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Rwandan Christians mark Easter

Fr. Jean Claude Muvandimwe anoints a baby during a Baptism session at St. Michel Cathedral yesterday

Fr. Jean Claude Muvandimwe anoints a baby during a Baptism session at St. Michel Cathedral yesterday

As thousands of kilometres away Pope Francis called upon the world to seek peace and stop the wars ravaging Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, DR Congo, Mali and the Central African Republic, among others, Christians in Rwanda converged to celebrate the death and resurrection of their saviour Jesus Christ.

However, like at the Vatican where Pope Francis was holding his first Easter mass since he was installed last month, church leaders called for love, tolerance and peace.

Preachers said by the way Jesus lost the beauty and dignity he had in heaven and came on earth, became a man and died for them, Christians should also emulate the love of Jesus and love each other.

“A real Christian should resurrect with Jesus, love their relatives and neighbours, have a compassionate heart,”  said  Fr. Lambert Dusingizimana at Saint  Famiille

Pastor Zawadi Kajangwe called on Christians to keep praying God so the blood poured should keep saving them and remain in the right way.

“Christ conquered death, it is time we enjoyed and celebrated his resurrection,” said Kajangwe.

Christians who talked to The New Times expressed joy and excitement, saying the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was a sign of sacrifice.

“Easter is a big feast for me as a Christian, it is the time of reflection and remembrance of unbelievable love Jesus loved us, left a dignified place he occupied in the heaven to come to be beaten, nailed and crucified in my stead,” said Mappy Ingabire at Christian in Zion Temple church

The Holy Week, the week preceding Easter, was marked by baptisms around the country.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis urged his listeners not to be “afraid of God’s surprises,” never to lose confidence during the trials and tribulations of daily life, and, if they have strayed, to let God back into their lives.

“Let the risen Christ enter your life, welcome him as a friend; he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms,” he said,

“If you’ve been indifferent, take a risk; you won’t be disappointed. If following Him seems difficult, trust Him, be confident that He is close to you, He is with you and He’ll give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as He would have you do,” he said.

Easter is a Christian festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his crucifixion.

Source: The New Times

April 1, 2013   No Comments

Rwanda Parliamentary Elections to cost U.S.$8 million

6.2 million Rwandans to vote as parliament adopts changes in electoral code

Rwanda is expected to spend Rwf5billion (Approx. US$8 million) on parliamentary elections expected on September 16, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has said.

NEC Executive Secretary Charles Munyaneza says that the Ministry of Finance estimates the elections will cost Rwf3.5 billion but NEC estimates that it may need close to Rwf5billion to organise the third parliamentary elections since Rwanda adopted a new constitution in 2003. NEC has launched discussions with treasury to increase the elections’ budget.

“We are discussing with the Ministry of finance to increase on the budget and we are hopeful that they will listen to us because elections are a national priority,” Munyaneza said.

He explained that in the second phase of Rwanda’s Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS 2) whose launch is expected before June, governance and democracy form some of the pillars of the strategy. This means that elections as tools to foster democracy and governance are some of the priorities of the government.

Unlike the previous elections, this time, the government says it will cover the full costs of the elections, something Munyaneza attributes to breaking the barricade of unnecessary conditions set by donors who give money for elections.

The 2008 parliamentary elections cost Rwf6 billion and were funded mostly by donors. Munyaneza says the reason the cost is smaller this year is because the commission still has some of the facilities such as ballot boxes, a printer for ballot papers, civic education materials, and voter cards.

NEC plans to use the money on new technology in the polls, cleaning and updating the vote registry, which has already started, training of election staff and volunteers, civic and vote education and purchase of more election materials. The number of registered voters has increased to 6.2million in 2013 from 4.7 million in 2008.

Changes to Electoral code

According to the Munyaneza, the key changes to the electoral code which is set to be tabled in the senate include increasing the electoral college voting for the 24 female MPs that will now have members of executive committee of the National Women Council (NWC) of all sectors (an administrative unit after the district) within the electoral constituency; members of executive committee of the NWC of all cells within the electoral constituency; and members of the NWC executive committee at all villages within the electoral constituency.

Voter registration will no longer be mandatory as was the case in the previous law but will now be a civic responsibility for every Rwandan.

Because most of rural Rwanda does not have adequate electricity in polling centers, voting time will now be adjusted to 7am from 6am so as to give time to election staff, the electorate, election observers and candidates’ representatives to reach polling centers and stations.

The election results consolidation process and centers have been clarified especially for the benefit of election observers and candidates’ representatives. The role of election observers and candidates’ representatives will also be defined clearly by the new law.

On- line voter registration and identification has been introduced to ease voter registration process especially for the Rwandan Diaspora.

Rwandans will for the first time use pens instead of thumbs to vote. Candidates will now be given 5days up from 2 days to review and complete their files in case they are found to be incomplete. NEC will now regulate the public media instead of the Media High Council.

Nomination of candidates

Nomination of candidates is expected to take place in early August and the campaigns will commence in the third week of that same month and the elections will take place on September 16.

Elections of women parliamentarians and those representing the youth and disabled are scheduled for September 17 and 18 respectively.

Unlike their East African counterparts, a certain level of education is not a requirement to contest for a parliamentary seat. NEC says that as long as a Rwandan of 21 years of age who has never been sentenced to jail for more than six months and can read and write is free to vie for parliamentary slot.

However MPs’ profiles on the parliamentary website show that there is no lawmaker who does not have a Bachelor’s degree.

Will there be coalitions?

In 2008, the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) allied with different small parties in the parliamentary polls in a deal that saw the small parties each getting a representative in Rwanda’s second parliament.

When asked about that arrangement this time, François Ngarambe, the Secretary General of RPF told The Independent that it was too early to be talking of party coalitions.

Parties Parti Democratique Islamique (PDI), Parti Democrate Centriste (PDC), Parti Social Rwandaise (PSR), Party for Congress and Concord (PPC) and L’Union Democratique du Peuple Rwandais (UDPR) which entered coalitions with RPF could not also confirm whether they intend to enter coalitions with the RPF.

The Rwandan parliament has 80 members; 53 from political parties, 24 representing women, 2 for youth, and one for the disabled.

Of the 53MPs representing political parties, RPF has 35 while Social Democratic Party(PSD) which is led by former Senate president and current minister of Education Vincent Biruta has 7 MPs.

Liberal Party (PL) headed by Minister of Sports and Culture Protais Mitali has 4 lawmakers while Parti Democratique Islamique (PDI) headed by the Minister of Internal Security Musa Fazil Harerimana’s has 2 MPs.

Others parties have one representative apart from PS Imberakuri which is not yet represented. Its chairperson Christine Mukabunani has vowed to secure a seat in the parliament.

Source: All Africa

April 1, 2013   No Comments

In tiny Rwanda, staggering health gains set new standard in Africa

Rwanda has tapped its post-conflict period to transform core programs like healthcare. Major gains include precipitous drops in HIV deaths and child mortality.

When Agnes Binagwaho began her career as a doctor in the slums of Kigali, Rwanda, in 1996, she worked in one of the most precarious health environments in the world.

The rickety public hospitals that had not been destroyed in the genocide two years before were filled with AIDS patients. But drugs – and doctors – were scarce or nonexistent. Meanwhile, Rwandans were dying in massive numbers from malnutrition, malaria, and tuberculosis.

“We could do nothing for them,” she remembers. “We didn’t have drugs even for ordinary diseases.”

19 years later, however, Rwanda is on pace to become the only country in sub-Saharan Africa to meet all of its health-related Millennium Development Goals, and the tiny pocket of Central Africa has posted some of the world’s most staggering health gains in the past decade, outpacing nations that spend far more per capita on healthcare.

And Dr. Binagwaho, who once stuffed her suitcases full of basic medicinal supplies to take home to Kigali whenever she traveled abroad, is now leading that charge as minister of health.

In an article published earlier this year in the British Medical Journal (BMI), a team of doctors and researchers working in Rwanda laid out the country’s swift rise.

Between 1994 and 2012, they wrote, the country’s life expectancy climbed from 28 years to 56 and the percentage of the population living in poverty dropped from 77.8 percent to 44.9 percent.

In the past decade, deaths from HIV have fallen 78 percent – the single largest decline in the world during that time frame – while tuberculosis mortality has dropped 77 percent, the most significant decrease in Africa.

Of course, the starting point in Rwanda’s climb was a harrowing one: In 1994, between 500,000 and 1 million people — up to 20 percent of its total population — were killed in an ethnic genocide, and some 2 million more fled. Many doctors were among the dead and exiled, and the country, including its healthcare system, was left in tatters.

That year, less than a quarter of Rwandan children received immunizations and more than 1 in 4 children were dead by their fifth birthday.

But in the years that followed, Rwanda became the darling of the international development community, a case study for how a country could use a transformative post-conflict period to effectively rebuild its core institutions.

As aid poured in, Rwanda’s new government channeled it into a wide variety of social programs, including healthcare. It rolled out a system of universal health insurance, doled out vaccinations and mosquito nets, and put nearly every AIDS patient on antiretrovirals.

And it did all of this in a place that still faces what the BMI article called “one of the greatest shortages of human resources for health in the world.”

Indeed, the country of 11 million has only 625 doctors in its public hospitals nationwide. But there are also now more than 45,000 “community health workers,” trained to treat basic health issues and help ensure adherence to drug regimens in rural areas far from hospitals and clinics.

As a result of these efforts, the probability that a child will die before the age of five has fallen by 70 percent and is now half the regional average. Some 108,000 people now receive antiretroviral treatment for AIDS – a figure approaching universal access.

But as the healthcare system has lurched forward, it has also come under attack for its heavy reliance on foreign aid: Nearly half of the government’s health budget comes from external funders.

Unlike many other countries, however, Rwanda has used these cash infusions to build institutions, not merely fund programs, says Peter Drobac, the Rwanda director for Partners in Health, a public health nonprofit, and one of the authors of the BMI paper.

Indeed, Rwanda spends no more on health than many of its neighbors, ranking 22nd among 49 sub-Saharan African countries in per capita health spending. That comes to about $55.50 per person each year, which Drobac says is a “tremendous value for money.”

But Rwanda’s government has ambitiously called for the country to be aid-free by 2020, an undertaking that would require a massive pivot away from its current healthcare funding model. In reality, that goal may be decades off, but in the meantime, officials have built the scaffolding for a sturdy healthcare system, Drobac says.

“The lesson we have learned is that you cannot solve every [health] problem at once,” Binagwaho says. “So you do the best with what you have, and you don’t leave anyone out.”

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

April 1, 2013   No Comments

Why Rwanda’s UN Security Council presidency is good news

Today, April 1, Rwanda takes over from Russia as the President of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), three months after the country joined the world’s all-important peace and security organ, as a non-permanent member.

The post-Genocide Rwandan government and the United Nations bureaucrats have not exactly had the smoothest of relationships, largely due to the latter’s tragic indifference during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and their subsequent handling of some of the consequences of that catastrophe.

Indeed to many Rwandans, the United Nations has been anything but a symbol of healing, justice and reconciliation in the post-Genocide Rwanda.

From the cases delivered by the UN-backed ICTR to the countless leaks of reports containing vitriolic and unverifiable allegations of Kigali’s role in the never-ending conflicts in eastern DRC, it is not difficult to guess why Rwandans have unsettled grievances against the world body.

But amidst all this, there is still a sense of optimism among many Rwandans. Many still feel that one day the United Nations as we know it today will transform into the very body that was envisaged, at least officially, when this organisation was created nearly seven decades ago.

Indeed this hope must be shared by many people around the world, which probably explains why 188 member states (out of 193 members) still recognise the veto privilege held by a minority club of five countries, also known as P5, a privilege that’s solely based on the fact that they were the major victors of the World War II.

Today it’s a different order. Generations have come and passed since the world order that determined the P5 setup. Today, none P5 members Japan, India, Germany and Brazil are third, fourth, fifth and seventh world’s largest economies, with each ranked higher than the United Kingdom and France, both of which enjoy veto powers. I don’t see any relevant measure that justifies the current setup of the permanent members of the UNSC. Africa is perhaps the biggest loser in the current arrangement, considering that none of its 54 member states has veto-wielding powers at the United Nations, yet it features prominently in most of the decisions taken by this world body!

But this is a topic for another day.

Back to Rwanda’s current status at the UNSC: The country’s ascendency to the rotational one-month presidency (based of alphabetical order) of the Council could not have come at a better time. This week, Rwandans will, for the ninetieth time, commemorate the Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed a million innocent lives – right under the UN’s noses.

The country’s delegation at the United Nations, led by the Permanent Representative and State Minister for Cooperation, Eugène-Richard Gasana, will be keen to showcase Rwanda’s emergence from a state of hopelessness to a country that’s proudly partaking in global efforts towards peaceful coexistence, tolerance as well as human development journey.

Rwanda’s election to the UN Security Council last October was not without hurdles to say the least.

Needless to say, a group of human rights activists-cum-propagandists, which has made it its business to attack Rwanda at every slightest opportunity, teamed up with another set of self-styled experts on the Great Lakes region with a score to settle with Rwanda, to tarnish the country’s image (of course with the help of some UN bureaucrats) – with regard to the ongoing DRC crisis – ahead of the crucial vote.

Report after report were calculatedly leaked to the media, Rwanda’s rebuttal to the allegations, hailed by many as satisfactory, was ignored by the mainstream western media and, Kigali, was declared guilty without any court hearing!

But, as if to confirm that these anti-Rwandan sentiments are concentrated among a few individuals, including officials of a few governments, who have personal axes to grind, Rwanda was overwhelmingly elected to the UNSC during the October 18 secret ballot. It garnered 148 votes out of a possible 193 votes, more than the required two thirds from the countries present.

After Rwanda joined the 15-member Security Council, for a two-year term, the country’s leaders were eager to state that Rwanda was not joining the group as a revolutionary, rather as member committed to playing a positive role towards achieving the Council’s mission.

Rwanda, despite her acrimonious relationship with the UN, is an active participant in several UN initiatives.

Besides its role as the world’s sixth largest contributor of peacekeepers, Rwanda, through President Paul Kagame, is playing a major role in the promotion of the Millennium Development Goals, and the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, around the world.

No doubt the country’s approach to global issues has largely been shaped by her experience during and after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

This explains why Kigali has not minced words in situations where ordinary citizens elsewhere are faced with potential destruction at the hands of their regimes – on a continent where leaders often cover up or at least downplay the sins of their counterparts.

The Rwandan government stood with the Libyan people during the revolution against the Muammar Gaddafi. And last year, it declared its support for the “legitimate aspirations” of the Syrian people.

Yet even as these examples showcase Rwanda’s consistent resolve to play a positive role in the community of nations, you sense misguided suspicion in the corridors of the UN.

Surely, the values Kigali stands for can make the world a better place, and the UN a better organisation.

Source: The New Times

April 1, 2013   No Comments

Genocide memorial: Change in colour for mourning

Remembering the Rwandan Genocide

Remembering the Rwandan Genocide

A research into Rwanda’s traditional mourning rituals indicated that people used to smear themselves with ash as they mourned their beloved ones.

The research findings were the basis of Cabinet’s recent decision to change the commemoration colour from purple to gray, a colour synonymous with ash.

Officials say currently plans are underway to change commemoration paints, symbols and everything that has purple in it to gray.

“We searched for information from people who are knowledgeable in Rwandan traditions like intellectuals and elders in order to choose what colour can be used during the time of mourning week,” Jean De Dieu Mucyo, the executive secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), told The New Times.

“We realised that, traditionally, Rwandans were mourning their beloved ones by putting wood ashes upon their heads.”

The common agreement was that the purple colour is a Western and Catholic based- tradition whereby during different ecclesiastic ceremonies like Easter, the purple colour is used.

According to scholars, in addition to this, none among Tutsi was killed because of their faith, therefore, the purple colour does not apply to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The president of Ibuka, the umbrella body of Genocide survivors, Dr Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, said the general perspective is that Genocide survivors welcomed the new colour

“There is no reason why this colour (purple) should be used in the mourning week while there is another one that connects better with our traditional mourning events,” he said.

Dusingizemungu said Rwandans keep on being eager to find their own home-grown solutions to all the specific problems the nation encounters and that decision was taken in line with that philosophy.

In a related development, speaking during a town hall meeting yesterday, the Minister of Sports and  Culture, Protais Mitali, said the commemoration will be marked at the Village (Umudugudu) level.

For the past years, ceremonies to start the Commemoration week (April 7 to 13) were held involved a national opening event at a designated location in the coutry, while the last day was marked at the Rebero Memorial site, the Genocide memorial for political leaders.

“Celebration at the grassroots level will bring about more participation by the population from all neighborhoods,” said Mitali. “This will eventually create ownership of the commemoration activities.”

He said at the grassroots level, commemoration events will be held at the nearest memorial site in every sector. However, Mitali said commemoration at the national level will be held once every five years.

On April 7, President Paul Kagame will pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the Genocide at Kigali Memorial Centre where he will lay a wreath to the mass graves and address the nation at midday.

Since the commencement day of the commemoration will be a Sunday, government recently asked religious leaders to ensure that they conduct the early morning masses so that people can attend the commemoration event.

“We requested them to ensure that all masses end by 11:00am latest,” said the Mayor of City of Kigali, Fidele Ndayisaba.

During the 19th Commemoration, public lectures and town hall meetings will be conducted every afternoon for the whole week under this year’s theme, ‘Let us commemorate the Tutsi Genocide as we strive for self reliance’.

As always, no form of entertainment is allowed during the commemoration week and all flags in the country will fly at half-mast.

Source: The New Times

April 1, 2013   No Comments