The Pros of Umuganda

Last Saturday 27th January 2018 we held our first Umuganda for this year. Umuganda is the local name given to the communal work done in Rwanda every last Saturday of the month. Ever since I moved to Kigali a year ago today, the thing I’ve felt most in love with is the Umugnda. The last Saturday of the month is always my deal breaker not because I am receiving a pay check, but because it’s communal work time. Umuganda is always opportunity time for me, maybe I am an opportunist. And I am now looking forward to this coming Sunday’s car free day.

The car free day is honored every first Sunday of the month where some parts of the city of Kigali are labeled no car zone. This event which has become a culture is done every month and residents come out in big numbers to match, walk, jog, play, and have fun on the roads of Kigali. The car free day initially was targeting saving the environment from pollution caused by vehicle emissions but has now turned into a culture. For me the Umuganda and the car free day are the most cheerful events in Kigali. Most of my best memorable moments in Kigali so far are from those two monthly events.

One of the reasons why I love these two days in particular is that I get to meet different people free of charge and create lasting connections. I would say I even made my first friendship in Kigali during Umuganda. The thing about these events is that they bring people out of their homes. The Rwandans mostly have nuclear families and prefer to stay indoors most times. I thing here privacy is a necessity. In most cases you can live in a neighborhood without knowing who lives in the next gate. Most houses are fenced and people just live in their boundaries. In the mornings you see cars rolling out, people going to work and they roll back in, in the evenings. Personally, I know my immediate neighbor well because he’s the Umudugudu (the village chief) of our area.

The habit of having nuclear families as opposed to the traditional African extended and polygamous families is backed by the constitution of the republic of Rwanda of 2003 revised in 2015 where article 17 states “a civil monogamous marriage between a man and a woman is the only recognized marital union”.  This makes polygamy illegal and an individual cannot dodge being noticed to having more than one marriage partner since the Rwandan marriages are a series of different events that can take up to a whole year. A lot of traditional family knowing ceremonies is conducted before prospective couples are civilly married at the sector (a lower level local government like town councils in Uganda) and then such couples proceed with Ubukwe (introduction) and then wedding. It’s really a long process, and I’m not yet sure if I will handle when my sherry asks for marriage.

Going back to business, let’s see the Pros of Umuganda;                                                                                            

  • It’s a nice event to meet people in the neighborhood. Now with the knowledge of how the Rwandans live, you will well agree with me that the Umuganda is one of the best moments to meet all the different people living in your neighborhood because it attracts everyone. Even the president.
  • You make friends both personally and professionally. The Umuganda offers the best free shopping center for friends. You can make a lot of friends both as a person and for professional reasons. I’ve made a lot of professional friends lately during this event since I live in a professionally rich neighborhood. The Umudugudu I mentioned earlier is a retired colonel of the Rwanda Defense Force (RDF) and one of the wealthiest men in our neighborhood.
  • It brings in community love and a sense of belonging. Every time I participate in these community events I get the feeling of belonging somewhere. This special feeling covers the fact that I am in a foreign land and hundreds of miles away from the place I call home. To me now Kigali is home. And the car free day makes me love Kigali city even the more. I see more happy years here in Kigali.
  • It teaches the life lesson of team work. Personally I prefer to do most of my tasks individually. I like going fast and being in a team always seems to slow me down. But I have learnt that it is much better to work as a team. This always reminds me of the popular African saying “alone you can go fast. But together you go far”. I think I’m now discipline enough and I work in teams.
  • It shows that baby steps make all the difference. I’ve learnt this by observing that the little work we do as a community every last Saturday of the month compounds and looks a great work done when you see it over time, like five months. I am incorporating this principle in my personal life.
  • It’s also a market place. During these events you get the opportunity to sell yourself and what you do as you change and gain new contacts. The key issue is to perform well and leave everybody asking who that guy is. I always do just that. For me every public event is show time. And I sell.
  • One can meet a marriage partner as well. These community events are taken part in by everyone and this presents an opportune time for the unmarried to find perfect match. I’m always looking even though I have a sherry. We all know marriage is a lifelong commitment and that means I have to continue looking around just to be sure I am making the perfect choice.
  • It’s also an individual corporate social responsibility. We all love giving back to the community we live in, and the Umuganda is the best way to do that.

Thank you for reading. Feel free to comment. And I want to be a better writer this year. I’ve enrolled in a writing class. Happy New Year 2018.





Jimmy The Prodigal Son.

In the early 1990’s when Jimmy Ruva was born, his parents dedicated him to the Lord God through baptism. He started off with a steady growth in faith and grew a very intelligent brilliant boy. He would top his class, work very hard at the family shop, and do all the house chores; most of which were meant for the girls. No wonder his sisters love him a lot up to this very moment. Trouble came around his early teen years as he enters puberty and the adolescent age. He became a very stubborn boy and lost his path to greatness that was predetermined by the creator before he was even conceived in his mother’s womb. This is the story of Jimmy Ruva’s early glory, downfall, and rise to grace and triumph as recorded by him.

I started off my life loving God the creator a lot. I believed everything good came from above, and it was the creator who gave man wealth and riches. This belief was planted in me by my parents who worked very hard at their business and ensured life was okay for whoever they can touch. My father was a wealthy man and he believed his wealth came from God, thus he touched every life he could lay his hands on. To him, helping the less fortunate was not just a way of giving back but a mandate or command given to him by the creator of the Universe. He took this command so seriously that he worked more than 12 hours a day to feed, clothe and school, protect and create a great future for the sheep given to him. He was a true shepherd.

Jimmy of course grew learning all this amazing examples from his father and his father was very proud of him. As he grew closer to his youthful age, his father promised to take him to the best school in the country provided he gets an excellent result with good grades in his primary seven final exams. He never disappointed. He got the first grade with good distinctions. His father was very happy. His son was going to a great school in the country and become a lawyer, a pilot, an engineer, or the likes. But Jimmy Ruva instead wanted to be a priest. All the same his father tried getting him into a seminary school, but a few laws within the seminary school system wouldn’t let him join. So they both went back to plan A. Now his father was winning, and his son would become what he has always dreamt of. And then trouble started.

At the school he joined senior one, he entered into a very bad group and become a thug. He did a lot of bad things, lost his way, and forgot about God completely. He would be in trouble after trouble, and his parents become very unhappy. God however never left him even thought he had forgotten God. He continued to perform relatively well, though his performance was slowly declining. And blinded by Satan, he couldn’t realize it. His group called themselves “the Anti-Girls Association” AGA. He was in a mixed school. The group hated girls and would beat up any girl who crosses their path. They were a no go zone for all girls in the school. To them, girls brought sin upon the earth. Their augment was baseless just like LRA’s Joseph Kony’s.

Jimmy got expelled and had to find another school. This happened at a very crucial time as they were setting their senior two End of year exams. He arrived home with only term one and two results which had very good performance but lacking the third term promotional exams report. His father being a businessman, made use of the two nice results to convince the headmaster of another good school that his son would perform miracles for them if they admitted him to senior three at their school. The headmaster bought in the father’s idea and admitted Jimmy. The boy immediately showed outstanding performances in both class and other school co-curriculum activities like debates and was unopposed elected as the Deputy or Vice Speaker of the students’ council. A position he out championed his boss, performed very well and made himself noticed within and outside the school. But his bad trails also continued. The school top administration was repeatedly accused by other students of favoring the boy, because he would openly break school rules and regulations and nothing or no form of punishment done to him.

This made him so big headed and he thought to himself he was invisible. He continued his trails of bad things and God seemed to still love him anyway even though he never stepped at the place of worship. Nice things continued happening his way, like; getting good grades, admissions to great schools, finances, human support from east and west, and he even dated the best girls in town. The kind every man would want to have, yet he ill-treated them. But little did he know that slowly he was sinking. So one day he got sick. And this sickness would change his life.

He went to a good private clinic in Kampala, and the doctor was very honest with him. All the tests the lab technician had performed came out negative. The doctor didn’t diagnose him but advised him instead. Jimmy had shown symptoms of depression. Prior to this sickness things weren’t going his way. Jimmy is addicted to winning. In his mind, he always wins and he is a winner by birth right. So he had to slow down, may be a little bit.

Kumbe, God had better plans for him. He has a sister who loves God and praying a lot. One day as the sister was going to church, she asked him to come along. It had been a decade since Jimmy last stepped foot in church. He said to himself “why not, I am sick and I need some healing”. Off they went, and the sermon at church changed his life. Seating at the back seat of the Taxi on the way back, all he could remember was how he loved and was so much loyal to God as a little boy. Thus, he silently made a promise to himself, that “as long as he lives, he will serve the Lord God.” And his life changed for better completely.