Posts tagged as: rwandan

We Believe in Building Bridges With All Peoples – First Lady

By Athan Tashobya

The First Lady, Mrs Jeannette Kagame, has said Rwanda believes in building bridges with all peoples and cultures, despite, or perhaps because of a past marked by exclusion for many Rwandans.

“Today, Africans who come to Rwanda receive visas upon arrival, while non-Africans are issued visas with ease, through online services, and based on reciprocal agreements with their respective countries. As a rule, we believe in building bridges with all peoples and cultures, despite, or perhaps because of, a past marked by exclusion for many of us, who grew up in Rwanda or in exile,” she said.

The First Lady made the remarks yesterday while delivering her speech on unity and reconciliation, under the theme: “Opportunities in the age of uncertainty,” at Global Citizen Forum in Montenegro.

The forum, which is attended by various global leaders, visionaries and entrepreneurs, is a platform for exchange, to educate, develop and promote Global Citizenship as a way of life.

The First Lady said there is more to be gained at a human and economic level by opening up to others, noting it is the reason Rwanda made a conscious decision to allow dual citizenship, and to advocate for a no-visa policy within Africa.

She also explained why government worked toward repatriation of Rwandan refugees, by establishing socio-economic programmes facilitating their return, ahead of the cessation clause of Rwandan refugee status, set for the end of December 2017.

The First Lady said, after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwandans embraced a new mindset, which empowered them with the ability to shape their future.

“We viewed education as a powerful tool, able to drive the advancement of entire communities, so we also focused on increasing the number of primary, secondary, and tertiary education institutions to help realise the economic and social transformation, envisioned in our national development plans,” said Mrs Kagame.

“Whereas in the pre-1994 era, Rwanda only saw about 2,500 university graduates through the years; the post-1994 era saw increased concerted efforts between government and civil society, to put in place 46 public and private tertiary education institutions, allowing close to 100,000 students to become university graduates.”

In this new era, she said, the nation also privileged a mindset framed in the country’s broader transformation into an open society, where unnecessary boundaries were dissolved.

This, she said, also took the form of a ‘rapprochement’ with the country’s larger African family and the rest of the world, by making it easier to travel to, and do business in Rwanda.

Protecting the populace

The First Lady noted that Rwanda’s terrible past shaped the attitude towards other global conflicts, playing its part in the protection of other threatened populations.

“We have, for instance, welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees and provided them with access to the same education and health services that our citizens benefit from, as we believe that refugees or not, they are human beings, who deserve nothing less than to be treated with dignity.”

Rwanda is also one of the leading troop contributors to the UN and African Union peacekeeping missions, ranking as the fifth largest contributor at the global level, and second in Africa.

“Ownership, responsibility and connectedness are as many values that make us good citizens, as they qualify us as good global citizens. In Rwanda, cultural values and tenets underpin the principles of political and economic governance, and guide the formulation of key policies and programmes,” added Mrs Kagame.

She stressed the need to continue to push the boundaries of division, advocate for empathy and inclusion, require leaders to be accountable to the level of responsibility attached to their office, and ultimately, act upon the certainty that ‘It’s never too late to be what you should have been.’

Riviera High School Club Wins Swimming Competition

By Jejje Muhinde

Riviera High School Swimming Club were crowned champions of a one-day swimming competition organised by Thousand Kilo’s Women Canoe and Aquatic Swimming Club on Saturday at Hill Top Hotel, Remera.

Riviera Club took the winner’s trophy after four of their swimmers dominated the mixed 200m relay free style category beating Hill Top and Lycee De Kigali Swimming Clubs that came second and third, respectively.

Riviera swimmers including; Cleon Sexerano, Noella Mutabazi, Daniel Audra Casillas Iyongere and Nelly Ange, finished top in different age group categories.

Hill Top Swimming Club won the boys’ 6-15 years (50m breaststroke) category, with Chris Noah clocking 30 seconds to finish ahead of Alex Kamali (32 secs) from Vision Club and Waridi Nshimiyimana, who finished third in 35 seconds.

The 16 and above years girls’ 100m break stroke category was claimed by Claudette Iradukuda from Karongi Swimming club, who clocked 3 minutes and 28 seconds, while the boys’ category was won by Steven Rukundinka from CBS in 2 minutes and 37seconds.

Over 40 participants took part in the competition whose objective was to attract and encourage more women to join the sport, according to Thousand Kilo’s Women Canoe and Aquatic Swimming Club Secretary General, Luvarie Uwambajimana.

He said: “Because of our culture, some (Rwandan) women fear to expose their bodies in public, and I think, for this reason, they don’t take up the sport, so we tend to educate and encourage more girls to take up the sport, that’s why we formed this club as women to inspire others.”

Rwandan Swimming Federation president, Samuel Kinimba Ufitimana, thanked the organisers, the sponsors as well as encouraged participants, who did not finish on the podium to train harder for the next competitions.


Hilton Shopping for a Second Hotel in Rwanda – Official

Global hotel franchise, Hilton Hotel, last week announced its debut into the Rwandan market by adding Ubumwe Grand Hotel… Read more »

Patriots Dismiss Reports of Signing Ruhezamihigo

By Richard Bishumba

Patriots Basketball Club have refuted reports that Rwandan international Hamza Ruhezamihigo has joined the club for the 2017/2018 season.

The point-guard was part of Patriots’ roaster that finished second at the just concluded FIBA Africa Zone V Club Championships in Kampala, Uganda, which fueled speculation that he has signed for the league playoffs champions.

However, Patriots head Coach Henry Mwinuke, told Times Sport on Wednesday that reports of Ruhezamihigo’s signing are false.

“We have not signed him (Ruhezamihigo), we never even attempted to. He was with us in Kampala as a support player only for Zone V tournament, not as a new signing for the club. Any source suggesting otherwise is misleading,” the Tanzanian-born trainer said.

Mwinuke added that, “Ruhezamihigo still has a contract to honour in Canada. After he is through with what he is here for, which is none of our business, he will go back.”

The 2016 local league champions, Patriots, alongside APR women’s basketball team, represented Rwanda at the annual regional championship that run from October 1 to 7.

In addition to Ruhezemihigo, Patriots’ 13-man squad for the regional championships included other players from rivals clubs, like; Espoir captain Olivier Shyaka and Rwanda Energy Group’s centre Kami Kabange. Patriots lost 59-85 to Uganda’s City Oilers in the final. The Rwandan team won 4 games and lost 2, both defeats against City Oilers, in the group stage and final.

Commenting about the performance in Kampala, Mwinuke said, “We did the best we could, my boys gave it their all, individually and collectively. City Oilers were totally better than us and deserved the title, home advantage also favoured them.”

The week-long East Africa’s flagship showpiece was retained by City Oilers (Uganda) in men’s category and KPA of Kenya in women’s fray.

Both teams qualified to represent the region at the 2018 FIBA Africa Club Championship set for December in Casablanca, Morocco.


Bail Hearing for Rwigara Family Members Pushed for Third Time

The Nyarugenge Intermediate Court on Wednesday adjourned, for the third time, the pre-trial hearing of Anne Rwigara,… Read more »

Archaeologists Discover Ancient King’s Artifact

Photo: Faustin Niyigena/New Times

Ntagwabira and one of the two professional Rwandan archaeologists scrub soil from the former king’s palace for sample analysis.

By Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti

A team of archaeologists are excavating a place believed to have been palace for former Rwandan kings in Karongi District in search of artifact that can help tell the country’s history.

The place of interest is located in Rubengera Sector in Western Province. The archaeologists have already come across some pieces of old objects from the former residence of King Kigeri IV Rwabugiri, who reigned from 1853 to 1895.

The objects are expected to reveal the king’s lifestyle and rituals that used to take place at the royal palace.

Rwabugiri had many residences around the country, including on the shores of Lake Kivu that specifically served him in preparation of military expeditions, across the lake.

According to museum officials, Rubengera royal residence was built in 1874 after the king’s military expedition in Butembo (DR Congo).

The site stands out for two reasons.

It is a place where king Rwabugiri regularly celebrated the Harvest Day (Umuganura).

Most of the military expeditions the king conducted in Congo (Bunyabungo and Ijwi Island) and other related rituals during which the warriors recounted their feasts to the king, were organised at Rubengera, according to officials.

On the shores of Lake Kivu, around Rubengera royal residence, there is a place that was reserved for Rwabugiri’s military ‘flotilla’ or war boats at the time, as well as a place where warriors camped waiting for the D-Day for recounting feasts at the royal palace.

According to André Ntagwabira, a research fellow in Archaeology who leads the team, the excavation exercise started two weeks ago aimed at getting archaeological information that would be analysed, documented and preserved for the current and future generations to learn more about Rwanda’s history.

Historians say there are shortcomings of oral tradition as a source of history such as bias and exaggeration, among others. That is why it is important for historians to carry out research and document history for current and future generations, according to Ntagwabira.

“We are conducting archaeological excavations here, we want to write the history of this site, what happened at the royal court, various rituals which were conducted at the royal court so that we may build database which will be used to promote cultural tourism at Rubengera site,” he told The New Times.

Ntagwabira said the retrieved information will be used for publications of articles, books with summarised information which will be provided to tourists.

“We are going to preserve materials that will be excavated here because this is our heritage. Archaeological records are very interesting and must be protected and preserved for present and future generations,” Ntagwabira.

King Rwabugiri is the second famous king of Rwanda after Ruganzu Ndoli.

“Rwabugiri had many royal palaces but this one was very interesting as the king celebrated harvest day seven times and it is the palace that hosted such an event more often,” he said.

New discoveries so far

Ntagwabira said they first identified the site as part of a move to build national database of different cultural heritage sites that can be preserved and promoted for cultural tourism in Rwanda.

The second phase, he said, was to gather oral traditions from the site by talking to elders while conducting archeological research.

“Here, we are uncovering Intango z’Imitsindo (big pots) that were used for ritual purposes. We have seen two of them, we were told they were three, so we are looking for the third one,” he said.

He said the field is fruitful as they had discovered postholes that may direct them to the entire structure, the houses and the enclosure.

“Apart from Intango, we are finding other artifacts which may give us information on how the structure was, enclosures, houses built around… “

“Inside Intango, we found other objects like small bones, small objects made from quartzite, beads which we can consider now as Imitsindo because they were also found in another grave of former King Kirima Rujugiro. That is interesting because if you have found materials in one king’s grave and you find them in another site, which was inhabited by the former king, it is very interesting,” says Ntagwabira.

Another part of interest is where the royal place was built.

Around the place, there is a mountain, named ‘Ijuru’ by locals and it is believed to be the place where people who protected the king lived.

What is the way forward?

Ntagwabira said a big part of Rwandan history is known through oral traditions.

“The archeological resources we are looking for will help us know the exact version of our history because oral tradition would be changed or forgotten as people cannot be able to remember things which happened four hundred, five hundred years ago, but these materials will help us have a well-researched version with supporting materials,” he notes.

“The way forward is that, after excavating Rubengera, we are going to publish on Rubengera and the institute of museum will work with other stakeholders to develop this site for tourism purpose,” he said.

Pending sites

Other sites which were excavated are Bushenge in Nyamasheke District where previous publications in 1987 by the Whiteman mislead the public that people did not practice iron smelting while recent one proved that eople could smelt.

Another site is Masangano and Musanze caves in Burera, among others.

“Because of those data, that project helped us know the whole sequence of early iron age, middle iron age and late iron age in Rwanda whereas before those excavations we knew only the early iron age and stone age in Rwanda,” he said.

He said that the sector is a new field in Rwanda because it was not developed previously. The first research was carried out by people from outside the country who took the objects in Europe.

Currently, Rwanda has only two qualified archaeologists.

The country, according to Jerome Karangwa, the director of research and publications unit at the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda, such research help the institute combine both oral and written history.

“The next phase will be to make this site a cultural based tourism site, we will construct this site in a form of former King’s palace and bring other objects that will attract tourists,” said Karangwa.

There are more than 500 heritage sites in Rwanda and few of them have been excavated, there are more than 100 royal places of which one is being excavated.

According to Karangwa, the sector lacks qualified employees and they are planning trainings to build human resource capacity.

Kagame’s Forces Linked to Former President’s Killing

Photo: Wikimedia

Former President Juvenal Habyarimana.

French investigators have questioned a new witness who implicates Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s forces in the 1994 killing of former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, which sparked the genocide of Tutsis by members of the Hutu majority, leaving an estimated 800,000 people dead.

The witness, who has been questioned twice but has not been named, says he helped load two surface-to-air missiles at the headquarters of Kagame’s Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) to be taken to Kigali, where they were allegedly used to take down Habyarimana’s plane.

He also says that two men, Franck Nziza and Eric Hakizimana, later told him they had fired the missiles.

The French judiciary, which is acting on a legal complaint from French citizens killed aboard Habyarimana’s plane, decided in October 2016 to reopen its investigation into the assassination.

Defence minister charged in France

So far a total of seven people have been charged in France over the deaths, including Rwanda’s current Defence Minister James Kabarebe.

The witness says that he was part of Kabarebe’s bodyguard at the time and that Kabarabe boasted about the success of a mission on the date of the killing.

Investigating magistrate Clément Herbo has ordered a confrontation between the witness and Kabarebe and Nziza in December.

The man claims to have taken refuge in Uganda after being ordered to eliminate a colleague working in the missiles section of the RPF’s headquarters.

The Rwandan government has rejected all accusations of RPF involvement, claiming that the missile was fired by a hardline Hutu faction in the army of the time

.A Rwandan investigation has accused 22 French army officers of involvement in the genocide.


Unlawful Military Detention, Torture

Rwanda’s military has routinely unlawfully detained and tortured detainees with beatings, asphyxiations, mock… Read more »

Unlawful Military Detention, Torture

press release

Brussels — Rwanda’s military has routinely unlawfully detained and tortured detainees with beatings, asphyxiations, mock executions, and electric shocks, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 91-page report, “‘We Will Force You to Confess’: Torture and Unlawful Military Detention in Rwanda,” documents unlawful detention in military camps and widespread and systematic torture by the military. Human Rights Watch found that judges and prosecutors ignored complaints from current and former detainees about the unlawful detention and ill-treatment, creating an environment of total impunity. Rwandan authorities and United Nations bodies should investigate immediately.

“Research over a number of years demonstrates that military officials in Rwanda can use torture whenever they please,” said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Impunity for unlawful detention and the systematic use of torture has led many victims to give up all hope for justice.”

Human Rights Watch has confirmed 104 cases of people who were illegally detained, and in many cases tortured or ill-treated, in Rwandan military detention centers between 2010 and 2016. The total number is most likely much higher, due to the secret nature of the abuses and many former detainees’ fear of reprisals. Human Rights Watch has received several credible reports of cases in 2017, indicating that these violations have continued.

Most victims appear to have been detained on suspicion of being members of, or working with, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda, FDLR). Some members of the predominantly Rwandan Hutu armed opposition group, based in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The group has committed, and continues to commit, horrific abuses against Congolese civilians in eastern Congo, sometimes in alliance with Congolese armed groups.

Other victims were accused of collaborating with the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), an opposition group in exile composed mainly of former members of Rwanda’s ruling party, or with Victoire Ingabire, president of the Forces démocratiques unifiées (FDU)-Inkingi, a banned opposition party. Ingabire is serving a 15-year prison sentence for conspiracy to undermine the government and genocide denial.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 61 former detainees and more than 160 family members and friends of people who were tortured between 2010 and 2016, as well as government and military officials, some of whom requested anonymity. Human Rights Watch also observed the trials of seven groups of people who said they were tortured while held unlawfully at military detention centers, and reviewed court statements regarding 21 illegal detention cases and statements given in court by 22 people.

In the cases documented, detainees were held at unofficial military detention centers, including the Defence Ministry (known as MINADEF), Kami military camp, Mukamira military camp, a military base known as the “Gendarmerie,” detention centers in Bigogwe, Mudende, and Tumba, and private homes used as detention centers. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any Rwandan laws or statutes allowing detention at these locations.

The Rwandan government did not reply to numerous letters from Human Rights Watch presenting the findings and requesting a response to specific questions. However, the government has publicly asserted, on multiple occasions, that unofficial detention does not exist in Rwanda. With regard to Kami military camp, which is consistently identified as a location where authorities have interrogated and tortured detainees, Justice Minister Johnston Busingye said in March 2016, during a review before the UN Human Rights Committee, that “no interrogation of suspects is carried out” and “no people are imprisoned there.”

Many of the detainees, including civilians and former FDLR combatants, were arrested in Rwanda by Rwandan soldiers, sometimes assisted by police, intelligence, or local government officials. Others were arrested and ill-treated in neighboring Burundi or Congo, some while being processed through the demobilization and repatriation program supported by the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo. They were then illegally transferred to Rwanda, where they were abused.

In most cases, victims were interrogated, ill-treated or tortured, and forced to sign confessions, often based on fabricated allegations, while they were victims of an enforced disappearance. They were then eventually taken before prosecutors, who often pressured suspects to confirm their confessions and, to the best of Human Rights Watch’s knowledge, did not investigate alleged abuses during detention. Some detainees were released as suddenly and as arbitrarily as they had been arrested, often in groups, without any charges or judicial procedure.

Many said that torture sessions began immediately when they arrived at the military detention center. Many were handcuffed while soldiers slapped and punched them or beat them with sticks. “[When we arrived] at Kami, I was still blindfolded,” one former detainee said. “They told me to lie on the ground. Two soldiers stood on me, one on my head and one on my feet. They stood on me and beat me. Then they made me curl up into a ball, tied me up, and pulled my legs and arms. They did this for hours and kept telling me to confess.”

If the suspect failed to give the soldiers the answers they wanted, the beatings continued, often several times a day. Other detainees described asphyxiation, electric shocks, mock executions, and tying objects to men’s genitals. Some detainees’ hands were handcuffed to their legs for months on end, with soldiers only taking the handcuffs off so the men could use the toilet. Many former detainees told Human Rights Watch, prosecutors, or judges that they signed false statements because they could not stand the torture or believed they would die.

The violations are a clear breach of Rwandan and international law, which absolutely prohibit enforced disappearances, arbitrary and unlawful arrest and detention, and the use of torture and other ill-treatment. Under international law, torture and enforced disappearances are crimes subject to universal jurisdiction, meaning any country may prosecute them irrespective of where the crimes took place or the nationality of abuser or victim.

On June 30, 2015, Rwanda ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, allowing visits to detention sites by the protocol’s Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture. The protocol requires governments to set up a national mechanism to prevent torture at the domestic level. The Rwandan government has yet to create it, despite a deadline of one year after ratification. However, a process to establish the mechanism has started. There are indications that Rwanda’s National Commission for Human Rights will manage it. In 2003 the commission investigated some cases of people held in military detention, but has shown a reluctance to do so in recent years.

Human Rights Watch wrote to the commission in January and August, 2017, to share information on torture cases and to request a response to specific questions, but got no response. The commission should demonstrate the independence and courage to investigate these sensitive cases if the national preventive mechanism is to be anything more than a cover for these crimes, Human Rights Watch said.

The subcommittee plans a state visit to Rwanda in mid-October. The Committee Against Torture, the body established by the Convention against Torture to monitor compliance by state parties, will review Rwanda’s compliance later in 2017. The subcommittee should visit areas of unlawful detention and torture, and the committee should ensure that Rwanda takes torture allegations seriously and carries out credible investigations, Human Rights Watch said.

Failing a serious effort by the Rwandan government to confront systematic torture, donors should evaluate financial and other support, including training and capacity-building, to institutions directly involved in these violations.

“The Rwandan government has every right to protect its citizens from armed groups like the FDLR, but allowing the military to commit heinous crimes only creates mistrust in the government,” Sawyer said. “To demonstrate its respect for the rule of law, and to put an end to these horrible practices, the government should immediately investigate and prosecute those responsible for unlawful detention and torture.”

Athlete Muhitira Eyes 20 Kilometres De Paris Glory

By Geoffrey Asiimwe

Long distance runner athlete Felicien Muhitira will make his debut at the 38th edition of the 20 Kilomètres de Paris (Paris 20 km) on Sunday where he’ll be seeking to maintain his impressive form.

The annual race, which holds IAAF Bronze Label Road Race status and always held in October since 1979, takes place on the streets of French capital, Paris, attracting top international athletes from around the world.

Muhitira will compete in the race just six days after winning the 98th edition of Sedan-Charleville race in record breaking time that had stood for 54 years, set by Norman Ameur, who had posted 1:11:08 in 1963.

The Rwandan athletes won the race in 1 hour, 10 minutes and 4 seconds hence becoming the second Rwandan athlete to win it after Dieudonné Disi (now retired), who won it in 2012 after clocking 1h:14′:12″.

A week before last week’s triumph, Muhitira, who races for Italian team Potenza Picenza, had finished fifth in the Le Lion Semi Marathon International after clocking 1 hour, one minute and 56 seconds to set a new personal best, besting his previous personal of 1:02′:31″.

“I feel ready though a bit nervous because race is very gruesome, with top athletes from different parts of the world participating, don’t forget that this will be my first appearance but I believe I can do it,” Muhitira Sunday Sport by phone from Paris on Saturday.

Disi remains the only Rwandan athlete to have won this race when he claimed it in 2009 after posting 59 minutes and 33 seconds.

Muhitira, 22, further noted that, “I will push for a gold medal so as to emulate Disi, who is my role model, in becoming the second Rwandan athlete to win this race.”


20km de Paris 10 a.m


Tears of Joy as Meddy Performs in Huye District

Meddy, arguably the most popular Rwandan singer at the moment, enjoyed a remarkable reunion with his fans from the… Read more »

Govt Will Not Decriminalise Adultery – Minister Busingye

Photo: Leadership
By Eugene Kwibuka

Punishing adultery will be tougher if proposed changes to the country’s Penal Code get the backing of Parliament, the Minister for Justice Johnston Busingye has said.

Busingye told Sunday Times on Friday that under the draft Penal Code approved by a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, adultery will remain a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment among other punishments even if the aggrieved spouse forgives their partner.

The new amendment being proposed by the government is that forgiveness will not stop the prosecution process as has been the case since court will be given a prerogative to continue with the trial or stop it.

The move is aimed at protecting spouses who are offended, start criminal cases and come under family or societal duress, threats, blackmail, intimidation and other forms of pressure to forgive offending spouses to abandon the process.

The minister said that there have been cases where spouses, especially women, when they file a complaint and the suspect is taken in for prosecution, because there is a possibility for forgiveness, the family and the society around or friends use all sorts of pressure to compel the offended partner to forgive.

“We end up having spouses going to court to forgive when this forgiveness is not voluntary and actually forced and procured by influence that has been exerted on the spouse. So, we want it to be the prerogative of the judge to examine whether the forgiveness given is voluntary and without intimidation or blackmail,” he said.

At the moment, the penal code provides that if someone commits adultery, the offence, if proved, can be prosecuted, and the penalty is six months to one year in prison depending on what the judge decides.

The law currently provides that if the aggrieved spouse who has been wronged decides to stop the prosecution, then the cheating spouse is released.

“Our proposal is that the law should remain the way it is but the new thing we are adding is that if a spouse goes to court and says that they forgive their wife or husband, it’s not going to continue to be an absolute stop to prosecution as it has been,” Busingye said.

He said the move intends to protect Rwandan families, which the country’s laws see as the foundation of the nation and deserve to be protected by the state.

“We have a Constitution which makes family the basis of the Rwandan nation and which enjoins the state to protect the family and one of the protections of the family include trying to save it from destruction and one of the things that can destroy the family is adultery,” he said.

The government has approved a draft law that seeks to amend the country’s Penal Code, a step that now means the bill will be tabled in parliament so it can be passed into a law.

The legal document defining crimes and stipulating punishment – is being changed to make it more effective in deterring crime, punishing convicts, and rehabilitating offenders.

It will thus be amended to ensure that issues of drafting and clarity, current offenses and their penalties, as well as new offences in society that need to be penalised are addressed.


Tears of Joy as Meddy Performs in Huye District

Meddy, arguably the most popular Rwandan singer at the moment, enjoyed a remarkable reunion with his fans from the… Read more »

Nyundo School of Art – Where Youth Discover, Hone Talents

By James Karuhanga

Nyundo School of Art and Music is one of a kind, thanks to a unique and prospering music department now set to churn out professionals every year.

The director of its three-year-old music department, Jacques Murigande, alias Mighty Popo, is optimistic that once a new modern recording studio and performance space is set up next year, they will soar.

The department opened doors in March 2014 with 30 students selected after a demanding but thorough countrywide recruitment process.

In an interview with The New Times, Murigande said the idea of the music school started earlier in 2013 as government looked to professionalise the music industry.

“The idea came from the Workforce Development Authority (WDA) through the Technical and Vocational Education and Training project. It was in a plan to alleviate poverty by creating schools that help youth create jobs,” says the man who actually put the concept together.

“I was called to work on it. I did the best I could. It is my idea, supported by government. I’ve always been part of a training movement in music, right from the start of Kigali Up Music Festival. To me, it was a natural move.”

Kigali Up – another initiative Murigande created with help from the Canadian Folk Festival community in 2011 – is a musical festival featuring world music, reggae, funk, blues, hip hop and roots artists from around the globe.

Getting the first students to the Rubavu-based school, he recalls, was no easy task.

“I wanted dedicated students. Our biggest call is to graduate professional musicians who can play music and sing live. Not the kind of play back singing stuff we see everywhere. And I thought about recruiting students from across the country without segregation and discrimination,” Murigande says.

Regarding enrollment criteria, successful applicants must: have had nine-year basic education; completed senior three (general Lower Secondary); show talent or “have passion and basic fundamentals of whatever you want to become,” plus have general or rounded knowledge.

“You don’t want to teach someone to be a professional when this person, for example, doesn’t know who the president of the country is. We don’t have to discriminate though, because sometimes you have someone really talented but who doesn’t know where Ruhengeri was, or Umutara,” he says.

As if to make things worse, right from the start, it was decided that the new department would only enroll 30 students annually. Yet applications would come in hundreds.

“We recruit 30 every year because we don’t have enough facilities. It is a capacity issue. Even these are too many because the TVET system allows only 25. We realised how hungry Rwandan youth were to learn music.”

In Kigali alone, he said, they got 600-plus applications.

“That was in 2013. And the number of applicants has been growing. We realised it was never going to be an easy task. So, the very first 30 we picked were la crème de la crème,” Murigande says.

For teachers, he thought even harder because not just anybody can teach music. “It is vocational, it is educational, and it is training.”

Putting together the team of teachers

With WDA support, Murigande engaged in some head hunting after which potential recruits would officially apply. Eventually, he got the required few and music industry specialists.

Ben Ngabo, alias Kipeti, a local star in drumming and Rwandan traditional music (Gakondo) star was brought in all the way from Belgium; Amiable Nsabayezu, a pastor who owns a private music school in Kigali, came in because “we wanted someone with enough knowledge and understanding of modern music.”

Number three was Janvier Murenzi, a University of Rwanda professor who studied music in France. Though his background is in political science, philosophy and ethics, Murenzi is the school’s expert in music composition, lyrics’ writing, music traditions, and occupational health and safety.

“He came in because he is a choir specialist who knows music, in general.”

Vincent Warui, a Kenyan production instructor, sought for his expertise in using Pro Tools software used in the west and elsewhere in the modern music world, was hired too, in addition to Honore Iyakaremye, another Rwandan expert in music industry business.

Iyakaremye later moved on but was replaced by Uwase Mutimura, an expert in marketing and music business.

Then there was Katherine Uher, a Canadian English language teacher, and Murigande.

“Although I am the manager of the school, I teach. What I don’t touch much on is music theory but I touch on everything else, especially performance. Everything people do on and off stage because what you do offstage as a professional reflects what you do on stage,” he adds, emphasising the music school’s module also instills good ethics and Rwandan ideals and morals.

The pioneer students graduated early last year.

Ngarambe said: “I am so happy they’re all working in studios and elsewhere. They’ve been backing up big stars such as Meddy, and performing at big corporate parties, presidential galas and high-level national events like Kwita Izina.”

“I’m happy to see them making a living as professional musicians. Two of them were retained as teachers.”

One of them, Igor Mabano, released his first single – Ndagutekereza – last Thursday.

Mabano teaches acoustic drumming, traditional drumming, music repertoire, drum notation and performance.

The other, Erasme Kamayirese, teaches hand drumming and performance in traditional music. Both are highly regarded music teachers and musicians in their own right.

“I love music. My dad was a DJ, my mum a traditional music singer. Music has given me everything I have,” Mabano said after his morning class.

Besides teaching he performs with colleagues in the alumni network at big national events and they “make very good money.”

People will hear much more about us

There is a plan to build more classes and about six cubicles on the campus, Ngarambe said, gesturing to indicate the area in the garden where he sat during the interview with The New Times.

A cubicle, he explained, is an isolated area similar to a small music studio where a drummer, for example, can practice without disturbing others in school.

“Everything should be in place by this month next year,” he said.

The project is supported through a partnership with The KfW, a German government-owned development bank, which pledged support for Rwanda’s vocational schools.

Once the new building is up, they will have a performance facility with 200 to 300 sitting capacity and a music recording studio, “and people will hear much more about us.”

“We are still functioning in an ad hoc situation. This is really provisional.”

His music department now has two classrooms and one store for equipment.

The first three promotions of the students were under the pilot project. According to Ngarambe, the WDA fully catered for their tuition and accommodation fees.

The first intake of students paying for themselves begun in January.

What they pay as tuition is same as basic secondary school fees, Murigande said.

“First term is around Rwf110, 000 because it includes uniforms and other necessities in a boarding secondary school. Globally, it is all between Rwf260, 000 and Rwf280,000 a year. And, considering what we teach them, this is peanuts.”

To make things happen, Ngarambe does not leave everything to chance and government support. He taps his international network by initiating vital partnerships with foreign schools such as Selkirk College, a community college in British Columbia, Canada he regards as “one of the best music colleges in the world.”

Ngarambe said: “We visited them about two years ago and they liked our programme so much they sent their own students here. They sent us instructors and want our instructors to go teach there too. Mid-November, we are sending three of our students there.”

“They realised we’re advanced in performance and rhythms and that’s what they want to come and study. We send our students there to study music technology and production, and we do concerts together.”

Berklee College of Music, in Boston, Massachusetts, US, the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world is another partner to the music department.

“They are commercially oriented. Just like what we are doing,” Ngarambe said.

“I want to flood Rwanda with professional musicians, of international standard and repute. I got upset, sick and tired of watching Rwandan so-called musicians lip-synching and doing play back. This upsets me so much.”

Lip sync, short for lip synchronisation, is a technical term for matching a singer’s lip movements with prerecorded sung vocals that listeners hear, either through the sound reinforcement system in live performances.

Though Nyundo School of Art and Music actually has other departments – including sculpture, ceramics, and drawing – only the music department has created a significant impression.

Ngarambe argues that this is almost certainly because theirs is “a commercially oriented” music school.

“We know how to market this thing and we want to market it internationally. We put a lot of work into marketing the music school and what we do speaks for itself.”

The main campus, he explained, is more of a conservative school run by Catholic priests and Brothers who are not too much into marketing.

“We actually teach music business. Our students go out and perform, which is not the case for the other artists in the school. We are an added value to this school, which is great,” he said.

Favor Genevieve Uwikuzo, 22, a student who enrolled two years ago after high school, said she now sees a bright music future waiting.

“My childhood dream was to be a musician. Later, I sung and performed at concerts and improved my talent and when I applied, got lucky,” she said.

“I want to compose songs. In high school, I studied History, Economics and Geography because these were easy subjects but my heart wasn’t there.”

Linda Rubango Kamikazi, 17, hails from a family that supported her aspiration to enroll and is now keen on singing and composing.

“My mum loves music. And she knew my passion for it too and encouraged me to apply. Before I joined, I didn’t know that I could do more than just sing. I discovered more options; the piano which I love most, and music production,” Kamikazi said.

The teenager, who enrolled immediately after completing Senior Three, beams on recalling her participation in the third edition of the biannual Jumuiya ya Afrika Mashariki Utamaduni Festival (JAMAFEST) held September in Kampala, Uganda.

The JAMAFEST is a mega regional arts and culture festival held in East African Community states on a rotational basis to promote regional socio-cultural integration through arts and culture.

“My very first time out of the country was a joy and huge experience; learning about different societies and cultures. We gave our all when performing,” Kamikazi said.

Good things come in small packages

Murenzi believes it is too early to give a full evaluation of the music school’s achievements as it is still in its nascent stage. But he is confident that, as the saying goes, good things come in small packages.

Murenzi said: “We’ve just put our first intake on the market and, looking at the demand; 90 percent are already employed and doing well and this means they are filling a gap. But I think we need more time, training and trainers, support, as well as local and international connections so that this job is sustainable.”

“A music course requires individualised teaching methods. The standard ratio of one teacher for 25 students doesn’t work in a music school where you need to, for example, sit with one student on a piano and maximise time.

“We can’t start thumping our chests before we attain the requisite international recognition.”

His course on occupational health and safety, a dominant one in the curriculum, he said, is to strengthen students as humans and future professionals.

“There are technical and ethical aspects and we also extrapolate into best practices and behavior. This course follows an international standard for all occupations.”

Rwanda Ex-Combatants Abandon DRC Rebel Warfare

By Phyllis Birori in Kigali, Rwanda

Kigali — SOME 13 Rwandan ex-combatants have been repatriated to their country from the Democratic Republic of Congo where they had been involved with armed groups. They have denounced their membership of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (DFLR), the primary remnant Rwandan Hutu rebel group in the east of the DRC. The 5 000-member group, which is among countless rebel sects in DRC, has been waging war since its formation in the year 2000. Alongside 39 of their dependents, among the 13 ex-combatants are two officers and one non-commissioned officer, a major, a captain and a sergeant-major. Before their transfer to Rwanda, they went through the Directorate General of Migration in Goma, for verification and registration. The United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) has facilitated the repatriation under its Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement (DDRRR) scheme. The exercise entails the disbanding of armed groups and reintegrating them back to society. Dohotie Coulibaly, the DDRRR leader, said the repatriation was exceptional because it was rare that such a high number of demobilised people came from a single armed group and from a single territory- Masisi. “This is a very important step that allows the DRC to track the returnees and intervene in case some people are tempted to return for subversive activities,” Coulibaly said. – CAJ News


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