Rwanda: Umuganda

Every last Saturday of the month, from 8 to 11am, is Umuganda. The whole country stops working and people do community service. Clusters of 100 houses form a group, and each group selects a community service project to work on. It could be building terraces on hillsides for farming, repairing a road, planting trees or cleaning up the neighbourhood. Senior government figures including the president join in.

Umuganda was initially set up to help rebuild the country after the Genocide. Most importantly, it is a way of getting the different ethnic groups to rebuild bridges amongst themselves.

There is a typically Rwandan twist to this, though. That monthly community service day is mandatory and strictly enforced. Police set up roadblocks and stop anyone not participating in Umuganda. During those three hours, usually subdued Kigali feels even more eerily quiet.