Last week, I went on a road trip to a village in Rwanda called Kaduha, in the Southern province ,to visit a stranded yet modernized health facility. This hospital, in the middle of just nowhere, was 48km from the main road. The trip from the main road took me about two hours in the nice Land Cruiser V8 that I was driving, specifically for this trip. Of course, this very nice car made my trip a lot friendlier with the air conditioning and the beautifully tinted windows. I was enjoying my ride! I barely noticed or felt the hard bumps of this long uneven road towards the stranded hospital. However, my road trip high did not last for long as I started to reflect on my fellow brothers and sisters who have to take this trip in indescribably worse situations than me. Did I mention that this hospital was two hours away from the main road? I thought of the mothers who might need to bring their dying children urgently. What happens to them? The average Rwandan cannot afford this nice car I’m riding in. What happens to the sick wife and the husband who might be forced into widowhood because he will not reach the hospital in time? What happens then?
Two weeks ago, an eighteen year- old boy was forced to walk at eleven o’clock in the night to find to a hospital. He was at his boarding school when he started having bad migraines. They were told by the headmaster to go to the nearest hospital. His friends tried to carry him but he was too heavy so he was forced to walk. He never made it to the hospital. He died on the way because he could not get the help he needed in time. It wasn’t until one o’clock in the morning that they could get a car to carry the body to a morgue. All of a sudden, this trip made me reflect on the horrors the people of the village go through and, most importantly, the roles of our leaders in such situations.
You see, if I was asked to make policies for the people of Kaduha, I might not be the most suitable for it. Why? Because, I am driving in my V8, my air conditioning is on so that I do not breathe in the dust, and I do not have to take this 24 km trip on foot. I believe I am not suitable to write a policy for them because I am not walking in their shoes. I am definitely not seeing life through their lenses. May I submit to you that I am also talking about several leaders and policy makers all over Africa? Leaders who have not experienced the pain of their people will never make the right policy meant to help the same people. And you can mark my words!
Back to my drive, my windows were tinted therefore I could not see the environment surrounding me. From where I was sitting, the grass looked greener, the soil looked darker and fertile; the place looked like it had great potential for agriculture, farming and the sorts. It wasn’t until I got out of the might Land Cruiser that I noticed that the soil was red and not unfertile. As the ardent sun hit my face, I realized that life is not as easy as it seemed from my Land Cruiser.
I believe that the people have a voice that needs to be heard! Citizens, because they know what they go through on a daily basis, should choose the policies that would best work for them. The people who experience the hardships of travelling three to four hours for medical assistance should be given the opportunity to speak out and to change the policies around them.
When a consultant comes to examine and research the area, he may come in an air conditioned car, food for the trip and much more money than the people could have in a year. Will such a person choose the right policies for the villagers? I do not want to undermine the expertise of the researchers and policy makers; do not get me wrong. What I am saying is; the people would benefit much more if they gave the ideas that suits their lifestyles and the same ideas could be refined as policies. The people own their situations, problems, and even solutions. Therefore, a much bigger importance should be given to them when making policies
I would just like to submit some ideas as to how to go about the following and how policy makers could consider the voices of their people;
* Interviews and open discussions: Villagers could be met and asked about the situations that could be improved. Do they have the necessary medical facilities? Do they have means to reach their hospitals? If not what is an alternative?
* Policies could be consulted by the people and they should be given the opportunity to revise and edit them according to their situations.
* If possible, the people should be given the chance to refute a certain policy and present their most pressing needs.
The development of a nation will always lay in the hands of the people. The citizens are the life and growth of their country. They must be considered as much as possible and they must be given the opportunity to work with their leaders in order to develop their country jointly.