Is ‘Umuganda’ the Secret Behind Kigali City’s Cleanliness?

Whereas it is arguable that Rwanda’s capital, order Kigali is the cleanest city in the whole of the Great Lakes region, it remains unclear how the government and the city authorities have managed to implement the set rules on sanitation as well as its maintenance.

Aside from the strict governing rules against littering and the punishment imposed on the offenders, the public in collaboration with the local authorities also play a pivotal role in maintaining the tidiness that awes visitors of Kigali city and elsewhere in the country side.

One of the initiatives undertaken by the government several years ago is the famous “Umuganda” a communal exercise held every month in which the public enagange in cleaning their neighborhood. ‘Umuganda’, a Kinyarwanda word for ‘contribution’ is held every last Saturday of the month where locals gather to partake in activities like sweeping roads, slashing and repairing roads, digging trenches and clearing the already existing ones among others.

Chimpreport’s Paul Mugume who is in Kigali took part in this month’s Umuganda in Gasasa cell, Gasaabo district on Saturday morning.

The exercise which started at 8am was graced by Gasaabo district Assistant Mayor, Languide Nyirabahire, the District Army Chief Mutembe, Kigali City Councilor Viek-Fiston Ndayambaje among other leaders.

Leaders and members of Gasasa cell took part in sweeping streets in their neighborhood, slashing the bushes on the roadside and picking plastic waste along the road.
Besides cleaning, the Umuganda campaign also acts as a platform for area leaders to meet their subjects and discuss matters relating to developmental, share words of inspiration and pass out information on government projects.

“The biggest asset that Rwanda has is the citizens. As Rwandans, we have to stay united and it’s such activities that bring us together,” said John Kagoro, a village leader in charge of information.

“Citizens get to hear from their leaders and are also given a chance to share their ideas for consideration so as to develop our areas together,” he added.


In her remarks, Assistant Mayor Nyirabahire advised participants not to only focus on clean streets and homes but to keep good health.

“Cleanliness starts from your head. You need to take good care of your bodies and stay healthy,” she said.

Gasaabo District Assistant Mayor, Languide Nyirabahire addressing citizens after the cleaning exercise. (Photo by Paul Mugume / Chimpreports)

Kigali City Councilor Vieck-Fiston Ndayambaje told Chimpreports that an event like Umuganda gives leaders a chance to explain some of the new developments in the country which can’t be explained well in political fora.

“As a councilor, I am always glad to participate in Umuganda because it gives us chance to pass messages about government programs to citizens and other important issues like life insurance, and acknowledging our culture,” he said.

“It is a better place where you can talk about keeping the city clean and people will listen to you.”

At the end of the cleaning exercise, traditional dances are played an citizens celebrate together (Photo by Paul Mugume / Chimpreports)

Asked about the contribution of Umuganda to the general cleanliness of Kigali city, Ndayambaje said that “If people can start minding about cleanliness from the village level, they won’t forget to do the same in the city centre.”

“Currently, there are other people in the city who are doing the same work like we are doing here. If someone from Gasasa goes to the city centre, they will always remember to keep it clean because they have learnt that from their village through Umuganda.”

“It (Umuganda) has cultivated a culture in every Rwandan to remain clean and to keep his environment clean.”

As to whether politicians won’t take advantage of the gathering to push their selfish political ambitions, Ndayambaje said that the gathering is only meant to pass government information to the people and get developmental ideas from them.

“If the information being passed is from government, there is no problem because people need to hear from their leaders.”

Gasabo District Army chief
Gasabo District Army chief (Photo by Paul Mugume / Chimpreports)
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