Umwiherero, best translated as “retreat”, refers to a tradition in Rwandan culture where leaders convene in a secluded place in order to reflect on issues affecting their communities. Upon return from these retreats, the objective is to have identified solutions. On a smaller scale, this term also refers to the action of moving to a quieter place to discuss issues with a small group of people.
As part of efforts to reconstruct Rwanda and to nurture a shared national identity, the Government of Rwanda drew on aspects of Rwandan culture and traditional practices to enrich and adapt its development programs to the country’s needs and context. The result is a set of Home Grown Solutions - culturally owned practices translated into sustainable development programs. One of these Home Grown Solutions is the National Leadership Retreat, also known as Umwiherero.
In modern times, the Government of Rwanda id drawing on this tradition to reflect on, and address, the challenges the country faces on an annual basis. Umwiherero is organised by the Office of the President in conjunction with the Office of the Prime Minister. The President chairs Umwiherero during which presentations and discussions centre on a broad range of development challenges, including economics, politics, justice, infrastructure, health, education and others. Contemporary Umwiherero was intended exclusively for senior public officials but has evolved to include leaders from the private sector as well as civil society.
Since its inception, organisers of Umwiherero have adopted numerous initiatives to improve the implementation of resolutions agreed upon at each retreat. By 2011, these efforts resulted in noticeable improvements in planning, coordination, and accountability leading to clearer and more concise priorities. In 2011, six priorities were identified, down from 174 in 2009, allowing for more effective delivery and implementation of Umwiherero resolutions.