(220327) — KIGALI, March 27, 2022 (Xinhua) — Pudence Rubingisa, mayor of Kigali, takes part in the national community work known as Umuganda in Kigali, Rwanda on March 26, 2022. (Photo by Cyril Ndegeya/Xinhua)

KIGALI, March 27 (Xinhua) — Rwandan citizens on Saturday formally resumed monthly community work, locally known as Umuganda, after significant decline in COVID-19 infections, for the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020.

About 1,500 people gathered at Bumbogo, in a suburb of Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, to clear bushes, drainage channels and to sweep the streets during community work. “We have here about 1,500 people that have attended Umuganda, including officials from different entities and organs. The population is very much excited to participate in Umuganda,” Pudence Rubingisa, mayor of Kigali City, told Xinhua in an interview at the event. He said that people were affected by the pandemic and large gatherings like community work could not be organized. “People are excited to participate in the traditional Umuganda that has been there for quite long as one of our home grown solutions. They are excited to participate in the reconstruction of the Kigali City like cleaning and mitigating climate change,” said Rubingisa.

According to him, during the community work, they participated in curbing consequences of the heavy rains the country experienced over the last couple of weeks by clearing water drainage channels and trenches. Noel Nshimiyimana, one of the residents of Bumbogo, said he was happy to participate in Umuganda again after such a long time. “Because Umuganda is a good initiative that is very important to our community development and our country,” he told Xinhua. Vanessa Umutoni, another Bumbogo resident, said Umuganda is a very a good initiative for Rwandan community because it contributes to improving and protecting the environment.  “I am very happy to be here and many people have been able to participate,” she said. “I think over the next couple of months, it is going to be better.”   “Despite what COVID-19 had done to Rwandan community over the last two years, it doesn’t change the fact that we are still committed to thrive and to also improve our country together. Umuganda shows community development, partnership and togetherness,” said Umutoni.

Rwanda has witnessed a fall in COVID-19 infections since the beginning of 2022. Taking root from Rwandan culture of self-help and cooperation, Umuganda, held on the last Saturday of each month, can be translated as “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome,” according to Rwanda Governance Board. In 1998, the Rwandan government reintroduced Umuganda as part of efforts to rebuild the country after the 1994 Rwandan genocide against Tutsi.