Rwandans will today anxiously follow the 19th National Dialogue Council, commonly known as ‘Umushyikirano’, which opens this Tuesday at Kigali Convention Centre (KCC) and runs until tomorrow, Wednesday, January 24, with key issues concerning the citizens set to be discussed at the annual gathering.
According to the government, key topics to be discussed include national development, unity and youth empowerment, among other things, but it is anticipated that some of the key issues that will be raised by citizens, who are given different platforms to participate, rotate around inflation and the cost of living.
Transport, service delivery, education and healthcare are some of the issues that are likely to emerge during Umushyikirano, which is chaired by President Kagame.
Established by Article 168 of the Constitution, Umushyikirano council is a national forum which brings together participants who include the Head of State, head of Government business, members of the Cabinet, lawmakers, representatives of the Rwandan community abroad, local government, Civil Society Organizations, faith-based groups, media, the diplomatic community and others, to discuss the state of the nation and other issues of national importance.
President Paul Kagame is expected to officially open the 19th edition this Tuesday morning, while the Prime Minister, Dr. Edouard Ngirente, is expected to deliver a performance report on the 2023 Umushyikirano resolutions.
This year’s Umushyikirano comes at a pivotal time when Rwanda is expected to mark 30 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and at the same time hold general elections later in July this year. It is a year Rwanda will be in the spotlight, with many looking to assess what the country has achieved over the past three decades.
In downtown City of Kigali, on Monday citizens were abuzz, from businessmen to commuters and young people, waiting to see what the key outcomes will be from this year’s National Dialogue.
“We are really excited and we want to see what decisions will come out of it. In the past, Umushyikirano has yielded solutions to the challenges we face as a nation and we believe this year it will be the same,” Apollinaire Mwenewabo, a businessman in downtown, who says the transport issue remains a pertinent one for him.
“We appreciate what the government is doing to increase the number of buses on the road. There has been great improvement over the past year but the challenges remain. I still have to line up longer waiting for the bus. Much as the time has been shortened, we need more efficiency in the way the buses and routes operate,” he says.
Similarly, Chantal Murerwa, an airtime and mobile money vendor in Remera, the government needs to create more jobs and opportunities, especially for young people who never had a chance to get formal education or have other skills but lack opportunities and access to finance.
“I would love to be an entrepreneur but I have no means. From this job I can’t save enough to start the business I want and I cannot have access to credit to start it, even though I know very well that I have the skills. The government needs to establish a fund where youth in business can get capital without having to provide collateral,” Murerwa says.
Rwandans from across the country will participate in the National Dialogue through different centres established in all provinces and they will be able to interface with the leaders directly on live feed while others can participate by way of telephone calls, social media, SMS, as well as follow the debate live on television and radio.
This year’s Umushyikirano comes at a time when the seven-year National Strategy for Transformation (NST1), running from 2017 to 2024, is coming to an end.
The strategy, adopted in 2017, set out the Government’s plans for achieving its 2020 and 2050 Vision’s for economic development. It built on lessons learned, successes and challenges encountered in previous medium term development strategies.
“This year’s Umushyikirano will review progress made in enhancing the well-being of Rwandans and addressing challenges faced,” a government statement released earlier this month said.
“It will also be an opportunity to reflect on Rwanda’s unity and resilience journey as we approach Kwibuka 30 and efforts to empower young Rwandans to lead national transformation,” it added.
Ladislas Ngendahimana. Secretary General, Rwanda Association of Local Governments Authorities (RALGA), says this year’s Umushyikirano is unique in the sense that it comes when the country is reviewing a number of milestones.
“Thirty years is a unique mark, even for a person, at 30 years, you’re transitioning from being a youth to an adult. The same applies for the country. We will look back and see where we have come from over the past 30 years, where we are today and also set the goals for the next 30 years,” Ngendahimana says.
Participants will take stock of the achievements over the past one, in review of the resolutions set and also set new targets for this year.
The 18th edition of Umushyikirano took place in February 2023 and made several resolutions, including improving agricultural and livestock productivity through access to finance for farmers and to foster national unity and reconciliation.
Other key resolutions included improvement of public transport, increased engagement of the diaspora in national development, improvement of the quality of education, and addressing issues in public service delivery.
There were also measures to curb inflationary pressures and enhance preventive measures against non-communicable diseases and improvement of the healthcare workforce, among other resolutions.