Last week, while walking past the work canteen I was called over by a small group of people and then, not surprisingly anymore, promptly blamed for getting the ball rolling on the car-free zone concept. Tired of having to explain myself I was about to walk away when one of them said something that stopped me in my tracks and got me thinking. “If your writing is making us sweat (by forcing them to walk in town instead of drive around in their air-conditioned jeeps), then help us at least bathe after at least”.
For weeks now, people have been tweeting me, asking me to write about the water shortage in Kigali. I’d chosen not to because I felt that I couldn’t really add anything to the conversation. After all, the issue was quite obvious in my estimation. Or at least I thought so.
I assumed that only few issues caused the water shortage.
First of all, water production. According to the Water and Sanitation Corporation Limited (WASAC), it can only presently avail 65,000 cubic metres of water per day against the demand of 110,000 cubic metres per day. In other words, only about half of Kigali’s water needs are being met by WASAC and that means that close to 500,000 residents cannot have a stable source of clean drinking water.
Secondly, damaged and old piping. The vast majority of our water network is decades old. That means that the pipes are more likely to burst simply because they are ancient. I’ve read a statistic somewhere that states that almost a quarter of our water is lost through seepage. WASAC isn’t the only one to blame here. I cannot count the number of times I’ve driven past a road and seen clean water gushing out of a broken pipe. All because a road crew didn’t do its homework and figure out where the pipes were.
The last reason why I thought Kigali residents went weeks on end without water was because of the topography of our city. I assumed that those who lived closer to the valleys had a more reliable supply of water than residents living in higher places such as Rebero because of gravity.
Guess my surprise when I discovered that none of the above reasons explained why some neighborhoods had water almost all the time (like mine in Gishushu), while others have gone weeks on end (like Kimironko).
Speaking to people, they asked why some people seemed to have a greater right to a regular supply of water than others. Why didn’t I, living in Gishushu, go more than a day or two without water? Did I pay more taxes? Why weren’t we able to share this scarce resource more equitably?
I suggest to WASAC that they begin actually systematically providing water to different neighborhoods in a scheduled manner. And then tell people that they have done so by disseminating that information using both their social media accounts and traditional media.
If they don’t do something like that, something that is transparent and known by everyone, people will have no choice but to believe that some Rwandans are more special than others. And that is unacceptable to not only me but it also goes against everything post-1994 Rwanda is all about.
What can Rwanda teach Africa about retaining its youngest and brightest?
Rwandan youth groups in Canada are organizing, in conjunction with our High Commission in Ottawa, the first International Rwanda Youth for Development in Montreal from 25-27 September this year.
In the words of Moses Gashirabike,”the convention will discuss and propose solutions for encouraging more Rwandan youth to participate in their country’s economic development”.
The meeting in Canada is only one of the many meetings that young Rwandans have with senior government officials both within and outside the country. In these meetings young people are allowed to ask questions, challenge policies and understand their country better. They are treated with respect and shown that they are important.
In the civil service and the armed forces, young people are trusted with the levers of power. They are not left endlessly knocking on the doors of leadership, waiting their turn while elderly men (and women) toddle about, regaling them with tales of what they did during the struggle while asking them to “stop being so impatient”.
Which is why when the recent WEF (World Economic Forum) Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015 was published, Rwanda was ranked number one in Africa in its ability to retain its top talent.
Young people know that if they work hard in school and show good aptitude, the very sky is the limit. They know that they don’t have to swim across the Mediterranean Sea to get a chance of a good life. They know nothing is stopping them from getting one here at home.