My first major task I was charged with when I got to Rwanda was to make sure the paperwork got done for our NGO renewal. I'm thinking, no sweat. Although I've never set up a 501(c)3, I have started five businesses, dealt with business licensing, government registrations this is not my first rodeo. Well, obviously it is my first RODEO in Rwanda!
I have now been in Rwanda a little over three weeks and I am still not much closer to getting the NGO paperwork done. Number one issue....letters....letters of collaboration (huh?), memos of understanding, (if only I knew what I was supposed to understand). Memos on the relationship between Project Rwanda and the Vision 2020 Plan. Memo to EDP, and CRPS. I always thought I was a fairly bright, intuitive take charge kind of woman. And this country's NGO mouse maze has reduced me to an outburst in front of Felix on the road in Musanze. I'm sure he was thinking I was completely Muzungu. Crazy Muzungu.
The letter of collaboration that I needed from the Mayor of Musanze consisted of the following song and dance routine:
I got a copy of a similar letter from another organization and inserted Project Rwanda information. I take the letter last week to the mayor's office with a meeting Jock and Felix had set up. We meet with the Mayor of Musanze in his concrete block office with reject paint the color of bad imitation turquoise and he looks at the letter and says that's great he'll sign it as soon as we have a letter attached to it requesting him to sign it...WHAT? So, I race home write a letter asking him to sign the letter and then go back. I'm not letting anything else pop into the picture. I hand the paperwork to the Mayor's secretary at which point he says, "We need a different letter and this original letter will not work." About this time I give him the ticked off, get it done, Muzungu woman look from hell and he quickly reconsiders. Perhaps he was afraid I'd sit in his office glaring at him all day. I'm told to pick it up in two days, in Rwandan time that is equal to 3 1/2 months.
Two days later I return to pick up the letter and much to my shock...NOT, I'm told they can't sign it until JAF signs off. JAF stands for Joint Action Forum (the first time I heard him I thought he said Joint Action Farm to which I addressed their letter). The JAF office was across the street. I sprinted across the large expanse of dirt, mud and volcanic rock that doubles as the main thorough fare in Musanze and up into the the JAF. No one there. That's when my skills as a phone stalker come into play! I track down Mr. JAF, explain my situation and he agrees to meet with me that afternoon at 2:00pm, which is 4:30pm Rwandan time. I'm told I need someone to come visit the Project Rwanda house and warehouse and of course, being Friday I cannot get someone out there until Monday. Another week down.....
So, Monday rolls around and JAF is supposed to be out there in the afternoon and lo and behold they show up at my door at the exact time I'm walking out to help some coffee farmers with their bikes in Kinigi 12k from Musanze. Yes, Rwanda time 1pm is actually 9:30am. Stay with me it doesn't get easier. So, Mr. JAF inspector has to write a report to give to Head JAF. I can pick up Tuesday. Tuesday I call Mr. Head JAF and am told to meet him at 10:00am at his office. So I decide to walk over there at 10:30. I'm figuring out Rwandan time! Head JAF shows up at 11:15 and he's irritated with me for calling him three times wondering where he was for our appointment. $150,000 Rwandan Francs later ($300), I have the okay from JAF to give the okay to the Mayor to give the okay to Project Rwanda to get the NGO Renewal. Whew...one more stop back to the Mayor. Silly me, thinking I was home free. The Mayor is no where to be found and he is the only person that can give me the blessing. I'm told to come back the next day, now Wednesday. Wednesday, Mr. Mayor is still out. Where is he? Musanze is not the size of Chicago. Now I'm in a panic. I'm leaving for Gisenyi Wednesday night. As I rant and rave all the way down the street back to my house with Felix, my Rwandan assistant by my side watching his first Muzungu melt down he looks over at me smiling and says, "You'll get it done in a couple of days because you're a Muzungu. If you were a Rwandan it would be three months." Culturally, it is not okay for Rwandan men to question other Rwandan men in power. Even if they have a simple question of how to do something. Well, that never stopped me. Rwandan is also VERY patriarchal. They do have a majority of females in the government, however, women are still very much second class especially in the rural areas...but that's for another blog.
So by Wednesday night, no mayor, no letter and I'm on my way to Gisenyi for three days of filming for a Rwandan tourist DVD with some friends. I leave it in the very capable hands of Felix and pray. He returns Thursday and waits and waits and waits and then...he gets it signed! I texted him from Gisenyi and he responded with a "Yes, I have it!" As I shriek with delight and crack open a glass of wine to celebrate my phone vibrates. It is Hamza, the Rwandan I have working the paperwork from his end in Kigali. The Letter of Collaboration from the Minister of Sports which we need for the NGO renewal is not signed. They said it needs to come from the Minister of Agriculture. The saga continues....off to Kigali this morning!