A West Point Cadet returns to Rwanda

We were fortunate to have two West Point cadets assist the team during our recent data collection visit to Kigali, Rwanda. One of the cadets is John Mugabe, a Rwandan Defense Forces cadet who attends West Point. In this post, I will share his impressions of our recent visit. In our next post, we will share the thoughts of Cadet Caleb Gage, an American, who also assisted our team.

“I am CDT John Mugabe and I am majoring in Civil Engineering at the United States Military Academy and I would like to discuss the experience we had on our AIAD (Advanced Individual Academic Development trip) to Kigali, Rwanda.

In addition to getting out of West Point barracks, it was such a great feeling to know that, in few hours, (Caleb) Gage and I would be landing in a country of thousand hills, Rwanda. Rwanda is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and we were going to conduct an Infrastructure Network Development AIAD under the guidance of West Point Network Science Center. Both of us were so excited about finishing our first and the most challenging year at the United States Military Academy. We were looking forward to our trip to Kigali, Rwanda. I am from Rwanda but it was the first time for Gage to get out the United States of course, like most Americans.

The flights were long and we couldn’t wait to feel Kigali’s wind breeze on our landing. To cut the long story short, let’s dive straight to the beginning of business and some fun. The pilot finally announced that we are 15 minutes away from Kigali International airport and the feeling was one that would be called intense excitement. We immediately drove to a coffee shop downtown called Camellia Tea House to have some drinks and snacks after a long flight. The next day we conducted the trial phase of our project by moving around Gikondo Sector.

Cadets collecting data in the residential Gatenga Sector of Kigali

Talking of the project, we mainly worked on modeling how different resources around Kigali sectors are shared among the population by using Geographical Information System. This was a great educative opportunity in many ways but chiefly we learned the relationship between what is recorded on the maps, how they relate on what is on the ground and how to access them by using address systems. We have learned the process of how to model sector-shared resources on a map and applied that knowledge to Kigali sectors. Also, we had the opportunity to professionally brief the results of our AIAD to RDF Brigadier General Safari Ferdinand, an experience which is great for someone who just finished his plebe year.

Cadets Briefing BG Ferdinand Safari, Rwandan Defense Forces

Touching on the visit again, it was amazing how almost every little kid we passed by called Gage “Umzungu” which means a white person and how they merrily greeted us with a good morning, excited to give him a handshake. Additionally, the visit to Akagera national park was another great time we had in Rwanda with the rest of the team. Driving in a huge Safari car while standing up was great in the way that one would feel the gentle wind blow. We got to see a lot of monkeys, buffalos, birds, deers, zebras, crocodiles, etc.

Cadets Gage and Mugabe at Akagera National Park

In few words, as cadets from the United States Military Academy, this AIAD to Rwanda was a great opportunity for us to learn important knowledge about Infrastructure Network Modeling, getting to know Rwanda for Gage and professionally communicate the results of our research to a high ranking Rwandan Defense Forces officer.”

In our next post, we’ll share Cadet Caleb Gage’s impressions of Rwanda.