Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Land of a Thousand Hills

Over the last 15 years I have visited Rwanda over 20 times. I always travel to Rwanda over work related business, not pleasure! However, every time I am in Rwanda, the rate at which the country is developing never ceases to amaze me.

Last week, I travelled by road through Katuna border post because of the equipment I was carrying with me.  At the Uganda side of the border, we were cleared by immigration within 5 minutes! However at the Rwanda side, it took me over 3 hours! First of all I had to get a visa, one pays the visa fees of $100 through the bank. The bank is open 24 hours! That was no big issue.

The challenge was trying to clear my equipment. I was tossed between the customs and security offices. None of them had ever seen the equipment and they wanted to know what it does, rightly so, since Rwanda is very security conscious.  Customs wished to impose duties on it but they could not categorize it! Finally after threatening to leave the equipment with them to deliver to me in Kigali at their cost and peril, they let me go.

As I was being tossed up and down, I witnessed real order at the Rwandan side. All plastic bags were confiscated; even loaves of bread were undressed of their plastics. Some sharp small traders had set up shop selling paper bags for redressing the bread and other things which had previously been packaged in plastic. By the way, I wonder why almost half the travellers had bread with them!

Smokers were not allowed to do it in public; they were forced to go to the peripheries of the border post away from people to do their thing.

Then also all luggage was inspected by both security and customs, and it was done so efficiently!

I proceeded with my journey to Kigali. It takes just an hour and a half on a nice smooth road.  I had organized to stay in Gisozi, an upscale residential area. The roads within the estate were all well paved with a sidewalk for pedestrians. Most roads had street lighting too. If one is dropped in one of these residential places, one might assume he was dropped in a high end European village because of the neatness evident everywhere in Kigali.

Along the way I picked the days daily newspaper in which many other Rwandan government achievements were mentioned; the headlines screamed at me that Rwanda was the best place to be a woman in Africa! According to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2015, Rwanda comes after Nordic countries.

Other articles did not disappoint.  One article was talking implementation of speed governors in public transport vehicles to curb road accidents whose deadline was fast approaching. Another was over plans by government to create an agency to spearhead the implementation of Smart Rwanda Master Plan; A 5-year ICT master plan for digitizing the economy and positioning ICT as one of the key exports of the country. Another article was on how The Rwanda Tourism Board was recognized as the best national tourism agency in the region at Kampala’s Pearl of Africa Tourism expo recently. Most news was about development and how the peasant lot has improved livelihoods and the country progressing, a far cry from Uganda’s gutter press full of rumors, politics, conflict, corruption, theft etc.  

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