KIGALI, RWANDA, August 03, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- In 2005, a local businessman was contracted to build a road in Muhanga district, southern Rwanda.
No laborer received a penny. Local authorities never helped either. Augustine Musabyeyezu, 40, is one of the victims. He has been waiting for a God-sent savior to deliver them justice. On July 17, 2014, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame sets foot. It's part of his regular 'outreach program' where he meets with villagers to listen to their grievances.
Musabyeyezu seizes the moment. "Your excellence, I was employed by a private contractor... he disappeared before paying our wedges," he says. "Did you raise this to the local authorities?" the President asks. "Yes, Mr. President," Musabyeyezu responds. "The district has done nothing about it Mr. President," Musabyeyezu burst in a surrendering voice.
The President asks the Mayor to explain. She fidgets - giving a vague explanation. The crowd murmurs in disapproval. The President directs the villagers be compensated as soon as possible or there will be consequences. Such events are awaited like no other in rural Rwanda since 2003.
As the President makes opening remarks, villagers listen with intent. Sometimes bursting with applause in agreement. They will line up complaining about poor public services while others go as far as raising marital wrangles. The President will apologise for broken promises and put local leaders, including his ministers on spot to explain failure. "You do not want to be absent when people are raising concerns on projects that concern your ministry," says one of his ministers. Edwin Mukiza is a local social critic. The President "escapes the flavored opinions he is fed on by his lieutenants," says Mukiza.
However, journalist Rama Isibo says the approach leaves the ministers "deeply scared and insecure." But for Dr. Venuste Karambizi, a political science lecturer at the Kigali Independent University, the President pushes bureaucrats to re-assure the citizens. "Rwanda is a country undergoing political transformation, from the 1994 politics that caused hatred and a genocide," he says. "His approach is highly needed in a developing country like Rwanda." It is not all about leaders. Sometimes the president criticizes the villagers too. Back to Muhanga district, before the President bids farewell, and as thunderous drums of excited villagers produce a spectacular rhyme, at least one broken soul is healed. Musabyeyezu has been re-assured of his pay. "I am so happy," is all he can say.
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