Thank you for the recent #CitizenOutreach tour, which brought to the general public eye what many of us, your people, already knew: below a certain level, governance in Rwanda is mostly failing the people. Recently, on social media, you were tagged in several threads from Rwandan citizens, desperately trying to hold “public servants” accountable. I say “public servants”, because these people are public servants only in theory. In practice they are nothing more than presidential servants. Otherwise, why would it be necessary to tag you, Your Excellency, when we are trying to get answers from RURA? From WASAC? Pick a name of a public institution at random, and it’s the same story. I would like to bring to your attention a specific and very serious problem Rwandans are facing with WASAC and RURA. There are many others. But for today, let’s focus on these two offenders.
Before I get into the specifics of the exploitation we have been enduring under WASAC/RURA, kindly allow me to present the following request. Your Excellency, you are all we really have in this country. For this reason, I would like to humbly request that you widen your #CitizenOutreach to the following format: once a month, please give us, the people of Rwanda, one day (maybe a Saturday), where we can tag you directly and using the #CitizenOutreach hashtag to air our grievances with the failures of local public institutions in Rwanda. These presidential servants have continuously ignored us, and in the instances where they do see fit to respond, all we can expect from them is outright disdain and embarrassing foolishness. This is the state of things, Mr. President. And it is truly unfortunate. Please grant us, your people, one day a month, where we can, in an organized effort, tweet you directly on social media, where we can call into radio stations, and express the suffering we are suffering under the incompetence and impunity of the fleet of desk-jockeys we are supposed to be referring to as public servants.
I am extremely grateful you are quite active and accessible on social media. It is clear you have a vision for this country, and are actively pushing forward to make this vision a reality. To uplift Rwandan people, and therefore Rwanda. However, I cannot say the same for WASAC and RURA. If you would be so kind, please open your Twitter and in the Search box type “@wasac_rwanda”, to see the endless complaints from the people to WASAC and the absence of WASAC responses, useful or otherwise. It’s a grim picture, isn’t it?
Last week, WASAC (after ignoring pleas from its customers to please finally supply water after weeks, months of dry taps) issued a public announcement about an exercise to “update its customer profile database”, threatening us with “negative consequences” for non-compliance. This database update exercise, WASAC tells us, will be conducted by WASAC staff trotting from house to house and handing out paper forms. Paper forms which we are supposed to fill out, and then we are instructed by WASAC to carry these forms ourselves to a WASAC branch. Your Excellency, I am sure you see a number of issues arising from this, but let’s focus on the following: Please ask WASAC how many “customer profile database updates” it has forced us to comply with, time and again. Please ask WASAC, where they find the money to print millions of paper forms for “database updates”, when they can’t seem to find the funds to provide everyone with water in this country. In the Rwanda of 2019, a country that claims to aim to become a regional ICT hub, what impression is created when a water utility company in Rwanda uses handwriting on paper to update mission-critical computing resources? Your Excellency, maybe they don’t even have computers in their offices. Or perhaps they forgot the database password? Or maybe they have nobody on staff who knows how to switch on a computer? Mr. President, in 2019, what prevents a WASAC from using Irembo or an in-house online form to gather data from its customers?
The next issue we are facing with WASAC is the hike in water prices. People who were paying 9,000 RWF and less yesterday for a month of water, are now paying 70,000 RWF and more for the same quantity of water. How is such a cost increase sustainable in this economy? How are we supposed to afford these exorbitant rates for what is one of life’s necessities, Your Excellency? How many households can keep up with this price increase? You know what makes it worse? These daylight-robbery new water rates were announced months ago, but it is only today, 13th May 2019, that WASAC/RURA saw fit to address the Rwandan public on this matter, in a “press conference”. This is part of why I am asking that you please hold monthly #CitizenOutreach on social media, radio and television, because clearly annual imihigo reviews are not getting us anywhere, Mr. President.
Most of us hoped this “press conference” was for the purpose of rescinding the insane increase in water prices. Alas, we the people of Rwanda are daydreaming fools for harbouring such hopes, no? According to the big man in RURA, the prices for water have tripled, quadrupled, quintupled because….. are you ready, Mr. President? I hope you are sitting down… the prices have multiplied because we the Rwandan people are wasting water.
Mr. President, how exactly are we even in a position to waste water, when water is hardly ever being supplied to the people of Rwanda? The funny thing is, neither RURA nor WASAC can decide which story to tell us. Is there water scarcity in Rwanda? No water scarcity in Rwanda? Which is it? The RURA DG says water is scarce. WASAC says water is not scarce:
Just two weeks prior to WASAC declaring there is no water scarcity, they said the opposite, that there is actually a water scarcity:
Does this not mean that as of 27th February 2019 (see date on the above tweet) WASAC declared “we really have water”. Yet, on the 1st of that same February the new Diamond-Level water tariffs went into effect. Just like that. In my own mudugudu hardly a day goes by where you don’t find rickety bicycles laden with half a dozen dirty yellow jerricans supplying us with water from questionable sources. Your Excellency, what is going on, please? When will WASAC and RURA be held accountable? How long is this meant to go on? Until a disease epidemic spreads among the population, simply because Rwandan households have been priced out of grid water, and are forced to fetch dirty river water, instead? Is this not where this mess is taking us, Your Excellency?
If WASAC is experiencing water wastage, surely the wastage happens upstream due to their moribund infrastructure and their refusal to deploy technicians to fix broken public water pipes. Not due to Rwandans wasting water, as the RURA DG is now accusing us of. Wasting how? Are we operating multiple fountains in our homes? 24/7 whirlpools, swimming pools and water parks in our backyards, maybe? Mr. President, please help us. Please check WASAC on Twitter, see how many times we Rwandans alert WASAC to broken pipes along the roads, spraying water into the air (there’s the fountain, WASAC) for days, weeks, months, and nobody from WASAC responds. And then when their bank balance no longer rhymes, the RURA DG has the gall to blame Rwandan households for wasting water. It defies logic, Mr. President. It’s obscene that on top of the absence of service from WASAC, on top of the dry taps and dirty jerrycan caravans, we now face insult upon injury from RURA in their “press conference”. Saying we are wasting water. Why won’t RURA tell WASAC to send its technicians to go fix all those leaking and broken pipes around the City? Are we supposed to be the ones to bear the cost of WASAC/RURA incompetence and impunity? Is that reasonable? It’s absurd, Your Excellency. Please help us.
It is truly unfortunate that we find ourselves having to turn to you over issues like crazy water tariffs, horrible MTN service, local public officials basically telling us to go fly a kite. It is beyond anything reasonable at this point, Your Excellency. I don’t think we can operate with annual imihigo reviews at national retreats any longer, my President. Access to safe water is a human right. My faith in you is unwavering, Your Excellency. That’s why I’m bringing this problem to your attention. If you say this mess we are going through with WASAC/RURA is fair and this is what we deserve, then that is the end of the matter for me personally. That is how much I trust you. But I am sure you see this WASAC/RURA situation, and the many other terrible situations brought to your attention during #CitizenOutreach, are not fair. It is not what we deserve. It is not right. And I have faith you will kindly bear with your people for being forced to turn you into a de facto Consumer Protection Agency. Please help us, Mr. President.
Dayo Ntwari (Kigali, 13th May 2019)
Credit(s): Featured Image: “Children in Uganda’s Kamuli district travel to the edge of the River Nile to collect water for their families.” – Wikimedia (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)