly when among them were those who sought to destroy what Rwandans have been building.
“The new Rwanda is one of dignity – for all children, men, women and elderly. While we haven’t reached where we want to be, that’s what we are working towards. So that everyone is able to achieve their goals and have a role in it – that is democracy, development and progress. This is the foundation of everything we do”.
President Kagame also called on Rwandans to join the rest of the world in marking International Year of Forests, while realizing that Rwanda needed to make a special effort to avoid the consequences of environmental degradation
“With our hilly landscape, when we lose ground cover, we lose soil – and we don’t need that. We must plant trees wherever it is needed, including in our homes. Forests contribute to our economy and also protect our environment. This is something we can do for ourselves, we do not need external help to maintain this attitude.”
2011 is the International Year of Forests and Rwanda is committed to protecting and restoring forest cover in the country. The Rwanda Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative which was announced in New York in February 2011 at the United Nations. This tree planting season coincides with the country wide launch of the forest landscape restoration initiative and the afforestation programme will continue to be implemented under this framework.