Poverty Is Sending More Rwandan Scavengers To Uganda

Open Letter To President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni

Extreme poverty in Rwanda was inadvertently exposed by American television host, Ellen DeGeneres during her visit to Rwanda in June 2018.

Dear President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, this letter refers to the news reported by the East African of July 3, 2018. According to the newspaper, your government deported 72 Rwandans. Among them were 20 women and 11 children. The East African says some of the deported Rwandans had gone to Uganda in search of casual jobs.

Mr. President, I appeal to you not to close your doors on ordinary Rwandans. Rwandan state agents engaged in criminality in Uganda must face the law. Ordinary Rwandans are forced by extreme poverty to come to your country. These come to Uganda for GUHUNAHUNA as Rwanda defense minister James Kabarebe recently put it. That is a Kinyarwanda term for scavenging.

Mr. President, we have a paradoxical situation in my homeland. Rwanda appears to be creating wealth and becoming prosperous. Yet, its poor keep flooding Uganda for scavenging.


The preferred images of Rwanda

Mr. President, like the old saying goes, not all that glitters is gold. Rwandan President Paul Kagame launches one mega-project after another. The more recent ones include the US$300 Million convention centre; US$1 Billion national airline that has consumed at least US$1 Billion; and sponsorship of an English football club to the tune of US$40 Million. These things may just as well be on another planet. Whether or not these mega Kagame projects improve lives is a debate for another day.

Mr. President, meanwhile, a series of famine has been ravaging different parts of Rwanda without mercy since 2016. As a result, hundreds have been fleeing starvation to Uganda in search of food.


The other side of Rwanda

Donors readily provide plenty of evidence on what is happening in Rwanda. For example, USAID asserts that in Rwanda “as many as 460,000 households (21 percent) have unacceptable food consumption and may be considered food insecure.” The June 2018 World Bank update on Rwanda says that chronic malnutrition affects nearly 40 percent of Rwandan children. In May 2018, UK’s DfID stated that “Rwanda remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Over a third of its population live in poverty.” The World Food Program tells us that “Rwanda is a low-income, food deficit country, and is one of the least developed countries.” These accounts explain why Rwandans are driven into scavenging in Uganda.

In conclusion, President Museveni, I add my voice to those humbly requesting you to reconsider the deportation of ordinary Rwandans. Uganda has an enviable reputation of being the most welcoming nation due to its open door policy towards fellow Africans in need. If I may be presumptuous for a moment, Uganda’s legendary integration of fellow Africans is a distinction that should be preserved.

Most Sincerely,

David Himbara