We are one people. We speak one language. We have one history.
‘Culture change’, is usually considered an ongoing, medium to long term process of transformation. It recognizes that some people will be slower to adopt new ways and some will resist the change and each of these elements need to be effectively managed.
In the years following the genocide in 1994 the Rwandan government, lead by Paul Kagame, decided to completely reset the culture. When a nation has been torn apart by the horrific events of the genocide, when neighbour turned against neighbour, there is no time for a gradual cultural change process. This ‘reset button’ seeks to completely change the mindset of the nation as soon as possible, recognising that there are no longer different people groups, but one people, one nation, one language.
From vision, comes operational decisions. How do we develop this new nation?
From my own observations and talking with wonderful people we have had the privilege to get to know, there are a number of the decisions that the government has made aimed at resetting culture. Generally, these messages get through to the people via the radio, in newspapers and on billboards. There is also social pressure to reinforce change for the future of the nation.
What have been some of the key elements of resetting the culture of Rwanda?
“No corruption” message
No plastic bags in Rwanda, shops only supply paper bags for purchased goods
Everyone should wear shoes when outside
Children must be sent to school, and parents must not allow them to beg
Billboard sign: “Tax invoice, the best way to do business”
Motorcyclists and their passengers must wear helmets
Seatbelts are worn in cars
Cars can only carry as many passengers as there are seatbelts
Buses carry passengers in seats, no overcrowding
Speed limits enforced
Sealed regional arterial roads
New homes built of bricks with corrugated iron roofs
Replacing all thatched roofs with corrugated iron
I’m sure there are many others, but the result is evident in an orderly society and many of these decisions also help to create jobs and encourage enterprise.
Rwanda is a modern, developing city. The construction of new homes in the hills surrounding the city of Kigali shows how brave decision-making can make a positive difference in the lives of many.