Tag Archives: Rwanda

Thanks to Teta Diana – a Rwandan star in the making

One of the very best things about my role as Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) is that I have the privilege to meet some extraordinary people from all across the Commonwealth, from Ministers and CEOs to street children, farmers and musicians.  It is truly amazing to have the opportunity for my life to be touched by their energy, passion and enthusiasm.  To be able to help bring incredible people together, and encourage them to work collaboratively to use ICTs to make the world a better place, is just fantastic.

I have always believed in working hard and playing hard!  The CTO’s conferences are therefore very much about having great discussions, but also getting to know each other in ways that one simply cannot (yet) do over the Internet! A valuable lesson that I have learnt in my time at the CTO has most definitely been the importance of the politics of the dance floor – and there are far too many embarrassing photos around to show this!

singers 3Our recent Commonwealth e-Governance Forum in Rwanda was just such an occasion, and shows above all the importance of friendship in international relations.  Back in 2013 I had the privilege of attending the Transform Africa conference held in Kigali.  As with so many international events (but sadly all too often not in my own country!) the government hosted some spectacular networking events in the evenings, none more so than a festival of dance and music held one evening in the Milles Collines hotel that showcased the very best of musical talent in Rwanda.  It was there that I first saw Teta Diana perform, and was captivated by her talent and personality.  So, when we were discussing our own Commonwealth e-Governance Forum I mentioned to a very special Rwandan friend that it would be amazing if he could arrange for her to perform at our event.

Incredibly, he did, and the photos below try to capture something of the very special evening event that he ensured was laid on for delegates (and thanks very much too to Rwanda Online who sponsored the evening):

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The star of the event, though, was absolutely Teta!  She has risen already to be one of the real stars of the Rwandan music scene, combining magical performances of traditional Rwandan music with more mainstream jazz, RnB and reggae.  She is an amazing ambassador for Rwanda, performing at various official events, and is now eager to take her passion for the way in which music can bring people together to a much wider audience internationally. She is definitely someone to look out for – and I really hope that fellow musicians and promoters in Europe will find ways through which she can bring her talent and personality to a much wider audience.  The links below provide an introduction to her music and her life:

Teta Diana is a very special person, determined to do very special things for Rwandans and for the spirit of the music that lives within her.


Filed under Africa, Music, Photographs

Transform Africa 2013 and a celebration of Rwanda

I had the great privilege – especially as a white Yorkshireman – to be invited to chair the session on Smart Education at Transform Africa 2013 held in Kigali, Rwanda – a conference led by Africans, for Africans.  It is some five year since I was last in Rwanda, and the changes that have been made in the country over this time, especially in the field of ICTs, are palpable.

It was really excellent to hear seven Presidents of east African countries champion the potential of ICTs to transform Africa, whilst also being realistic about the challenges that still remain in using them effectively to contribute to the social, political and economic development of their countries.

It was also good to experience some of the musical heritage of Rwanda – and even to have the chance of learning yet another different style of African dance!  This was especially so at the launch of Rwandapedia this evening – an excellent resource for those wishing to learn more about Rwanda’s turbulent history over the last 20 years or so.  Congratulations, too, to the Panorama Restaurant at the Des Mille Collines for what has to be one of the best dinners I have recently had in Africa!

The photos below catch but a glimpse of some of my experiences here over the last few days.

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Filed under Africa, Commonwealth, Development, Education, ICT4D

Sierra Leone – water taxis and political violence

pelicanI was warned not to take the water taxi from the airport to Freetown!  But the hovercraft was not running, and people said the helicopter (at almost twice the price) was even worse!  But in choppy seas, water taxis are most definitely not advisable – a few minutes out, waves came crashing through the glass at the front, wetting everyone, and filling the boat with water.  Two passengers were swiftly despatched to the stern so that the prow would come up.  Fortunately, that prevented more deluges, but every time the small boat topped a wave it came crashing down with a sickening thud on the next crest.  The 20 minute journey lasted longer than a hour – and in the pitch black of night it seemed far worse than perhaps it actually was.  How many of these small boats don’t actually make it?  No-one apparently knows.

But Freetown itself has been rocked by violence again (swissinfo.ch report).  Following fights during a by-election last week in Pujehun District, people purporting to be supporters of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) attacked the headquarters of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) on Monday.  Although I did not witness the attack, reports (see Reuters)  suggest that there was much violence, and several women claim to have been raped.  Perpetrators of the violence carried machetes, and the police are reported to have fired tear gas and bullets.  One person I spoke to definitely confirmed that there were at least four bursts of gunfire.  Two days later, the topic is still on many people’s minds, and is front page news in the newspapers.

Many are suggesting that the underlying causes of this violence is the widespread unemployment in the country.  Large numbers of people who were displaced during the civil war (1991-2002) moved to Freetown and have still not been able to find jobs.  Crime is reported to be increasing all the time, as some of these people resort to theft and threats of violence as the only way of gaining a livelihood.  As a commentary in the Standard Times on 16th March commented, ‘High unemployment among youths means many time bombs are waiting to go off at any time.  Is this what we expect at this precarious moment?  Who’s in charge here, and where is the pendulum of democracy and justice teetering towards? Our educational system has failed, especially the youths’.

Yesterday’s radio stations provided a wealth of commentary on the government’s decision in the aftermath of the violence to close the radio stations owned by the two main political parties, the APC’s ‘We Yone’ station and the SLPP’s ‘Unity Radio’ (see Cotton Tree News).  These are widely seen as having whipped up violent sentiments among the parties’ supporters, and some commentators likened their use to the role played by radios in Rwanda’s genocide.

Today, things seem quiet.  The word on the street is that arrests have been made.  However, many people are fearful that this may be just the tip of the iceberg, and that the country could be plunged back into the horrors of the 1990s.  Few want this, but for a country ranked bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index, the current global economic ‘crisis’ might herald a crisis of a very different kind.  It is incumbent on those who believe in peace and consensus politics, that we should find ways of supporting Sierra Leone, so that its people can look forward to the future with hope.


Filed under Africa, Radio