Sunday, 31 March 2013

Traditional healers are speculators – scientists

Traditional healers have requested the government to put in place a legal framework to regulate the practitioners of this business, but worries grow as far as the validity of the herbs used is concerned.

A 2011 survey by the forum for traditional medicine practitioners in Rwanda, AGA Rwanda Network, showed that more than 2,600 traditional healers practice their medicine in villages countrywide.

“We cannot verify the validity of any medicine they use since no research has ever been carried out,” said Emmanuel Rekeraho, the President of the association.

Traditional herbalist Isidore Mahoro, a resident of Muhanga District (formerly Gitarama) came to light in 2004 when he claimed to have found an HIV/AIDS cure through the “inspiration of the Virgin Mary”.

The Ministry of Health moved in and stopped his operations. 

Dr. Jean de Dieu Ngirabega, Director of Clinical Services at the Ministry of Health says that the purported healer of HIV/AIDS had never before been a traditional healer.

Similarly, Gambia President Yahya Jammeh said in 2007 that he had found a remedy of boiled herbs to cure AIDS, stirring anger among Western medical experts who claimed he was giving false hope to the sick. 

Angelo Kaggwa, The program coordinator of a US-based Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention says that if any traditional healer is confident, science should be the resort.

“We do not work under speculations, so if anyone claims to have a cure, it needs to be scientifically validated,” Angelo echoed. 

Rekeraho from local traditional healers’ network said that the government should pass a law regulating the profession which he says is not ‘standardized.’ 

The law should also include how a laboratory for traditional medicine should be put in place, Rekeraho added.

He however says that countries like China, Japan and India collect a lot of revenues from traditional medicines and called for the government to strengthen the sector. 

“We cannot discourage people who buy traditional medicine because this has been used for a long time. Even our ancestors survived on traditional medicines,” Rekeraho said.

Many regional civil society organisations have also requested traditional healers to have their medicines tested for safety because they might lie to the public and therefore the EAC civil societies call for governments to work on the issue.

For Julien Nyombayire, a research analysis officer and physician from the San Frascisco Research Project in Rwanda, some of the traditional healers are genuine but also adds that some are bogus.

His advice is that governments invest in laboratories that test the validity of traditional herbs.

“We sometimes hear people claiming to cure diseases with herbs, but really people should use scientifically-proven medicines since with health insurance scheme they can get scientifically proven at cheaper prices with minimized risks,” Nyombayire warned.

But Dr Ngirabega at the Clinical Services of the Ministry of Health says that the ministry has held meetings with traditional healers to devise a draft law regulating their work.

He said that there are many traditional healers, which has made it difficult to research on the validity of the herbs they use.

“No scientific study supports them. They have only shared skills from their ancestry and they are many in every village,” Ngirabega said.

On whether the ministry issues certificates to traditional doctors, Ngirabega said that the traditional healers are allowed to work after getting a recognition paper from village level to the sector where an association brings them together. 

“They recognize each other among themselves and they are entitled to admit those who are recognized in their areas,” he said.

Bugesera: Ibyiringiro project evaluates its work

On March 27th 2013, ‘Ibyiringiro’ project in Bugesera district held an event to evaluate their activities towards vulnerable people living with HIV/AIDS.
Workers of World Vision and Catholic Relief Services that implement Ibyiringiro project activities visited beneficiaries who have improved their standards of living in Mareba sector.
Vicentie Mukangenzi, a resident of Rango cell narrates she invested in vegetable growing on a small piece of land but the yields were great.
“Where there is a will, there is a way,” she adds.
Though Ibyiringiro project has helped many residents wave good bye to poverty, it will end its activities in July 2013.
Appolinarie Bamurange, in charge of gender and family promotion in Bugesera district asserts that though the project is closing work in July 2013, the teachings given will still be used by many residents.
Bugesera: Ibyiringiro project evaluates its work
Mukangenzi,one of the beneficiaries feeding her cow
“Their activities must be valued by residents and take them as examples in their formed associations,” she denotes.
During the evaluation event, 58 exemplary residents were given water storage containers as a way of thanking and encouraging them to develop.
For the past 5 years, Ibyiringiro project funded by USAID has helped poor people including those living with HIV/AIDS to form cooperatives, credit and saving schemes and donating to them livestock with the aim of improving nutrition for better health.

Government to expand Nyabiheke Refugee Camp

Refugees from DR Congo.
The government plans to expand Nyabuheke refugee camp in Gatsibo  District, Eastern Province, to accommodate more Congolese who flee to Rwanda the Ministry of Disaster and Refugee affairs has confirmed

Apparently Nkamira transit centre has over 8,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and more continue to flee, meaning that they might fail to find where to stay unless more space is secured.

Refugees are mostly fleeing violence targeting Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese. They enter through La Corniche border post in Gisenyi Sector, Rubavu District in Western Province.

“We are examining 23 hectors where we want to relocate some of the refuges at Nkamira transit centre and those who continue to cross,” Fredrick Ntawukuriryayo, the Communications Officer at the ministry revealed to Sunday Times.

He refuted allegations in some media that had reported that all refugee camps in the country are at full capacity adding that the government would continue strategizing for the wellbeing of refugees in the country.

The refugees are being provided with food and shelter by the government in collaboration with United Nations High Commission for Refugees, among other agencies.

Rwanda hosts over 70,000 Congolese refugees. They are in various camps, including Gihembe in Gicumbi district, Kiziba in Karongi district, Nyabiheke in Gatsibo and Kigeme in Nyamagabe district. Others are in Kigali City and Nkamira Transit Centre in the Western Province. 

Recently the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said there was need for more support for Congolese refugees living in camps in Rwanda.

UNHCR Country Representative, Warsame Neimar, who was speaking at Nkamira Transit Centre, said they needed more than $46m (about Rwf29b) to facilitate the refugees.

Man held over polythene bags

The suspect with his marchandise.
A 29-year-old man has been detained at Mageragere Police Station, Nyarugenge District, over selling banned polythene bags and plastics which officials at Rwanda National Police (RNP) and the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) say are harmful to the environment.

The Spokesperson for RNP, Théos Badege, said the suspect, Maurice Bizumuremyi, was caught on Friday at Gitikinyoni with 200 packets of polythene bags (40,000 pieces), and two rolls of plastic papers.

The police are still investigating the suspect’s business to uncover other people who may be associated with it.

Bizumuremyi said he bought the material from Burundi and was caught when he was trying to bring them to his client in Kimironko, Kigali City.

Article 433 of the Penal code stipulates that “any person who sells polythene without authorization shall be liable to a fine of Rwf10 000 to Rwf300,000, and the penalty is doubled in case of recidivism.”

The Police paraded the suspect during a community work (umuganda) in Mageragere for other citizens to be reminded of consequences behind getting involved in such illegal business.

“Don’t you know these products are harmful to our environments which in return impacts on our economy,” said Chief Supt Bosco Rangira, the regional police commander for the central region.

According to Coletha Ruhamya, the deputy Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority, the polythene bags seized were manufactured in Tanzania and then taken to Burundi where the suspect smuggled them from.

Women activists speak out against marriage at 18

Couples at a recent mass wedding in Kicukiro District.
Advocates on issues regarding the improvement of women’s welfare have condemned legislators’ recent proposal to slash marriage age from 21years to 18.

According to legislators, the Ministry of Justice is overwhelmed by continuous applications from people under 21 requesting for special marriage approvals, adding that there were 40 applications received between July and December 2012.

However, women activities have decried the proposal and think it will only do more harm to those involved in such marriages.

Josephine Nkurunziza, a Gender Analyst working with Girl Hub Rwanda, stated that the focus shouldn’t be on age but reasons why they are seeking to get married at such an early age.

She said that the problem could me much bigger, therefore they should look critically into the reasons why and not so much about the overwhelming number of 18 year olds seeking marriage.

“There might be a number of issues leading to this; for instance, most girls who get pregnant at around that age are afraid of condemnation and criticism from the society, so the easier option would be to get married. This and other reasons could be among the issues that lead to the increasing number of early marriages,” she said.

Nkurunziza said that slashing the marriage age to 18 is a bad idea also since youth at that age aren’t always mentally grown enough to start a family and therefore don’t have the capacity.

Faith Mbabazi, a Woman activist who is also the chairperson of the Rwanda female Journalists Association, said that there are many risks if this proposal is passed.

She said that this won’t only lead to early school drop outs, but also thwart family planning efforts as the earlier one gets married, most likely the more children they is bound to have ,especially if they are illiterate.

“This might also lead to more people in that tender age bracket seeking to get married also if it is made legal for them to get married at 18 years. This has quite a number of adverse effects, especially on the girl child. Our lawmakers should rethink their proposal and instead find ways of providing counseling services to such young people so they can get married at a reasonable age when they are prepared and ready for a lifetime commitment,” Mbabazi said.

Middle income status in 5 years

Some of the leaders who attended the National Dialogue. 
The work of the country’s top leaders in the next five years will focus on improving its energy sector, transport services, urbanisation, and vocational training to fast-track the country’s dream of becoming a middle-income economy by the year 2020.

The leaders made the resolve at the 10th National Leadership Retreat which ended Saturday after two days of extensive brainstorming on how to successfully implement the country’s five-year development plan, the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRSII).

While  Day 1 of the retreat had focused on wide-ranging issues of national interest, including the overall need to keep economic growth, the country’s relations with other nations and the overall theme of good governance, leaders made presentations on the country’s infrastructure, human capacity development and the improvement of public service delivery.

“We know what we want and we should not be averse to learning. If we are sure of where we want to go and what it takes for us to get there, why should it be difficult? It is about having the right attitude,” said President Paul Kagame, who moderated the retreat.

Under the EDPRS II, the country targets 11.5 percent annual growth rate with sound investments focusing around rural development, productivity, youth employment, and an accountable governance among other key pillars of the plan.

Rwanda is bidding to become a middle income economy by 2020, and this will require the country’s GDP per capita to increase from the current $644 to $1,240.

Leaders at the retreat reiterated that infrastructure development will remain key to the country’s economic growth and it has to remain a priority in the implementation of EDPRS II.

The Minister of infrastructure, Prof. Silas Lwakabamba, pointed out that key priorities for the next five years will include urbanisation, rural resettlement, energy, and transport.

He said that in the spirit of EDPRS II, secondary cities across the country will be developed, financing and supply of affordable housing increased, while infrastructure for the increasing population in urban areas will be improved.

Appropriate transport is also highlighted as a critical focus of infrastructure development and the country will target air cargo among other key components of the transport sector under EDPRS II.

The country’s top leaders have also resolved to continue strengthening an educational policy that promotes vocational training in critical areas of economic development.

For the Minister of Education, Vincent Biruta, Rwandans will have to change their current mindset that lures young people to undermine vocational training, yet it should instead be embraced.

“Youth should know that education is not simply about a degree. Vocational training will be a crucial contribution to achieving the targets set out in EDPRS II,” he said.

The leaders have reiterated the need to continue developing the country’s human resource capacities and a results-oriented style for the public service.

Rwanda will also invest in telling the world what it has to offer and will not let the often “biased” international media and expert reports define its image to the rest of the world, the leaders have decided.

Foreign affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo who is also the government spokesperson, discussed with other leaders the need for Rwanda to tell its own story and define its own image on the global stage rather than rely on often biased international reports.

And President Kagame criticised certain international rankings that claim to have the monopoly of defining what constitutes human rights and often arbitrarily tell Rwandans what they.

“Human rights are rights all of us live, they are not rights people must know because they have been lectured by a handful of people from elsewhere. Human rights issues have become politicized,” he said.

At the end of the retreat, leaders pledged their renewed energy and commitment to better serve Rwandans.

But beyond the pledges, real work lies ahead and it remains defined in the EDPRS II as a medium term strategy for economic growth, poverty reduction and human development.

The first phase of EDPRS which ran from 2008 to 2012 registered positive results with at least one million Rwandans lifted out of poverty and the country’s economic growth kept at an average above 8 percent.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Musanze: Public, private institutions to join for 19th genocide commemoration activities

Public, private institutions to join for 19th genocide commemoration activities
Participants during the meeting

Public and private institutions that existed before 1994 Tutsi genocide has been asked to organise 19th commemoration program and install monuments where possible.
This was revealed during the general meeting that was held on March 26th 2013 in Musanze district to prepare for the 19th genocide commemoration.
During the meeting, religious leaders and youth were asked to embrace commemoration activities basing on their energy.
Vincent Ndayambaje, vice mayor for social affairs in Musanze district said: “Every Rwandan is called on to participate in these activities including religious leaders.”
He told youth though they pay less attention to the government’s programs implementation, it should be different in times of genocide commemoration.
Primary and secondary schools in Musanze district were asked to take part in genocide commemoration so as to make youth and students understand more the effect of genocide.

TVET schools in technology competition

Joel Manishimwe (R) prepares his robot during the innovation contest yesterday. 
The Workforce Development Authority (WDA) has convened the fourth contest pitting robots developed from eight schools under the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

The competition, which was held in Kigali, was also facilitated by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and besides the vocational schools, also attracted Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).

According to WDA, the contest was organised to provide opportunities for students to put their acquired engineering skills into practice, thus contributing to the strengthening of practical skills under TVET institutions, universities and higher learning institutions.

“This competition is a success story for WDA as well as JICA. This is the fourth one, meaning that we are creating an avenue for the students to show and vanish their practical knowledge,” said Kobayashi Hiroyuki, the JICA country representative.  

Although the level of technology is still low, Hiroyuki  said, with experience, the young scientists will achieve more. He said the competition was another way for scientists to have fun. 

The winners of the competition will represent the country in a similar regional competition, which will take place in Nairobi in May this year.

Maurice Beza, of Tumba College of Technology, said the hands-on experience boosts students’ chances of becoming entrepreneurs.

Regional journalists train in peace reporting

At least 30 journalists from three regional states, on Wednesday, completed a two-day training to build their capacity to report and promote peace.

Organised by Never Again Rwanda, the conference in Kigali attracted journalists from Burundi, DR Congo and the host country, Rwanda.  

The conference was also aimed at enabling media practitioners to effectively contribute towards building a strong foundation of ‘Never Again Genocide’ ahead of the 19th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Big role to play

Speaking during the event, Jean Baptiste Hategekimana, the coordinator of Peace Building Programme at Never Again Rwanda, said media practitioners, especially those in broadcasting, should play a lead role in informing the population of what is expected of them.

“The media played a big role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, meaning that the media is the right tool in promoting unity and reconciliation so that what happened can never happen again in Rwanda but also in the region and beyond,” said Hategekimana.  

He said the conference is one initiative developed to build capacity for journalists to use the effects of the tragedy to educate and sensitise the population to work as a team in contributing towards the country’s development.

“In Rwanda, 70 per cent of the population listen to the radio; meaning that it is an effective communication channel through which even those in rural areas can easily get the information,” he said.


Media practitioners had time to discuss a wide range of issues, basically on reporting about conflict zones as well as peace media in the region.

David Ndagano of Masion de la Presse Kivu in DR Congo shared his experience on conflict-sensitive radio journalism in the Great Lakes region.

“As reporters, we must be objective and accountable to citizens of our respective countries; meaning that our duties should be in line with promoting peace in the region,” he said.  

Participants said the initiative will bring about a common understanding and reporting about genocide commemoration in the region as well as encouraging or leading the media to effectively contribute towards peace building.

Media stakeholders discuss Access to Information Law

A cameraman at work. Access to Information Law is still being streamlined to appeal to the media.
A workshop by various partners was held Tuesday to discuss the content of the Access to Information Law, which came into force recently.

The law that eases access to public information, whether held by public or private institutions, saw Rwanda becoming the 11th African country with that kind of legislation that seeks to ease the work of media practitioners. 

The meeting discussed drafts of several ministerial orders that will complement the law, including the confidentiality clause. It was organised by the Rwanda Governance Board and chaired by the Ombudsman’s office, which will oversee its implementation. 

Other orders include the proactive disclosure by State organs, the time limit for such disclosures and the charges where necessary.

Speaking after the meeting, Xavier Mbarubukeye, the permanent secretary in the Ombudsman’s office, said the discussions were timely. 

“Through these meetings, we are gaining knowledge and borrowing ideas on how we will operate and implement the law,” Mbarubukeye said. 

Henry Maina, the director of the media watchdog Article19 Eastern Africa, who also attended the meeting, said it is crucial that after the law was gazetted, the ministerial orders are being drafted to ensure expeditious implementation. 

“With some of the draft ministerial orders, more work have to be done, like the one talking about fact disclosure or lack of security. If you look at the one of proactive disclosure, the main challenge is that there is no clarity on the procedure to be taken by each agency or organisation to be allowed to develop its own procedure. That could be dangerous because there won’t be uniformity in what is being done,” Maina revealed. 

He said Rwanda could borrow from the Liberian Freedom of Information Act, which is clear on what can be done on the proactive disclosure. 

“Given the histories of the two countries, then there wouldn’t be much to be changed that’s within an African context and a country in transition from an unfortunate historical moment,” he said.

Representatives of security organs promised to work with relevant drafting organs to define what was restricted, or confidential information.

Govt retreat opens with call for better coordination

President Kagame and Prime Minister Habumuremyi during the National Leadership Retreat yesterday. 
President Paul Kagame has called on public officials to perfect the art of coordination and communication among themselves as the country embarks on the implementation of a major five-year development agenda.

The President made the remarks while addressing 300 national and local leaders at the opening of the 10th National Leadership Retreat at Gabiro School of Infantry in Gatsibo District, Eastern Province.

He noted that without coordination and teamwork among government agencies and other actors, the country would not achieve the targeted 11.5 per cent annual growth rate as envisaged under the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) II.

“Without working together, we will not achieve our full potential and will not reach the targets we have set for ourselves. If you don’t let your strengths complement each other, we will only achieve a small percentage of our goals,” Kagame said.

“We must improve on working one can achieve results without working as part of a team.”

The President added that while government officials have generally understood what they needed to do, they are at times unable to translate plans into actions.

“We must increase our ability to move from words to action, from plans to implementation and achieve results.”

Kagame emphasised that Rwanda is in position to deliver double digit annual growth rate considering that the country had maintained an average of eight per cent growth rate over the past few years, including last year when donors withheld or cut aid over allegations of Kigali’s support to a rebel group in the neighbouring DRC.

Leaders must believe

The President pointed out that this ambition (11.5 percent growth rate) was informed by the country’s unique context and experience, drawing parallels with countries which may be content with achieving as little as 1 per cent of growth rate.

Rwanda is bidding to become a middle income economy by 2020, and this will require the country’s GDP per capita to increase from the current $644 to $1,240.

The President urged the leaders to believe in achieving what the government has set its sights on.

“We can’t accept to be hostages of pity; you have to believe that we can aspire, that we can achieve; we can’t be leaders who don’t believe because that means the country won’t believe,” he said, adding that the retreat was an opportunity to “renew our resolve” to deliver the desired results.

“This is not just another holiday, its time and space to think and to believe.”

DRC crisis
The Head of State also talked of the injustices meted out on Rwanda with regard to the DRC crisis, particularly recalling a high-level UN meeting on the Congo crisis on September 27, last year, in New York, which he said had been called to “hang” Rwanda.

He called on Rwandans not to cower in the wake of the consequences of “other people’s actions”, saying that the people of Rwanda played no role in making Rwandophones the citizens of the Congo.

“The Rwandaphones living in the Congo, the question is who took them there?” he asked.

Kinyarwanda-speaking communities in the Congo have for decades been the centre of bloody tensions, with politicians in Kinshasa sometimes questioning the former’s legitimacy as Congolese citizens.

The colonial Berlin Conference of 1884 significantly reduced Rwanda’s territory, with several Rwandans effectively becoming citizens of neighbouring countries, including the Congo.

The alleged exclusion and persecution of Rwandophones in the Congo form part of the grievances of the M23 rebels, who took up arms against President Joseph Kabila’s government a year ago, after the former accused Kinshasa of reneging on a peace deal under which fighters in an earlier rebellion had been absorbed in the national army.

Kagame said: “Assuming Rwanda contributed to DRC’s problems, say 10 per cent of those problems, should we take responsibility for all their problems?...Why hang Rwanda? Why not hang the Congolese?”

He said Rwanda was being punished for standing up for its rights. 

“Some look at Rwanda as a country that wants too much independence and stands in the way of certain interests. We cannot be people who accept to be submissive,” he said drawing loud applause from the audience.

“Without self reliance, some will feel they have the right to make you carry their burden and blame you for their failure,” the President said. “We are not different, we have the same aspirations (as other people).

Citing the current crises in Mali and the Central African Republic, President Kagame faulted some African leaders who accept to be used by the West, only to be eventually overthrown by “thugs”, who end up raping and killing people.

“Africans, you cannot accept this, you are worth more than that. Well, I can’t speak for others, but as Rwanda, we should not accept this...You want to decide for us and tell us how we should live our lives? Why? Who are you?”

Cost-effective venue

The three-day retreat, held under the theme, Working Together to Deliver EDPRS II, will focus on strategies to accelerate growth and achieve the targets set out in the country’s economic blueprint.

In his report to the retreat, Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi said 11 per cent of the recommendations from last year’s Leadership Retreat was yet to be achieved, and specifically cited pending programmes under the ministries of Health, Infrastructure, Local Government, and Finance.

It is expected the energy shortage, as was the case last year, will be a major topic at this retreat, along with the acute need for skills development.

The Leadership Retreat is one of the home-grown solutions that Rwanda has adopted to accelerate the country’s development and generally improve the well being of the citizens.

In the past, the Abayobozi (leaders) used to go into seclusion to reflect and then return with solutions.

This is the second time the annual retreat, also known as Umwiherero, is taking place in a government facility, away from the flashy hotels which previously used to host these meetings at a huge financial cost.

Last year’s retreat was held at the Rwanda Military Academy – Gako in Bugesera District.

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