Today was a very interesting day. Last night we got a call from the leader of a Pepperdine student group who had completed a study course in Uganda and were touring Rwanda. Through some weird connection they had arranged to have an audience with the President of Rwanda and the Minister of Education. Bobby Garner invited Nancy and me to join them for the event.
This morning we met with the Minister of Education, Madame Daphrose Gahakwa at the Heaven restaurant for 'interviews.' We talked about how Pepperdine would like to build a closer relationship with Rwanda. Dr. Gary Selby filled in the minister on some of the desires of Pepperdine to make a difference in the world through its students and its programs.
About noon we moved on to the compound of the president's office. We were seated in the circular cabinet room where each of the inner seats had a microphone. At about 12:45 the president joined us and introductions were made by the Minister of Education. Bobby Garner introduced the group and told of their purpose. Gary Selby then explained the desire of Pepperdine University to become more involved in serving in East Africa to make a difference and in particular to do more in Rwanda. Bobby went on to explain the establishment of Africa Transformation Network and its partnership with Kibogroup who intend to do projects that will assist the people of Rwanda and the region. An example of this is Kibogroup's plan to build a factory in Rwanda to produce MANA (Mother Administered Nutritive Aid) products to help save children from life-threatening malnutrition. Then floor was opened for students and others to ask questions of the president. Some of these were very thoughtful and the answers very enlightening.
At one point I got a chance to remind His Excellency, that Dr. Mike Oneal, president of Oklahoma Christian University had invited me to offer a word of welcome to President Kagame and his entourage on the occasion of his visit to OCU to inaugurate the Presidential Scholar's program for Rwandan students in April 2006. I had been distinctly honored to do so and appreciate that he, the President and his government, in turn, has been very welcoming of those of us who have come to serve the people of Rwanda. I offered to serve as a liaison between our networks in America and the government of Rwanda to make a difference for the nation and people of Rwanda. At this point, the president turned to his minister and said, "You should be working with this man." To which she responded, "I am working with him."
The President went on to say that he was scheduled to be at Oklahoma Christian University to be the commencement speaker for the first class of Rwandans who will be graduating in April, 2010.
The whole group of us were greatly honored that the President gave us a whole hour and a half of his time on what he called his 'day of rest.' The president commented as the meeting came to a conclusion that none of the women had asked any question or made any comment and he did not want to be accused of being 'gender insensitive.' He said, "It is not my fault!" to which there was a hearty round of laughter. Then we adjourned for a photo opportunity and some interviews by the press.
I feel that this meeting really opened the door of opportunity for our Christian schools, universities and other organizations to do significant service in Rwanda. The government here has been very intentional about creating a healthy climate to make this happen, be it business investment or not-for-profit development. It is very purposeful about not allowing a culture of dependency on foreign aid to develop in Rwanda. The government recognizes that it needs partnerships in development in the short term... so that it will not need aid in the longer term. In the time we have lived in Rwanda, Nancy and I have been deeply impressed with the quiet committed determination of the national leadership at all levels to serve the people and overcome the devastating effects of their tragic history. Who will come and join them in their quest to redeem Rwanda?