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Land of a thousand hills

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Land of a thousand hills (Clive English / DFID)
Land of a thousand hills (Clive English / DFID)

The airport advertising boards declare that Rwanda is ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’, and that’s just what it looked like from the plane as I descended into Kigali, the capital city.

I could see green hills dotted with numerous small communities, sliced by rivers winding down to Lake Victoria, and the occasional flash of the sun on a corrugated iron roof.

At the end of the eighteen hour overnight journey, it was great to be met by Celestin from the DFID office who took me to the house which is to be my home for the next six months while I am Head of the DFID team in Rwanda and Burundi. The house is really bare and lifeless at the moment as all I have is the contents of a single suitcase. My other stuff will come when the boxes arrive. But there is a bed and sheets, and it was good to collapse for the night.

About to negotiate the combination lock
About to negotiate the combination lock

So yesterday was my first day with my new team. I did the easy things first like learn how to open the combination on the office door, adjust my chair to fit my long back, and find out where the coffee is made. Then it was on meeting people – we have a team of 23, consisting of Rwandan nationals as well as UK- based staff, all who seem fantastically committed to our goal of reducing poverty in Rwanda.

And that’s why I am here too…like them, I want poor people who live among the thousand hills to have a better life – square meals to eat, jobs to earn money and healthy kids going to school.

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  1. Comment by Miri posted on

    Hey, glad you know where the coffee is located though tea is so much better!
    Hope the boxes get to your empty house soon. xxxx

  2. Comment by Miri posted on

    Cycled to Hassocks glad I don't have to bike there the hills look crazay to cycle up! xxxx

  3. Comment by Martin Leach posted on

    Hey Miri

    As you say the hills look crazay for cycling, and so far I have not got my bike out of my house - but at least I have had a couple of runs round the local lake.


  4. Comment by Christine posted on

    Want to believe that the six months stay will turn into six years! Enjoy your stay as you take on the poverty giant. It must go!

  5. Comment by Andras Vailin posted on

    Your house looks pretty nice - a good place from which to combat poverty.....

    What are you going to do about the government's refusal to admit or investigate the human rights violations that both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty say it has committed and continues to commit? How does combatting poverty address this issue? Do you think the Gacaca system is working and what is DFID doing to make sure it meets international standards for a fair trial?

  6. Comment by Martin Leach posted on

    Andras, Thanks for the comments.

    The government of Rwanda has a reasonable - if imperfect - record on investigating allegations of human rights violations. DFID is trying to consolidate and improve on this record through assistance to strengthen the Human Rights Commission, and through dialogue with government - both bilaterally and jointly with EU partners. Unusually, progress on Human Rights is also integrated into the key indicators that structure the dialogue between the Rwandan Government and partners on the provision of direct budget support (ie. underperformance can have consequences for aid flows).

    As you may know, the gacaca courts system is a local way of dealing in a timely manner with the challenge of post-genocide justice. Considering the scale of the caseload, it is difficult to think of a formal, legal process that could have done the job. We should be concerned, but not surprised, that an improvised, innovative system like gacaca has its imperfections. DFID is not directly involved in the Justice Sector in Rwanda, but we actively support the work of other development partners who are involved. And we retain a close interest in the successes and challenges of gacaca - which are regularly raised in dialogue with government.

    The picture in the blog post is of the DFID office - but my house is nice too - thanks.


  7. Comment by STEPHEN SYRETT posted on

    Dear Martin

    Have to start somewhere and enjoyed your blogs. Literally my first attempt to gain some knowledge on DFID and Uganda. Appreciate you may not be the right contact but may know who is?

    My aim is to identify opportunities to build the effectiveness of the Kamuli mission through alliances with others in Uganda, develop a healthcare strategy in the Kamuli region and build support offices both in the UK and Uganda. Initially I would like to identify the influential organisations and the resources that exist already.

    Thanks for anything you can steer me towards. Stephen Syrett

  8. Comment by Martin Leach posted on

    Hi Stephen,

    Thanks for your post on my blog. I looked up the website related to the Kamuli Mission in Uganda - the stories sound exactly like many hard-working, challenging health centres in rural Africa.

    If you want to know more about DFID's work in Uganda then I suggest that you have a look at the website through this link

    There is also a contact email address.


  9. Comment by Stephen Syrett posted on

    Many thanks for the lead and certainly will take a look at this site

    Happy New Year and wishing you all success in your work!

    Stephen Syrett