President's visit to Rwanda - Chronicle of day 3

20 July 2010

Rush! Rush! The Minister of Agriculture is waiting at the President’s office. We scramble out of the meeting with the Minister of Trade and Industry, which had a surprisingly strong emphasis on agriculture and post-harvest activities. All this is improvised, the meeting with the Head of State was shifted several times, but what did we expect? Today is the start of the 20-day campaign period for the presidential elections, and at 1pm Mr Kagame is to kick it off his campaign with a massive rally at the national stadium. So we rush past the security checks, get installed in the large meeting room with a massive video conference facility that could stem from a science fiction movie, and when President Kagame flies in we cannot be but impressed.

Proud of government’s accomplishments, he recalls in detail his encounters with farmers and the development stories they told him. He is clearly content with the one-cow programme, and remembers well the past difficulties of PDRCIU, our infrastructure project, in which his intervention assisted greatly. He confirms that much still remains to be done, and that the high population growth poses an obstacle to development in the country. A surprising request of his, with which we happily agree, is to concentrate our development efforts, rather than spreading them thinly. The President also reminds him that IFAD is a development institution owned by its members, rather than a donor with its own agenda. Overall, a very supportive meeting, we find as we stroll back to the cars through the garden-like Presidential compound.

In the afternoon we have some time off as a result of the programme items that were shifted to the morning, and I manage to get some work done in the office. The press conference also becomes a victim of the election campaign: it gets postponed to 8pm and when we emerge 90 minutes later we are hungry as wolves. At Chez Robert in town they still have dinner, but with the usual wait we finally get to eat just before 11! I’m lucky to be able to go to bed for good after that, but the President, Ides and Géraldine have a flight to catch, at 3am to Nairobi and on to Zambia. I bid them farewell, grateful for a supportive visit and also deeply relieved that it all went so smoothly. Tomorrow I need to thank the project staff for their hard work.

By Claus Reiner