NewsEast & Horn AfricaBreaking ranks and winning races for Rwanda


Posted on Friday, 13 February 2015 11:19

Breaking ranks and winning races for Rwanda

By Honoré Banda in Kigali

While the old guard is ensuring party discipline and minding the tills, young faces from sports, the media and business are making waves.

When youthful Fred Muvunyi (1) took office in September 2013 as chairman of the newly formed Rwanda Media Commission (RMC), a media self-regulatory body, most people expected him to toe the ruling party's line.

But after about a year on the job, Muvunyi openly disagreed with the government over its decision to suspend the BBC's Kinyarwanda-language broadcasts on 25 October due to a controversial documentary, Rwanda's Untold Story, aired on the BBC Two channel in Britain.

Muvunyi argues that the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority, which announced the decision to suspend the BBC's Rwandan operations, does not have the authority to rule on content without consulting the RMC.

Muvunyi's move prompted threats and questions from pro-government voices not only about the legality of RMC's mandate but also the powers of its chairman.

The government has launched an investigation to determine if the documentary denied the 1994 genocide of the Tutsis,
which is a crime in Rwanda.

While cycling has been gaining popularity over the years, it was a 2014 triumph for Team Karisimbi's 20-year-old Valens Ndayisenga (2) that is likely to be a turning point for the sport.

He was the first Rwandan national to win the annual Tour de Rwanda cycling competition since it became an international competition in 2009.

Ndayisenga's victory on 23 November not only earned him a presidential handshake but also international recognition.

He faces intense pressure to inspire Team Rwanda to win upcoming major cycling events in Egypt and Gabon.

Rwandan youth are starting to gain a foothold in business, too. Better known for organising the Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally in 2013 as president of the Rwanda Automobile Club, Christian Gakwaya is emerging as a young and successful entrepreneur in the service industry.

He currently runs Rwanda Events. It has organised large conferences, including the 6th East African Business Summit and the African Leadership Network Annual Gathering in 2014.

Old guard, new bank

Nonetheless, power still largely remains with the old guard. In the financial sector, Konde Bugingo is settling in as chief executive officer of the recently incorporated BRD Commercial Bank.

Atlas Mara Co-Nvest, founded by banker Bob Diamond and entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar, acquired the Development Bank of Rwanda's commercial banking arm in October 2014 and set up the new bank.

Bugingo is faced with the daunting task of turning it into a viable business.

Bugingo previously served as chief executive of Rwanda's national payment switch, Rswitch, which enables the settlement of electronic payment.

Before working at Rswitch, he was chief operating officer at Banque Populaire du Rwanda, Rwanda's second-largest bank.

Others are also concerning themselves with efficiency and rigour.

Before her appointment as minister of gender and family promotion in February 2013, Oda Gasinzigwa (3) was well known for advancing women's rights, reconciliation and peace.

She served as head of the government's Gender Monitoring Office from 2008 until 2013.

From 2005 to 2009, she worked on the government's National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, which coordinates activities such as tolerance and forgiveness programmes in communities and schools.

Gasinzigwa, who is one of the commissioners of the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front, is asserting her political prowess, sending signals that she is ready to take on more responsibilities in the party.

In September, she caught party members off guard when she publicly called out mainly female members engaging in 'undesirable acts,' including conspiracy against the state and tarnishing the image of the government.

She warned that the party will do whatever is in its power to stop dissidents in their tracks. ●


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