In July 2017, I was privileged to run an exciting marathon. I covered President Paul Kagame’s campaign in all the country’s 30 districts, as the President carried his party – the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) flag, seeking massive support from Rwandans to elect him for another seven-year term.
The campaign had a tight schedule – only spanning 20 days. The coverage for this 20-day Presidential campaign was a real full marathon.
Seven years earlier, I had partly covered the kick off of the July 20, 2010 RPF campaign at Amahoro National Stadium and a few other parts of the country.
The story of this marathon is for another day, but I will look back at how he delivers to his promises.
When he first campaigned in Ruhango District – Southern Rwanda, before driving straight to neighbouring Nyanza District, Kagame made promises to his massive supporters that; if re-elected, would come back to deliver to the promises.
When I heard that President Kagame was starting a 4-day tour of Southwestern Rwanda – I remained curious to check on his schedule.
When I heard that his first stop would be Ruhango District, I started thinking “He is going back to deliver progress on his promises.”
Indeed, his speech and interaction with residents was never far from that point. From solving citizen’s grievances to pinning local leaders for failure to deliver, Kagame never minced words – especially when leaders failed, at some point, to deliver.
Kagame’s bond with his 110-year-old friend Nyiramandwa
First, it was a video shared by our journalists on the ground, but the WhatsApp groups I belong to were another indication that Kagame’s visit to his 110-year-old Rachel Nyiramandwa – a centenarian living in Ngiryi, Gasaka sector of Nyamagabe district.
For three consecutive occasions, the elderly Nyiramandwa has met Kagame. This time, it wasn’t on a Presidential campaign or a citizen outreach site. It was a guest received at Nyiramandwa’s decent home.
Kagame’s visit to Nyiramandwa caught the emotions of many, but the visit is a true citizen centered leadership. Whenever Kagame travels to meet citizens, expectations are always high. It is the right time citizens breathe back and wait for their grievances to be solved once and for all.
“In my time, chiefs used to beat us, but for you are giving us milk in plenty. May God reward you for the love you have for us,” Nyiramandwa told the president.
She told the president how she managed to meet him for the first time, twelve years ago.
“I was sick, but when I learnt about your trip to Nyamagabe, I grabbed my two walking sticks and came to the venue in Nyagisenyi. This time, I can’t thank you enough for you provided me with modern crutches,” she said while commending the president for several other cares that she benefits from government social services including clothes, medication and visits by local leaders, and the community at large.
Nyiramandwa kept singing and the President was amazed that she is still full of energy.
“Do you still remember how to sing?” the President amazingly asked her.
“Yes, can I tell you a Poem?” Nyiramandwa asked.
After the President answered with a Yes, Nyiramandwa kept on happily singing for him.
The visit to Nyiramandwa has a great meaning because it seeks to remind that the President minds the lives of every citizen.
He had come to visit Nyamagabe, but he was aware that some people like Nyiramandwa may not afford to walk to the venue.
While it would be hard to visit everyone in that situation door to door, the president reminded that he would wish to follow up on an individual case of every Rwandan, especially those who once raised a concern during the outreach.
Kagame promised Nyiramandwa that they would see each other again, and people would keep visiting her, and he wished her peace.
Now that Covid-19 pandemic is perhaps coming to an end, we expect more of a true Kagame leadership style – going back to meet citizens and discuss national issues and development.