While students across campus studied for final exams, Western hosted a delegation from the Republic of Rwanda.
On April 24, Rwandan President Paul Kagame toured the facilities at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry along with his fellow government ministers in his first trip to Canada.
Kagame’s visit came two months after Western President and Vice-Chancellor Paul Davenport and Ted Hewitt, VP-research and international relations for Western’s administration, toured the medical facilities in Kigali, Rwanda.
Western is currently collaborating with York University, The University of Ottawa, and Fanshawe College in a project entitled Rebuilding Health in Rwanda to improve the health care system in the genocide-torn country. The project aims to train nursing professionals at the Kigali Health Institute. In addition, four members from Western’s faculty will conduct a review of the Faculty of Medicine at the National University of Rwanda.
Last year, the project received nearly $1–million in funding from the Canadian International Development Agency.
Following his tour of the medical facilities, Kagame addressed guests from Western and other universities at the Great Hall in Somerville House. Among other matters, he discussed the need for foreign institutions’ help in rebuilding the “economic and social infrastructure” that was destroyed in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
“[Western] has worked and visited with a number of other institutions in Rwanda,” he said. “We value this contribution, especially in that you have chosen a vital field to support: the development of human resources in the health sector.”
Davenport also renewed the school’s commitment to aiding Rwanda while addressing the audience.
“President Kagame has talked about the importance he has put onto science and technology [to rebuild the country]… a foundation for a very strong relationship between Western and Rwanda has been laid,” he said.
Full scale security was in place for the event, as traffic was blocked off on the road between the medical school and Somerville House and security could be found throughout campus.
Many of Kagame’s critics remain leery about his past military record and have questioned why he has not been outspoken about the recent crisis in Darfur, Sudan.
When asked about some of the allegations against him by a reporter prior to his speech, Kagame said his critics should “just shut up.”
Western’s involvement in Rwanda began in 2004, when David Cechetto, director of the Medical Electives Overseas Program in the Schulich School of Medicine, visited the West African country and shortly after organized a collection and shipment of textbooks and other medical supplies to Rwanda. From there, Carroll Iwasiw, a professor in Western’s School of Nursing, joined the program to become a fellow project leader.
There are an estimated 200 doctors and 1500 nurses in Rwanda to support a population of 8 million people.