NAME ::: Francis Mugabo COUNTRY ::: Rwanda
My name is Mugabo Francis. I’m a general practitioner, working at the military hospital in the department of surgery and orthopedics.
I’m from Rwanda and I live in Kigali City.
I grew up in Uganda in a village where we used to keep a herd of cows. My task was to look after the cows. To bring them to the fields and bring them back home. That was the task of all the kids. And we used to go and find a nice place where we could play around and hide. It was quite nice. But then the cows could run away and disappear, and we would have to find them. So it was a small village, and we had neighbors. One of them was my grandfather, my father and my uncles. But it was a very long distance between one group of people and another. 10 km before you could see another village. So we used to walk long distances. Even going to school was not that easy, because you had to walk a long distance.
My family wasn’t poor and it wasn’t rich. It was the middle class. We had 200 cows, and there were others who had maybe 500 cows and others who had only 20, so we were in the middle class.
I grew up with my father and my step mom with my 4 brothers. My older brother, my older sister, and my step mom who had also one kid. And then in 1996 I saw my mom for the first time. I was very happy to see her. She had divorced my father when I was one year old, and when I saw her again I was 14 years old, I think. I was in the fields with the cows 10 km away, and my older brother came running to me and said: “Your mom is at home.” I didn’t say anything, I just ran home, eager to see her. It was amazing to see her for the first time. I could not believe it. I had a lot of questions to ask her, but then I said “Okay, next time.”
She came to Uganda to visit us. She also lived in Uganda, but near the Rwanda-Uganda border, almost 500 km from where we lived.
In the place where we lived there were no crops, and our culture was to breed cows. So we depended on milk. When you only get milk, you have to drink a lot of it. So that your stomach is full. And so that you get strong and are able to look after cows. Only once in a month the elder people would go far away to look for food. So they brought milk in exchange for food. Or they would sell some cows and buy food. But they should walk like 100 km, so it would take days riding a bicycle. So we had to wait. But it was very interesting, and we would feel happy to eat something. We had kasawa with milk, it was very good, and we liked it so much. Even now today I like kasawa and milk. It’s among my best dishes. When I go home to my mom she knows that she has to prepare kasawa and milk for me.
I have a very good relationship to my mom. I visit her whenever I have time.
I came back to Rwanda in 1996, in September. I had heard stories from Rwanda from my grand parents. I was expecting to see a very nice country with milk and .. But actually I came in the dry season, so it was very horrible to see the dry season. People came in from Uganda with a lot of cows. And then they found out that Rwanda is small. There is not enough grazing for the cows. So cows lay dying by the roadside. So my first time was a bad experience. And I was a bit frustrated. Is this the country I have been told is so wonderful? So I travelled a little bit in Rwanda and started enjoying my country. When I came it was as I said the dry season, and that year it was very dry, because there were a lot of people and cows packed in the eastern province with no water and not enough grass for the cows. But later I found that Rwanda is beautiful. By then I knew that I was Rwandan, because when I lived in Uganda I didn’t speak Ugandan, so this was another experience to find out that yes, this is my country.
It was a bit difficult, because we had to go by foot with all the cows. We walked, when we got tired we slept, and the next day the same. So we spent one month and a half walking until we arrived in Rwanda. But small kids and women had to go by bus.
What is most important to you?
The most important for me in life is to have principles and to have a vision. And to be good. That is very important. If you are good, everything will adapt on you and you will fit in society. And that’s good for you and for the society. So the most important for me is to be good to everyone. And having a vision.
My vision is to become an orthopedic surgeon. That’s my near vision.
One of my principles is that I have to do what I’m supposed to do in the right time. And I get frustrated when I do not achieve to do what I was supposed to do. Another principle is when I’m in the right place to do the right thing. And not to take any short cuts.
But when I’m going from here to another place I can use a short cut. So I mean in business, I don’t want to take any short cuts. I want to do the right things in the right time and the right way. That’s my principle.
What has influenced you the most in your life?
When I was in Primary 6, as I told you I lived in the bush on the farm, and I was studying in a small center. And in that center there was some health workers. By then I was trying to walk around the town and looking at people. And then I found he was the only man looking nice, smart, having nice kids, and he had a motorbike. And I said: That man is a good man. And he has a good family and he looks well and he talks gently and he is very humble to everybody. And then I was told he was a doctor at that center. And yet he wasn’t doctor. But I was inspired by him and thought that maybe one day in my life I will be a doctor and be like him. Because he was a good man. He looked well, he dressed well, he had two kids looking well, and he had a motorbike, so I thought that’s the life I want to live, so I had to be a doctor.
What has been an important turning point in your life?
When I lost my older brother. I told you I lived with my stepmom, but we didn’t have a good relationship, so I had my older brother who was my very very good friend. We liked each other. We shared a lot of things. And I could feel free to talk to him about everything I wanted to talk about. He was so good to me. He died in 2004. I was about to study at the university. And I was looking much forward for his support. So that was a turning point because I couldn’t have his support. My father by then wasn’t able to support me during my education. So I had a government sponsorship, but the government doesn’t sponsor everything. And also I needed someone to talk to and to tell all my secrets and all my stories. So when he passed away I didn’t have anybody to give me that support. I didn’t have any brother, I didn’t have any friend. I was even thinking about if I had to study. Also he supported me in me being a doctor. So it was no longer of any value for me to study medicine, because he was no longer there. He would never see me as a doctor. He would never see me in a white coat and a stethoscope, so I lost hope actually. But life had to go on and I had to continue with my vision that I had since I was a kid.
My brother was a soldier in the Rwanda defense forces. So he died in DR Congo. There was a war between Rwanda, Congo, Simbabwe. It was a multi country conflict. So by its end, that’s when he died. He was shot by his neighbor, I was told. They shop him in the chest. So he died immediately. And He had four kids. They are my nieces. So every time I see them, I just remember. Our relationship and our friendship and brotherhood.
I said I should not disappoint him even though he is not alive. He supported me, so I said okay, I will continue with my education. Even though it’s not easy. And then I started to get back on the track. But starting to study medicine was very hard for me.
What makes you happy?
When I sit by the water I feel very happy. I feel that this is my life, when I sit by the water and by the lake. I have to swim. Every time I go there the whole lot of frustration, I become happy, and when I’m swimming I’m happy. And just seeing water makes me happy.
Actually I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe because I get some fresh air from water or .. I don’t know how to answer that question, but I just know I get happy, and it’s nice to be near water.
What are you personally proud of?
I’m proud of being a doctor. I’m proud that now I can support my nieces. Before I was supported by their father. So i’m very proud of that. And that’s why I want to be an orthopedic surgeon, so that I can get more and support them more. Especially compared to a general practitioner. Almost double. Or three times.
What have been the biggest struggles in your life?
My biggest struggles was when I was studying the first year of medicine. I had no support from my father, my brother was no longer living. And to study in that condition with that impression, with lack of support in money and morally and socially was very difficult. So I had many problems in that first year. I failed four exams. It was so difficult to study with the losses I had had. But finally I persisted. And it became easier and easier. And another brother started working and started to support me. But the first year was very hard.
What would you change in your life, if you could change something?
If I could change anything in my life I would stop the divorce of my parents, because it had a lot of bad side effects. So I would go back and work on them to continue together. And I don’t wish to divorce in my life. If I knew that I might diverse, I would rather not marry at all.
When you are young and you don’t have your mom, you lack that tender care of your mom, and that’s important. And when you are growing, you need your mom. To guide you, to teach you. Also fathers ca give you some care, but they are not as good as women, because they know how to take care. They have more love than fathers. And some times you have a stepmother who is not good to you.