“Each and every one of you must understand that this army will be the foundation of the transformation of our nation.” These words were delivered by the Commander-in-Chief, H.E President Paul Kagame way back in 1992, as he was addressing members of the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) during the liberation struggle.
Almost 25 years later, Nizeyimana Adele, a resident of Nyamagabe district attests to how what was promised by President Kagame and the RPA has become a reality today; she says: “It was impossible for traders to cross some impassable pathways in Nyamagabe. It was also difficult for Musebeya residents to reach Kigeme and Butare Hospitals. Ambulances could not cross Rukarara Bridge from Buruhukiro Sector and so used to stop at either sides of the bridge for onward transfer of patients. Many people would lose life in the process. But now you see, vehicles are smoothly crossing the bridge and trade is booming, with many nascent businesses springing up.”
That, and more similar testimonies are a telling register of how RDF, in partnership with other government institutions, has been at the fore protecting Rwanda’s interests, territorial integrity, vital resources, people and shared values.
RDF has registered enormous successes and taken giant strides in improving the welfare of all Rwandans through the civil military activities, impacting the people of Rwanda and the country’s economy.
In his speech to RDF Officers in 2005, at RDF headquarters, the RDF Commander in Chief stated that, “the role of RDF will be meaningless, if it does not ensure human security. The RDF’s constitutional mandate of protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity are valueless, if they do not translate into sustainable security for our people”.
Caption:Chief of Defence Staff of RDF Gen Patrick Nyamvumba (far right) and other officials including Minister for Infrastructure James Musoni, during Army Week 2017 Launch, 4 May at Umushumba Mwiza marshland, Kicukiro District
It is from the above strategic guidance that, when the guns fell silent, after stopping the Genocide against the Tutsi, the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) received a legal mandate to support and contribute to government’s efforts aiming at combatting poverty, infrastructure development, health care, education and all activities meant for addressing human security challenges.
Army Week: Serving the marginalized
The Army Week was conceived in 2009 to support national development agenda; improve rural economic transformation, healthcare and poverty reduction programs; fighting environmental degradation; enhance civil-military cooperation and promote food security.
During the Army Week, which usually runs beyond the calendar week, a number of social protection activities are carried out by the RDF throughout the country benefiting, especially, the marginalized.
During the Army week 2017 that started on 4 May 2017, and which was organised in partnership with other government institutions, a number of activities have been carried out, benefiting to hundreds of thousands of people.
Medical services have especially been delivered to the citizens, in different areas of medical needs with a total of 114,354 patients treated, free of charge, in all districts of the country. 10,746 cases have been attended in Orthopedics; 26,806 cases in Dental; 11,086 cases in ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat); 36,492 cases in Ophthalmology; 5,706 cases in Gynecology&Obstetrics ; 121 cases in oral maxillo facial. About 12,810 male circumcision cases have been performed; 10,587 people have undergone VCT (voluntary counseling and testing) HIV sessions and 1,368 blood Units were donated by RDF military personnel. So far, all the above medical services have been provided, free of charge, at different Hospitals and Health Centres across the country.
Specialised healthcare offered in remote places
At Munini Hospital, Nyaruguru District, Kwitonda Alphonsine said she had lost hope when her 3-year child got a complication in one of his testicles. “I was worried about the fate for my child. I had no means to foot medical bills for his treatment. Fortunately, I was informed that military medical doctors were coming to offer free medical services here. This is how I reached Munini Hospital where my child is now having a medical operation. I am sure he will soon recover because he is in good hands,” narrates Kwitonda.
Dr. Munyaneza Robert from Butare University Teaching Hospital, currently supporting Army Week outreach program said the child was suffering from a complication that called for orchidopexy operation which was successfully done. “It is important that during the Army Week we, specialized doctors, bring our services to remote areas, saving the ordinary poor people from struggling to access our services. So far the results are very encouraging,” explains Dr. Munyaneza, who, in five days at Munini Hospital attended to 300 patients among whom 40 underwent surgical operations.
Infrastructure and welfare
During this year Army Week, RDF launched countrywide quick impact projects worth 250 million Rwf. The projects include among others water supply to the population, construction of nursery schools and roads rehabilitation as well as health posts.
Infrastructure development and descent accommodation initiatives during the 2017 Army Week have seen 392 bridges rehabilitated across the country, about 401km of feeder roads rehabilitated, 2890 houses constructed and completion of 47 classrooms. Three (03) health posts and 117 rooms for health counselors were constructed in Huye District and Eastern Province respectively.
Water and Sanitation facilities put in place during the army week include; 24,589 toilets and 9.2 Km of water supply points were connected in Nyagatare, Nyanza, Rulindo and Huye while one water tap was constructed in Northern Province.
Energy saving cook stoves numbering to 682 have been constructed in Rutsiro. Six playing grounds have been rehabilitated in Northern and Western provinces.
During this year Army Week, officers and men supported agriculture, marshland and hillsides farming at 5,792 Ha; sweet potatoes cultivated at 81 Ha, vegetables planted at 40 Ha, terracing was done at 40 Ha and anti-erosive trenches rehabilitated at 25 Ha. Other activities conducted include; construction of 658 cow sheds and the successful fight against such pests and diseases as; armyworm outbreak on about 5,602 ha countrywide, “kirabiranya” at 378ha and cassava mosaic virus eradication at 113ha.
Through Horizon SOPYRWA, RDF has been supportive in the manufacturing of fertilizers and pesticides, some of which was used in the fight against armyworms that had attacked maize plantations.
Other activities in countryside have included among others; banana pruning at 549 Ha, coffee plantations rehabilitation at 375 Ha and 09 water dams were constructed.
The RDF Chief of Defense Staff, General Patrick Nyamvumba summarizes the objectives of the Force’s interventions in no uncertain terms: “Liberation started as an armed struggle that has ended several years ago. But as is often stated, true liberation should be about providing the people, whom we are part of, with good standards of living.”