The fact that it is so green and hilly adds to the aesthetic allure of the place. It is not surprising thus that Kigali is considered to be one of the most liveable cities in Africa.
With impressive urban development plans and efficiency in road construction, Kigali has become a well organised and structured city that gives its visitors and inhabitants a feeling of peacefulness and serenity.
So, how did they get there?
“At the end of the day, we are targeting a clean Rwanda…a green Rwanda, where people have a place. They have a city, they have a role to play in what we do,” Rose Mukankomeje, director general of the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA) said.
Kigali has achieved a clean and litter-free environment without the threat of harsh fines but by the principle of Umuganda (meaning “contribution”) – the compulsory community service once a month for all Rwandans, where people clean up their communities.
In the 19th century, a number of visitors recorded that Rwandans were required to work two days a week for their community leader and during Belgian rule Umuganda was encouraged as a way of bolstering civic responsibility.
In the years before the 1994 genocide, President Juvénal Habyarimana emphasised it as part of his concept of “true” Rwandan identity.
After taking office in 2000, President Paul Kagame made good use of Umuganda to help clean Kigali while simultaneously promoting the idea of a cohesive national identity. He formalised Umuganda as a collective event on the last Saturday in each month when traffic is stopped for three hours in the morning, and the city comes together to tidy up.
The mayor of Kigali is now introducing cleanliness and hygiene awareness lessons into primary schools, taking his cue from President Kagame’s assertion that Kigali does not need international aid & assistance to keep its backyards clean.
No one in Rwanda is aware of penalties for dropping litter in their city because it simply is not something that occurs. People will tell you with great pride that their city is “cleaner than New York and London.”
The east-Central African republic also banned the use and manufacture of plastic bags in 2008. This has gone a long way to cut down on extra trash. The fine for using one can be over $150. If store owners are caught providing them, they can be sent to prison for six to 12 months.
The major setback they face in achieving this directive is products which come from neighbouring countries that are still packaged in plastic.
Kigali is definitely proof that motivation and communal spirit can be used to achieve cleanliness.