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Rwanda: Blogger Invites President Through Twitter

This is a story of how a Kenyan blogger based in Rwanda invited Rwandan President Paul Kagame via Twitter to visit kids at The Ibirunga Tennis Court in Musanze Town. President Kagame replied and ended up visiting them.

SavyKenya works with Art of Conservation, an organisation that carries out conservation and health education to kids living near the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

SavyKenya explains how it all began:

It all started with a tweet. Rather, two tweets.

Friday morning. My last day at work. Fridays are easy days around here, we report to work at nine in the morning, which means I get up at 8, and on most days, I oversleep till 8.30 and I have to shower, dress, have breakfast and do the 10-min walk to work in 30min! Today at around 4pm, there is a farewell party for me. I don’t really have that much work, so I spend most of the morning tweeting, Facebooking, blog reading and emailing.

Back at the office, Julie told me about the president passing through today and I told her you know what? The president is on twitter, I could tweet him. She was like, why not?

So I tweeted him, and kept checking my replies every few minutes. Finally, 30 minutes later I get a reply:

She tweeted:

@PaulKagame if you'll be passing through Musanze town this afternoon, the tennis kids will be waving at you and they have a t-shirt for you.

Kagame replied:

@savvykenya. O K sure,…I stop by …thank u!

The waiting started:

Apart from his tweet, and the excitement in the air as the tennis kids were told to come in their best club t-shirts, there was little to show the president was going to stop by. But at around 5pm, the commissioner of police in this area (I think) called and started asking all sorts of questions about the club. Then we knew things were getting thick! Later, a few security guys (a part of the presidential guards perhaps) arrive and also start asking questions. We’re called from the office. We (AoC staff) have to leave the party for the tennis court. We tell the guests not to worry, we’ll be back to continue it but for now, well…

More army guys arrive. They surround the tennis court and melt into the shadows. They go into the houses neighbouring the court and command the residents to stay indoors. It’s all very movie-like. They are asking questions. They are polite, because they ask me, “may we please speak to you” and then pull me aside and ask me all sorts of things. Then they call Julie aside and do the same. Then they call me back. Then they call Valerie (another staff member) and do the same. Then back to Julie. It is just so very exciting.

And finally….:

Finally, a car travelling at high speed blazes through, flashing lights and hooting horns. Or maybe a siren. In our excited state, we see and hear things. Off it goes past us. It must be the decoy car, I think. The presidential motorcade finally weaves its way and at the tennis court where we wait by the roadside, a small sleek car stops. Someone opens the door. And Kagame steps out.

President Paul Kagame holding a t-shirt from Art of Conservation. Photo courtesy of SavyKenya

She tells him that she is the one who tweeted:

Julie is the first to greet him and to introduce herself. I shake his hand next. He then greets everyone by hand, paying special attention to the smallest kid here. He speaks with Coach Tony. He says he has a gift for us and hands us an envelope. We thank him and clap for him. We remember the t-shirt we promised him. We give it to him. He holds it up, saying “thank you, it’s my size.” We couldn’t be happier at this moment!

There is a pause in conversation and activity, and I seize the chance to tell him I’m the one who tweeted him. He turns back to some of his entourage and says, “she’s the one who invited me.” Then I tell him am going back to Kenya soon, and he said no, you should stay. I tell him I want to be the president of the EA Republic when it’s formed in 2032.

He donated money to Ibirunga Tennis Club:

We count the money the president gifted the Ibirunga Tennis and Running Club. One million Rwandese Francs (about 2000 USD).

SavyKenya's impression of Paul Kagame:

My impression of him is that he’s a very nice guy. There, I don’t have glowing descriptions. It was humbling for me, for all of us. He’s generous and polite. A great man.

Another Kenyan blogger, Tech Mtaa, says, “This is one great move by the President and will sure win him much support among the techno savvy youth.”

Readers’ reactions at SavyKenya blog:

Mrembo says:

Lazima we make this news/tweetup viral….yani how many people tweet a prsident and that same day the president shows up. Off to spread it the news. Good on you

Kbaab says:

That was the COOLEST thing any tweep has ever done! I’m totally jazzed like you won’t believe. I’ve always like President Paul Kagame, but now I think I love him. That was such a sweet and humble gesture. I’m sitting here, thinking, would our President do that? Really? I don’t think so. Power to you girl! Here’s to more Presidential tweet ups.

jacquendinda says:

This is big!!! for a tweet to turn into something as big..uuuwi! I dont think I would have eaten hio usiku…excitos!!!
I like Kagame because he replies to tweets..that says a lot about a person, especially one who is a leader….

This deserves a congratulations…you did good!!

OtienoHongo says:

Wow, ok, after reading this I am going to tweet Obama! Anyway, nice to know he actually manages his twitter account, I know some public figures get their assistants to do such stuff – what this means is that we shall be twitting him with more confidence now in the knowledge that he will read them! Good to know you enjoyed your stay in Rwanda as well!

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