My name is Patricia Muhongerwa. I am the deputy Mayor in Kigali city. I am glad you chose to visit Kigali.
DANG: Thank you. Tell me about your career, why did you get into politics?
I did not start out to become the deputy mayor or a politician. My thoughts were I would remain a social counsellor and evangelist. However, my career path as always been along the path of a social worker. I once worked with an organisation that took children off the streets, I also worked as a customer care in a hospital, it was from the hospital I began to have the ambition to become a minister. I began to pronounce it and that attracted it to me.
DANG: okay, that’s fantastic. Is there anything special from when you started the social work, is that where you picked up your manifestos about caring for children majorly and making sure, there are no children on the streets of Kigali?.
One of the tasks assigned to me when I became the deputy mayor of Kigali was that the city is free of beggars, children and street vendors. I won’t say I was the one who achieved that, but God through his people that during my tenure the city became free of all these things. There was a time there were so many street vendors and beggars but today we don’t see them. The city’s vision line is “we shall become a city of urban excellence in Africa”
DANG: So, the position of the deputy mayor is like an employee, not political by-elections into office?
Dep. Mayor: Yes, people vote. It’s according to your position.
DANG: Is Kigali clean because of health purposes or is it clean to attract tourist?
In Kigali two things are important; Safety for the people and Cleanliness of the city. On the streets, you will see green leaves, trees, palm fronds, flowers and more. We hire contractors for trimming and planting and watering palm fronds, trees and flowers. During the night they sweep and mop the streets especially during the dry seasons, and when everyone wakes up they think it is a gift from God which is not the case, we’ve just committed ourselves to this purpose.
Cleanliness for us is both for health and beautification purposes. Cleanliness begins at home, we teach our citizens to be clean at home, keep the roads clean and also, we teach cleanliness in schools. Every week we have contractors collect rubbish and waste from all homes. Weekly inspections are conducted to ensure all citizens abide by this.
DANG: Do you tell them when you are coming?
No, often we go unannounced, to catch them unawares, to see how they do things before inspection. We commend them, but in the case whereby, our requirements aren’t met by a school we close such schools down.
DANG: What are your thoughts about Nigeria and Nigerians as well.
Dep. Mayor: In Rwanda, we see Nigerians as capable people if only they sit together to brainstorm on how they can improve the lives of their people.
We have the City Council meeting and every year when we are planning our budget year, we visit the grassroots. We meet and ask them what they want us to do for them if they want roads if they want water, whichever infrastructure, they just propose it and we do it for them
I believe this can also be done in Nigeria. I think things will begin little by little but it begins from the constitution. What does your constitution say? Are your people following it? From the constitution, many laws are developed by the parliamentarians. Are they doing it right? And if they do, is the execution part being done right? It is all about responsibility, accountability, ownership and then the heart at the end of it all, Do I love the country? Do I have it at heart or I’m pursuing my personal interests? I am not saying that’s what happening in Nigeria, but it does happen also or everywhere. So, when people agree together, to do things together, things get done and you can’t do it all in 1year but you can build a strategic vision.
To be honest, there’s nothing I can say about Nigeria because I haven’t been there.
DANG: This has been very educating for me. I hope that when we go back and talk about this, there will be changes and maybe Nigeria is not too faraway from change, maybe our leaders will ask people who have done it well, ask them how they did it and adopt it because some of the things you’ve said are very far-fetched going to the villages to ask questions, we don’t do that, we don’t even have council meeting so we need to start from the beginning and now the only means available to people is social media, complaining to their own family and that doesn’t make any difference. I think that we have learned a lot from you and when we go back, we have this discussion and work from there.
Dep. Mayor: You know it all has to come from the head. It’s about leadership what are the leaders doing to make the country a better place, what are the examples they are showing the citizens. If from 8-11am on sanitation day, the President joins in community cleaning, why won’t ministers and every member of the parliament engage in sanitation? This then brings about a collective engagement of the people