Rwanda in 4 days?

2 Nov

Our East African Pioneers Conference (which I organized last year in Kenya) this year took place in Rwanda. Kigali is “only a busride” away from Kampala and so I am just on the way back from amazing four days in Rwanda.

How was it?

Hilly. That is one thing that everybody says about Rwanda. And it is true. The city is a connection of different villages and on hills and in valleys. Rich Areas in one valley, on the other side a totally different view on a new type of city. A slum-ish settlement on the other hill, just 5 minutes later we pass a shopping mall with a Nakumatt.

Confusing. Being french colonized Rwandans drive on the right side of the road. Of course half of the busses and matatus are from left-side-countries, so the confusion (in my head) is high. The traffic is much more organized than in Kampala or Kenya. Still the boda-bodas create chaos, at least twice per day when crossing a road we were nearly knocked.

The food really didnt go well with my stomach. Although we were served similarly as in Uganda (Matoke, Rice and Pasta, covered with beans or ground nut sauce with meat), I developed a crampy stomach ache over the last days and I am not the only who is still fighting with a bloated tumbo.

International. From the first view there are many whites around. Rwanda is working on becoming an IT hub in East and Central Africa an the Rwanda Development Board is coordinating the knowledge transfer and facilitates business settlement.

The language chaos is amazing and just with combined efforts of Ugandans, Kenyans and me we were able to find our way through. As much as few people on the street speak English, Kiswahili was understood by many more. I had planned to practise my French but either something was wrong with my accent or with their ears.

Somehow we felt like in Nairobi, when the main language in the taxi was Swahili. If the driver could have just sat on the right side 🙂

Friendly. I felt very very welcome. Firstly being a german citizen, I did not pay visa fees, which is a first amongst the 6 African countries I visited. Not only did the alumni and members of AIESEC welcome us with open arms and big words but also in the neighborhood where we stayed for the last night the neighbours, shop dealers and kids greeted us without great expectations (In Uganda we often hear: “Buy me sweets”).

The conference was great, proud to say we had 70 Kenyan delegates, 20 Ugandan and 30 Tanzanians. AIESEC in Rwanda, being a young country, had 15 of their members attending but also 10 memers to organize the whole event. We had an adorable Chair, a former MCP of Cameroon, who also worked in AIESEC International for one year. Now he works as consultant and lives with his french wife and two kids in Rwanda.

Rwanda in 4 days?

A great first glance into a country, no chance of understanding a lot of the complex past or the current political situation. But definitely a great experience and I am sure that I will take the next invitation and spend a week.


Connecting East Africa

19 Sep

Just last night we had discussions in the house about Kenyans and Ugandans… Kenyans flodding Uganda taking up jobs, Ugandans being very slow… prejudices or the truth?

However it is, with the East African Community growing together and the pressure of global markets there is only one way: Mutual Understanding must replace prejudices. Either within or outside AIESEC, the mindset of many Kenyans is something, Ugandans often fail to understand or annoys and frightens them. Questions asked in our discussions included “Do Kenyans actually think there is anything valuable behind Busia?”

Connecting East Africa
Yes, that is the slogan of Kampala Coach. Or is it Akamba Bus?
Anyways, currently, my favorite bus company to travel from Nai to Kla is Starways. In not even 10 hours we reached Kampala, the busses have very comfortable seats, there are not a lot of trouble or stops on the way and did I mention it is only 1,800 Ksh?

AIESEC is also connecting East Africa!
7 Tanzanians and 9 Ugandans were stranded in Nairobi waiting for their confirmation of their flight to India to attend IC (an AIESEC conference).
In my MC team I have 2 Kenyans and 7 Ugandans, 3 of them have absolved internships in Tanzania.
35 Ugandans have gone in the Internships in Tanzania and Kenia in the last 3 months, currently 9 Kenyans are working in a very nice NGO in Mityana District.

Read one of the latest East African stories here (provided you have a facebook account) and how a young Kenyan realizes what value is there behind Busia, just 12 hours from home:

Home again. But now what does home mean?

14 Aug

Because of complications with my visa application for India I had to come back from Kampala to Nairobi. The Indian High Commission sent me “home”. Officially stated, Kenya is my residence, Uganda not. Now what does that mean.

What do I write on my facebook status when getting on the bus? “am coming home!” clearly everybody would think I mean our house in Banda. In swa it is simple, “nakuja nyumbani”, my friends in nairobi would be excited. But does that make sense, if all my belongings are in my cute little room in kampala with Eva and Prima?
Home is where you feel home, a wise person told me. Where your friends are. So does that make facebook my home? Often enough it brings the world to your small little mobile phone screen and you laugh in realtime with friends, that are physically far away. And the first word after login also says “Home”. So clearly, all that is needed now, is the “apply visa” button!

Nice day everyone, wherever your home is.

A new constitution

10 Aug

The mantra was… VOTE PEACEFULLY! Nobody wanted another violence in the country, tourism numbers are back on track, wounds are healing and in the end, its “only” the constitution, not yet 2012.

First a draft, then a million of comments handed it to the Constitution Commission, followed by several months of Yes and No campaigns, a big tour throughout the country to make people read themselves, decide themselves and vote themselves the Proposed new Constitution for the Republic of Kenya was long awaited. Not only hopes for economic growth but al

The results of the referendum were undoubtful: 2 thirds of the voting Kenyans voted yes and 1 third no. At the same time the international Press still talks of tribalism in the decision taking.

Anyways, happy new constitution, Kenya!

Whats next?

McKinsey about Africa

1 Aug,1518,701916,00.html

HIV Outreach to Bakka

26 Jul

Currently we have 14 interns in the country working under the Empowering Africa ASK programme (Answers, Solutions and Knowledge regarding HIV/AIDS). They are students from Canada, China, Egypt, Greece, Kenya, the Netherlands, UK and USA who came to Uganda for 6-8 weeks. Most of them work in NGOs or hospitals half of the day and work in schools around Kampala to educate and sensitize school kids and youth regarding the scourge.

For this friday and saturday they had thought of a special outreach to a village called Bakka, around 1 hour drive from Kampala. On Friday they went to the 7 schools of the area and talked to over 1000 students about HIV/AIDS. At the same time ACI, a Voluntary Counselling and Testing Organization offered free VCT and tested over 200 village and educated even more on the disease and the preventive ABC (incl. condom use).

On Satuday the testing continued and they had planned a soccer match between the locals and the guests from Kampala (whites but also three Ugandan AIESECers). Of course I had to go and see a bit of the beautiful Ugandan landscape, experience a more original setting and cheer for the Wazungu Team.

The day was a total success, it was hot and sunny, beautiful hilly landscape and lots of fun between interns and locals.

My pretty team :)

23 Jul

Finally I got the pictures of our AIESEC Dinner…

Have a look at my pretty team!

From the left: Eunice, Joyce, Donah, Prima, Manuela, Jimmy, Eva and Matthew

Seated: Ivan and Frank

The night when we sat around the candle

15 Jul

Having no electricity and water is also sometimes nice. Fast food from outside instead of cooking, candlelight, no movies and just sitting down and talking. This blog post mainly consists of some notes during the discussion of 15 young people with chinese origin, Canadian and US background, Germans, Indians, Kenyans and Ugandans.

Feelings around the bombblast

Publicly announced that Uganda will experience terror. 2 bombs killing over 60 in an hour that was planned to be full of joy in the whole world and uniting nations. The Worldcup final was used as an instrument to target an innocent crowd.

Shocked by how close terrorism can come to your own doorstep. Relief our friends and family were not involved. It could have hit someone amongst us, the place of the accident is a very common place for students. Fear for the next days. Insecurity where to go and where not. The chinese embassy does not answer their phone. One intern got an ultimatum from her parents to return home within the next 24 hours.

What does Africa need?

A big question but worth asking. Of course the discussion quickly goes to the lines that some europeans draw on the map, tribes pushed together, families split. All true points, but not pointing to a solution.

Mainly we believe, Africa needs leaders.

People, who can life without stereotyping. And act as leaders and encourage even the everyday old lady (“The Muslims have bombed us”) to look at things outside of categories.

Africa needs a sense of unity!

Clearly, terrorism is underway to undermine the opportunities that the East African Community was meant to offer to Uganda: Kenya has porous borders to Somalia, borders between Kenya and the other EAC countries are open now. Workers in Mombasas port wait for ships, which influences trade also in Uganda and Rwanda.
Mindsets need to change: Let us work together, in the real sense of togetherness

Leaders who can take the tough decisions. And not chicken out of areas of responsibility.
Uganda sent troops to Somalia. So Museveni took a tough decision… Was it also the right one?

Somebody today said: “Uganda should not be in Somalia at all. Let this be solved by the USA.”  We discussed this statement and a remarkable quote is.

“If your neighbours house burns, you have two options:
You either pour water on your own house, which keeps on evapurating OR you pour water on his house.”

Is AIESEC relevant?

Man, this question is really as old as AIESEC itself. But after a day like this we really ask ourselves. Can AIESEC actually deal with terrorism?

AIESEC has sent 10,000 students on international exchange experiences in the last 12 months. If every intern touches 50 lives in his host country and 49 lives after returning home, we have shown 1 million people the beauty of having a friend abroad. We have broken prejudices, made friendships across lines on the map.


Can someone be a change agent, when they cant even tell their parents about the nice sides of Uganda?
Can someone be a change agent, if they have not even hosted an intern at their house?

Electricity came back just after midnight.
The lives of the over 60 killed by terrorists not!

All that in one weekend

12 Jul

Monday morning, am sitting in the office and reflecting on the last 48 hours. A weekend with very  mixed feelings and a very sad end.

Saturday morning cleaning the house for two hours with the other girls, followed by a very nice breakfast. Milkrice and feally nice strawberry jam that a chinese intern brought. Powercut on sasturdays? unusual but possible… In the afternoon we attended the graduation ceremony of one of our MC members. I was holding a speech (!), we met the family elders from the village, had great food and I got a great insight into how a tranditional family functions. In the evening the Germany match, cold beer, playing pool with our chinese housemates and finally dancing until 4am in a club.

Sunday was a relatively lazy day, just doing laundry, hanging out around the house, the heat made us very lazy. Also the fact that we didnt have water in the tabs and the tank was empty contributed to us relaxing in pyjamas the whole day and not cooking or washing any dishes 🙂 We had to explain the interns to not use the toilets in the house, but the outside latrines, which got most of them by surprise. I worked a bit on my laptop in the afternoon but felt like doing something more active. Then the reliefing call of one of our alumni: He reserved us 10 Tickets to watch the worldcup final in the cinema. We called some of the interns and my team members and rushed to town to watch the match sponsored by Coke on one of the largest screens in the country.

The match turned out to be equally exciting and depressing (mainly due to the fact that just 4 days ago I wanted to see the Germans playing the final rather than the Spanish). After 110 minutes the first goal, but at the same time one of my friends received a call and told us there is an emergency with his brother and left. At midnight we decided to go home and not watch the cup ceremony fully. On the way out we received calls whether we are ok, people had heard of bombings in town.

We jumped on a car of a friend and he drove us home. After just 5 minutes we passed a blocked road and crowds of people. BBC was interviewing, people were crying on the roadside, women screaming. Just half an hour ago a bomb had exploded at a rugby club where hundreds of people had watched the match on a big screen outside. From hearsay we knew of another bomb in a restaurant and got really worried about our dutch friends who had gone to Iguana, a big restaurant with hundreds of internationals watching the worldcup matches on a daily base.

After this shock, the last incident of the night looks rather minor. Somehow blue colour had poured on our footpath home. One of us slipped on it, fell in a trench and hit his lip on a stone and started bleeding. Most of us stepped in the colour, some clothes got blue stains. At home there was still no water, but at least we disinfected his wounds using Johnny Walker.

Already in bed I saw the reason as to why my friend had left earlier on facebook. His brother was in the rugby place and he had to take him to hospital. He wrote that the sight of the dead, injured and burnt is unbearable.

I could really not fall asleep easily that night! Just now one of our members entered the office and said one of his classmates died. Just like that!

Some info about the bombings in German or English

Our House!

8 Jul

We moved into our house 3 weeks ago. In the last days we got more and more furniture as gifts and also our kitchen is well equipped by now. We have space for 17 people and currently we are a well mixed group from Germany, Kenyan, Uganda, China and Canada.

The house warming party had around 90 guests, at least 50 of them were interns 🙂