In the words of a villager……

7th January 2014

There I was, in a café in a Kigali suburb, ruminating as I took in the evening view of the Kigali skyline and wondering how somebody had managed to ‘steal my vantage-points show’ when, who breezes in?

“My brother from another mother!” exclaimed Sylvestre, bursting into my thoughts to grab me in a bunny embrace, before taking a chair.

“So,” exhaled he, “son of a gun, how are your reportedly waning brawn and brain?” Doing justice to the translation of Sylvestre’s exuberance would be beyond you too, so, bear with me!

First, though, what’s that “steal my vantage-points show”? Many of you may have seen photos of the Kigali-skyline doing the rounds on the internet.

I am talking about those vantage points from where the photos were captured: Rebero, Mt Kigali, Shyorongi, Mt Juru, Kinyinya, Kinamba…. They have been my haunts for the last twenty years.

In the silence of the evening, you can literally hear Kigali City breathe and see it slowly grow.

However, Sylvestre Semajeri (for that’s the one, if you recall my homeboy of the slopes of Mt Muhabura) was carrying on with his monologue, ignoring my attempts at a response: “…..I know you are captivated by the continually changing Kigali skyline. But, like the elite of our land, you’ve never let it cross your mind that that skyline is telling you the story of a much more profound occurrence that you tread on without seeing….”

Bemused by Sylvestre’s lofty delivery, I tried to interrupt but he waved me into silence.

You see, he continued, you seem to live in the clouds. In romanticising over that skyline alone, you do not notice the clean and green places that are mushrooming around you.

You even forget that only a few years ago, you could not have thought of sitting in the dirt, dust and danger that was this place. The bright places and cheery faces you see around you did not exist.

But, especially, remember that the light, order, cleanliness, green and tranquillity mark all the routes that radiate from here to every nook and cranny of this land.

Take me, from one of those ‘crannies’ – the slopes. Before 1994, coming here wouldn’t have involved me getting up and taking a minibus commuter-taxi and bang! I’d be here.

No, sir, it’d have meant getting a ‘laisser-passer’ (pass) from my local chief. Before getting which, I’d have needed to oil his (always male) dirty palm. Before which, I’d have needed to scrub my old clothes into shreds and scour my gullied, jigger-infested heels into meaty sores to look presentable.

Before which, I’d have needed to sell off part of my poor harvest, a few chickens or a goat, at throw-away prices, to acquire the requisite dough. Before which…

Anyway, after the whole of the above laborious exercise, I’d not have been able to meet you: you’d have been in exile. You’d not have been part of the class of Rwandans allowed to enjoy the above privileges because you’d have been born wrong!

And I talk for many, save for a handful – hardly more than a hundred – that monopolised all rights. Twenty one short years ago, there were Rwandans who had been born to seek permission to move about in their country; to be poor; to be uneducated; not to be treated when sick……. Even then, these were privileged!

There were others who were born as an inconvenience to be ignored. And, worse still, there were those born simply as eliminable pests.

Brother, that growing skyline should never lull you into forgetting where your land and your people are coming from. Rather, its continued growth should make you see the power you have so as to look at that primitive past with courage and the future with hope.

That power is now in your hands.

Today, we, in our entirety as Rwandans, are holding fast to that power and we are not going to transfer it to anybody, ever. Led by our born activist and lifelong organiser, we grabbed it by dint of our collaborative force from that unforgiving history and it’s now ours for keeps.

We, and only we, decide on who exercises its authority, influence and force on our behalf; and when, and for how long.

But, think about that above-mentioned activist-organiser. As a toddler, seeking to know why some Rwandans were refugees; how those who sought to lead them back home had failed.

As a teen in first year of secondary school, bearing in mind that victimisation, organising a Rukerinyange group of older boys to protect younger boys, Rwandan and others.

Think of what’s today common knowledge: activist-organiser contributing in a neighbour’s liberation; leading the revival of a good-as-dead home liberation, the defeat of a Francophone onslaught and its super power, the halt of a genocide, the shunning of revenge killings, leading the haul of a primitive economy into a 21st century economy, now winning global accolades……

That unrelenting vision pursuit, undying patriotic fervour, unblinking eye for detail, steadfast stance in defence of what’s right, et al. These qualities are from a man like no ordinary other.

A nod from President Kagame is the best New Year message to the united citizens of this land!

Brothers and sisters on planet Earth, Happy New Year!

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Opposition in exile not of any consequence

28th February 2014

There is no doubt that Frank Kagabo’s column that appears in Rwanda Today, a weekly on Rwanda carried in The East African, is usually expressive and balanced on Rwandan issues. However, perhaps for not being a daily close observer of Rwandans’ interests and struggles in building their country, as he is mainly based in foreign lands, sometimes his articles miss the point of what exactly matters to the Rwandan government and people.

This may be the case in last week’s article entitled “Politics of convenience and hardball political games live in harmony”.

When you miss the point of what matters to Rwanda, you cannot get the grasp of where the “Kigali charm offensive”, as Kagabo terms it, is directed. That “offensive” is aimed at nothing except what advances the interests, and improves the lives, of Rwandans. To Kigali, ‘exile-opposition’ shenanigans are a laughable pastime to turn to for comic relief, in between serious business. Those pranks were long ago seen for what they are: futile efforts at dividing the people of this land for opportunistic ends. Who doesn’t know there is nil value to draw from them?

If the Saturday BBC Imvo n’Imvano programme is popular here, it’s because it plays to the tune of those whose single survival strategy as opposition politicians is to sell such high-jinks. For that alone, in Kigali and all around, they are a source of amusement.

That “old hand in Rwandan journalism”, Ally Yusufu Mugenzi, would have been good at his job but for the fact that he is schooled in the divisive politics of a Rwanda gone by that incited hatred among its citizens. There was no shred of objectivity in the journalism of then and there isn’t, in the journalism of that “old hand” today.

“Entertaining” it may be, in the sense of ex-PM Twagiramungu’s “Ariko murasetsa”; “informative”, it is not.

The newly ‘out-of-exile’ lawyer, Evode Uwiziyemana, after waking up to the sense of joining his compatriots here “to serve the good cause” (his words) that Rwanda is today, has revealed all. So he says he used to be paid for his services. And the services? To adeptly play around with his legal knowledge and ‘expose’ Rwanda as misusing her laws to “curtail civil rights and freedoms of the country”. That way, our “old hand” and his raft of oppositionist buddies hoped to ‘legalise’ their opposition arguments. It’s no wonder, then, that these opposition elements are almost always the sole guests on Mugenzi’s programme.

How he manages to con money out of a respectable institution like the BBC on this, one wonders. Do the foreign institutions host these programmes in African vernacular languages for purely altruistic reasons? Or do they have an agenda of shaping the thought in the citizenry vis-à-vis their governments?

None should miss the point that the Rwandan government cannot take oppositionists in exile seriously, playing hardball or convenience games to win any of them over.

Apart from making vague nuances about government abusing its people’s rights and freedoms, usually picking them from international actors who have their own ill-veiled agendas, no organised opposition group has presented any appreciable alternative programme to that of the government. Their constant shifts of “sides and views” thin their credibility even further. If our self-exiled oppositionists want to be taken seriously, they should consolidate their multitudes of single-or-double-membership parties and come home and present a formidable opposition against the other parties here.

Otherwise, that self-exiled individuals come home and are received with open arms, or even offered juicy jobs when they have something to offer, should not surprise anyone.

We know that from the outset, unity and reconciliation for the progress of Rwandans have been the hallmark of this government. If in coming back those individuals encourage others to follow suit, especially those held hostage in the jungles of DR Congo and others in foreign capitals who may have unfounded misgivings over their activities in 1994, they should be welcomed. After all, in building their country, Rwandans need all hands on deck.

As for “those who were previously inner-circle members of the ruling elite” now being bitter enemies, maybe that’s evidence that there was no inner circle in the first place. Which would mean there was no “divorce”, bitter or otherwise. Rather, maybe the body-politic of this nation-state rejected their manner and method of serving and they found they had no place in it.

Still, north or south, home is best. No doubt this land will accommodate them when they are visited by a change of heart, even if they might need to account for their past conduct. Before he took to exile, Ntashamaje Gerald must have thought he was bang inside that “inner circle”, having participated in the liberation war. Today he is back on the soil, in the humble service of his people.

Rwanda has no time to play hardball with oppositionists in exile. They are not of any consequence to anybody.

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Rwanda will not tremble

28th March 2014

When you are trying to sympathise with all those suffering in senseless wars and other human-induced tragedies of the world, so as to that way get the courage to appreciate the day, your ears are split by noises of how your country is a monster.
You are trying to push back memories of the monstrosity of 1994 before fully plunging into the genocide commemoration season that’s upon us, but no. Those who have made it their duty to deny you peace are up. The hunter’s horn is blaring and so hate mongers; self-seekers; genocide deniers of all description; they are all gathered to attack.
Hunted Rwanda must be made to tremble.
The genocide commemoration is here and so, if yesterday she was accused of killing in the DR Congo, today she must be accused of killing in South Africa.
Nobody has shown evidence of how she has the power to walk into any country any time she wishes and kill whomever she wishes but this is Rwanda and, therefore, the verdict is out. She is guilty as charged. In South Africa, North America, Europe, condemnation is up.

What all those accusers don’t pause to ponder is what the majority of Rwandans think about it. Because if they did, they would maybe realise that many Rwandans wish it were true; they wish they had that power.

But you, reading this, lest your sense of decency is assaulted, should consider one little thing.

You and your honest-to-goodness family are walking from church, where you prayed for the world. At the bus stop, as you move to a candy stand to buy something for your innocent little ones, a grenade blast goes off. When you make to rush back, you notice to your horror that your family has been reduced to tattered, meaty pieces.

Your family, good citizen of this world, has joined the statistics of those who died a senseless death. An awful death that was ‘skilfully’ premeditated in the criminal mind of someone whose sworn mission is to give you “better life, democracy, freedom of speech”, whatever.

Pray, what good can come out of killing innocents in the name of rescuing them out of a “dictatorship”; in the name of serving a “democratic mission”?

Now stop imaginations and remember the harsh reality of when grenade blasts were rocking Kigali and other Rwandan towns almost every day.

Remember those maimed and those killed who joined the more than a million of 1994.

Remember, especially, that, in truth, those are not mere statistics. They are kindred who were maimed or murdered inanely to satisfy a fiendish mind.
Fighting an enemy responsible for such fiendish terror is not a commitment peculiar to Rwanda. It’s a calling for every country.

That’s why President Kagame’ message should ring true to every heart of this world; any soul that values the dignity of humanity:
“My main responsibility is to ensure the wellbeing, development and security of [my] people.”

Indeed, all leaders should know that they are not musicians who are in their business “to entertain” murderers of their people. They are not “accountable to NGOs” that feed “those who compromise the people” of their countries.

Leaders are the individuals who have been called to lead the fight in defence of the dignity of their people.

Thus, the unequivocal message from Rwandans who care: none will accept to suffer the primitive indignity of yesteryears, ever again. Who can serve this order will lead them; who seeks to reverse it will be fought tooth-and-nail, wherever they may be.

As they remember, Rwandans renew their passionate dedication to the protection of their own and to nullify any effort to divert their attention, in any way, from this mission.

However, the shrill of a few evil voices should not be allowed to drown the boom of warmth of big hearts that are with Rwanda. Rwandans should rejoice in the knowledge that countless individuals, organisations and countries are with them in their fight to restore their human dignity.

It is heart-warming, for instance, to read a message from Francine LeFrak, an American who founded an organisation called SAME SKY:
“In observance of” what here in Rwanda is called “Global Umuganda” to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi, “SAME SKY is hosting ‘Umuganda Under the SAME SKY’ on March 29th…….an opportunity to stand alongside genocide survivors and perform an act of kindness in remembrance.”

Of course, there are myriad other individuals and organisations similarly inclined in North America.

Can anyone forget the work of a French citizen, late Jean Carbonare, in exposing the genocide suspects holed up in France? Nor will anyone forget his compatriots who have devoted their lives to carrying on with that mission, Mr Alain and Mrs Daphrose Gauthier.

This does not ignore others in France and in other European countries.
On all the continents of this globe, many are with Rwanda.

And that’s reason to have courage. So, let’s appreciate the day!

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National Leadership Retreat: for leisure or for labour?

21st March 2014

Last Friday 7th March was ‘exodus day’ for our leaders. From the lowest to the highest, in the public and private sectors, the leaders were packed together in college buses, bound for the north-east. Gabiro, in the Eastern Province, would be their hibernation nook for three days.

Meanwhile, it was interesting to see the countenances on the faces of the citizens who thronged the Kigali-Kagitumba roadside, as they watched their leaders’ convoy rumble by.

Some wore that déjà-vu expression that said they remembered the same ‘migration’ last year and others elsewhere before. However, there were expressions that betrayed anxiety and one couldn’t help imagining. Perhaps some citizens feared that, with these irregular rains, their leaders were hightailing it to greener pastures, leaving them to the mercy of a looming famine that, inexplicably, they anticipated?

And, indeed, it would have been flight to comfort if it were not for the distress of crowding in buses and vans. And, for those with generous girths, ‘compacting’ themselves to fit on narrow double-decker beds in common dormitories. For those without, dealing with the painful contact between an un-fleshy bone and wood/metal, with only the intervention of a mean-sized mattress.

Still, though, when time came, the leaders seemed to glide comfortably through their power-point presentations. Execution of the government’s well-thought-out programmes was going on without a hitch.

To be sure, the leaders were here for the good times. Or were they?

Led by their president, the leaders put each presentation and its presenter under what one can only describe as ‘brutal scrutiny’.

Why were projects and programmes that should have been completed six years ago still limping on today; buildings still incomplete, five years beyond completion deadline; the beasts of corruption still breathing, even if haltingly?

Where was improvement in agriculture, the mainstay of the economy? Where, affordable housing; electricity expansion; facilitation of teachers; equipped classrooms, hospitals/health centres; investor facilitation; communication and collaboration across the board? On and on.

Where is the sense of urgency? Where the leaders have promised to take the country as if it were an emergency case, did anyone dare enjoy the luxury of dilly-dallying?
After the self-inflicted grilling, many of the leaders whose department-performance was found wanting looked like victims of a devastating hurricane. The celebration of those whose departments posted positive scores was not without trepidation, either, as they knew that if they hadn’t faced the grill in the eleven retreats before, there were yet others to come.

Even as they fretted, however, the leaders knew they had history to draw inspiration from. The significance of that first day of October 1990 will never be lost on them. That’s the day a few Rwandans set off on an improbable journey to coalesce all compatriots around the cause of unity so as to haul themselves and their country out of their primitive state.

The journey was traumatic but, knowing they’ve come a long way, the citizens of this land know they will never look back. Mistakes here and there notwithstanding, the leaders should know that as long as the citizens are behind them, they can never go wrong.

However, unfortunately for our leaders, to keep that trust they have to stay fast fixed on the grill!

For, lest they forget, December is nigh, when this time they will account for the performances to their citizens and the wider world. After all, the National Leadership Retreat (Umwiherero) in March is only a dress rehearsal for the National Dialogue Council (Umushyikirano) in December.

But if our leaders demonstrated how they engineered the drivers of the transformation of this country, they did not forget to show the ‘reforming’ they’d done to their Kinyarwanda so as to speak the same language. For, owing to their diverse backgrounds, in exile in different areas or inside the country, it so happens that some of them find themselves speaking “Icirimi” (no such word in Kinyarwanda!) rather than “Ururimi” (language)!

That apart, one cannot help wondering. In a country where leaders bare their all to the world in this form of accountability and transparency rarely found in other countries, where do some foreigners base themselves to call Rwanda a closed autocracy? Or are they referring to the ‘brutal scrutiny’ mentioned above?

If leading this commitment to serve Rwandans is what some foreigners call the “steely rule of President Paul Kagame”, who wouldn’t enjoy being so “ruled”? Especially if, that way, they are part of “a modern Sparta whose economic management is as widely admired as its disciplined army”, to quote a South African commentator on Rwanda?
The yearly retreat and dialogue may be unfamiliar forms of transparency and accountability particular to this country. But, considering where she was in 1994, hasn’t Rwanda undergone unfamiliar transformation to be where she is today?

Where other leaders get busy to conjure up patronage networks once out of sight, Rwandan leaders know they cannot engage in political gimmicks. They must stick with their people to drive the transformational growth of this land.

Rwandans, haunted by their history, demand it of them.

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The regional media should wake up to these machination games

7th March 2014

When you observe what’s happening, not to but, about Rwanda, you cannot help but wonder what’s going on. The most trivial issue is elevated to the level of most consequential happening.

An individual who has never positively served society, when they claim to have been stopped from saving Rwandans, is turned into instant hero. A trifling lie is turned into significant truth.

What’s unfortunate about all this is not that individuals and issues that ordinarily are not newsworthy are given major exposure by Rwanda’s traditional enemies. Rather, it’s that the regional media is hoodwinked into unquestioningly accepting them as credible news.

Due to Rwanda’s history, hardly any day passes without a national returning from exile. Many have returned and are still returning, especially from D.R. Congo, bearing stories of escape from the watch of FDLR – the terrorist group that’s Christened “rebel group” because it’s Rwandan – or denouncing rebellion. Others come from foreign capitals on realising that their crimes are not attracting retribution, after all, or to seek pardon. Yet none of them is considered to be news.

Mr. Evode Uwizeyimana is in this category. It’s not that he is not important; every individual is important to Rwanda and they should be accorded their due respect. It’s that, going by why he has been in the news, no one would have expected his name to feature in the headlines of the regional news outlets.

Given his own admission to being paid to malign the name of his country, everyone would have expected his story to appear in a cartoon strip or among amusement trivialities of the back pages.

How is it, then, that his story is regional headline news for all the wrong reasons?

To Rwandans, yes, it’s a big story. It vindicates their own story that these compatriots in self-imposed exile are disgruntled elements who fell afoul of their government because they could not account for their misdeeds.

However, to be accepted in exile, you have to have a story to sell, which calls for fabricating one when there is none.

It’s easy to see through a fabrication, though, especially when you are a powerful country with reputable media institutions, like France, the UK or USA

It only suffices to infiltrate the country of origin of those “persecuted political agitators” with your deep-pocketed media and non-governmental organisations (NGO). And, in any case, they are well represented in every nook and cranny of Rwanda.

Of course, this is only necessary if you are dealing with a country that does not wear her heart on her sleeve. When it comes to transparency, this country is known to be a plain page.

Why, then, do respectable media institutions like the BBC, VOA and RFI (French) highlight stories like those Uwizeyimana used to trade and give such individuals star status?

Every comment is never objective news unless such “experts” give it the stamp of authority. People plucked from obscurity in exile are put on air or other media spaces to tear down whatever Rwandans are building and the “experts” are called to give the thumbs up. Only we didn’t know that some are even paid for their “authoritative expertise”.

This is how unknown figures are promoted as stalwart opposition party presidents, even before Rwandans know who they are. Remember how, as an example, a Ms Ingabire hit the BBC, VOA scene and then came breathing fire, swearing to pull génocidaires out of prison or else?

This is how every single, unfortunate death of a Rwandan anywhere on the globe is confirmed to be by Rwanda’s hand. Now we can expect even vandalism cases like this week’s in South Africa to be called the work of Rwandan “vandalism squads”.

It’s how, when M23 is defeated, all other 40-and-some rebels are given free rein to maim, murder, rape and ravage, leaving poor innocent Congolese as good as forgotten.

Why, in the name of sanity, what’s going on?

But perhaps the answer lies in a little incident that took place in Germany last Wednesday. The report was buried in news aired by Deutch Velle: “Germany Returns Herero and Nama Skulls to Namibia”. When you remember what befell the Herero and Nama people of Namibia at the turn of the 20th century, things begin to fall in place.

The Genocide against Batutsi that closed the 20th century and the foreign forces involved. The authors of the genocides before and in-between those of Herero, Batutsi. In the Americas, the Asias. Algeria, Zone Turquoise, on.

It looks like cupboards are bursting with skeletons that must be pushed back at all costs.

Much as the citizens of these powerful countries are ready to forcefully bend their governments towards reason, the governments cannot allow any thus affected third-world country to hold their deserved moral high-ground. There is a cutthroat campaign to use any means, always foul, to permanently hold countries like Rwanda under the thumb.

That way, no one will point a finger at those powers that be.

Our regional media should avoid falling in the trap of these machinations.

Those games belong to the bully boys.

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Redefining peacekeeping as we knew it

February 21st 2014

As it used to be (and still is, in places?), peacekeeping could not impress anybody in Rwanda, in my opinion. With it, Rwandans saw the meaning of shame and will never be identified with it.

When UN peacekeepers had their stint in Rwanda in the early 1990s, except a wee few courageous individuals who saved lives – some of who lost their own, God bless their souls – they did not give Rwandans any reason for fond memories.

If anything, they left memories of distress, derision, rage and rancour. In instances where their intervention was most critically needed, where death of innocents was looming, their reaction was at best comical, at worst embarrassingly heartless.

Take the case in a technical school, in Kigali. Thousands of cowed Rwandans were holed up there in 1994, having run to peacekeepers camped there for protection. All around the fence, a militia of uncountable maniacal murderers hungrily waited, their crude killing implements dripping blood from killings elsewhere.

Then, inexplicably, an order came for the peacekeepers to evacuate and they left their charges high and dry. As they set off, they watched as the killers burst over the fence and set upon their victims with clubs, machetes, axes, stones, any killer tool at hand. Even as screams rang in their ears, the peacekeepers headed for the airport: not a shot to scare the killers away; not an odd gun left behind for the hapless victims.

To this day, the (sole?) survivor who tearfully recounts this incident is nursing the stump of a lost arm and a nail-studded-knobkerrie-machete battered body. Listening to this disgrace – leave alone reliving it – is heart-rending. Similar examples in areas all over the country are legion, none any less agonizing.

Rwandan soldiers, wherever they can, and for as long as they can, will never allow such infamy to be visited on any innocent individual/group of individuals.
Whoever attempts to comment on peacekeeping as practiced by Rwanda Defences Forces (RDF) should never forget this hell they came from.

Rwanda today is a product of the disgrace of her history and so is RDF. Wherever RDF volunteer to keep the peace, their own peace is secondary. First and foremost, the victim in the conflict must be protected.

That’s why it should not surprise anybody that Rwandan peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR) appear to be acting the daredevil.

Last Sunday, 16th February, as RDF’s Rwanda Mechanised Infantry Battalion forces (RwaMechBatt1) were on the 700-km road to the Cameroon border, escorting a humanitarian convoy through a marauding mixture of fighters, when they came under attack. But where other peacekeepers try to keep out of harm’s way, RDF plunged into the thick of it.

The Anti-Balaka marauding murderers must have regretted their adventurous folly after suffering seven losses, even if they killed two innocent civilians. At the end of the encounter, more than 2000 Muslims were rescued – a reason RDF is being called “Seleka”!

Wherever they are, RDF soldiers are with any defenceless person, anybody vulnerable, to the hilt. The person may be Muslim, Christian, black, white, whatever.

In Rwanda, we know this. Whether they are joining the monthly umuganda; building houses for vulnerable families; providing community health services; constructing classrooms; handling emergencies; saving a life in any way, RDF are in their element. We remember helicopter evacuations of accident victims inside Rwanda, in Uganda, in Tanzania; the market fire in Burundi. The soldiers are imbedded in the populace: in CAR, Darfur, South Sudan or Haiti – and wherever next.

And so when the CAR capital and surrounding areas were faced with hunger last January, they answered the call and opened up the humanitarian and commercial corridor that connects Bangui to the Cameroonian seaport of Duala. In Bangui, it’s their duty to put a stop to looting; lynching; any case of lawlessness.

Some non-Africans may have milked cheap popularity out of the corridor incident, as reports have it, but to think that RDF is in this life-and-death business for the money and fame is to insult Rwandans in the extreme. It ignores the painful reality of our brothers and sisters, daughters and sons that we receive home, legs first.

As a young compatriot observes, nobody should engage in some academic merry-go-round about “prestigious achievement”, “celebrity status” or “war tales” going to RDF’s head. But the compatriot should also disabuse himself of these beliefs of anyone standing “a slim chance of taking the reigns ” [sic] because of the place the army holds in this country. In Rwanda, the army is the people. And the people, the army.

All in all, methinks to RDF, peacekeeping is about giving the victimised peace, and keeping it – for eventual transfer. The forces have no time for amusement parks.

Their overriding calling is to restore people’s dignity and self-worth. For having suffered the disgrace they did, Rwandans could not but redefine peacekeeping as we knew it.

They are welcome, who followed suit (Remember FIB – THE fib?)

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The dynamic pack on a relentless journey

It’s interesting to stand on the side, fly-on-the-wall-like, and watch an interaction of the clear-headed, confident and articulate-to-a-fault young bureaucrats of Rwanda. And, sure, a sprinkling of their elder greying ‘Gaguls’ (as we used to call oldies), as they all together bandy ideas about.

The seriousness with which they set about their work sometimes makes you wonder if these young souls ever remember to ‘live’. But not so much the Gaguls, who’ll have had their fair share of ‘living’, anyway!

Last Saturday, employees in this Government department, call it “The Office”, were trading ideas in a day-long retreat. As usual, they boiled up their heads in a contest of ideas that saw their past performance shredded and minutely examined, then sewn back together into a bundle of improvement proposals for this year. These retreats have become the byword for the transformation of this country. All departments seek optimal performance to advance the smooth and value-filled running of the departments for better delivery to the country’s department heads.

The retreats are capped by the ‘mother’ of all retreats that brings together President Kagame, cabinet ministers, civil society heads, heads of public departments and the private sector federation. Here all ideas from bottom up are crystallised into proposals of improvement on policies to advance the fortunes of the smallest villager, the departure point on the journey of transformation of the economy and Rwandans.

So, the Office set ‘their soul on fire’ to come up with better ways of ensuring: enhanced service. More efficient delivery. Empowering colleagues and earning trust. Better time management. Open auto criticism with fairness. Kindness of character marked by humility, courage and sharing after constant self re-examination. These and more are winners in team building: Team Office; Team Departments; Team Rwanda.

When finally the re-energised Office came up for air, they entered the ‘laughing hyena’ competition. First ‘laugher’: “Ha!”, second: “Haha!”, third: “Hahaha!”, on. After laughing themselves ‘out-of-breath’, they formed what the Congolese know much better: ‘des orchestres’, with different names. But, for easier recollection, maybe the orchestres should’ve been one, where it’d have been called “Orchestre Alfa-Bet et OTP Jazz” (remember Lwanzo Makiadi/Franco?)…….

Indeed, it’s a long way from the freezing Office of yore! Time when two self-declared ‘scholars’ almost pushed the Office under, in their effort to each conceal their dark past and turn themselves into overnight millionaires. But for their boss who’d seen through their petty wickedness, they’d have succeeded in emptying the Office of everybody with an inkling of their undignified past and made off with moneybags of Government kitty.

One, a Dr always gnashing his teeth as if in unending stomach pains, still refuses to ply his trade and prefers to freeze in political demonstrations in wintry North. The other, a late-bloomer PHD skinhead who may’ve managed to escape with some of his loot, still manages to scavenge on a money mogul down south. The disillusioned mogul himself seems to have confused ill-gotten gains – evading taxes – with Rwanda’s sophisticated politics and pictured himself at the helm.

But for the constancy of the overall boss, the Office would’ve become an uncanny symbol of the past. It wouldn’t have involved blood, but it’d have been pushed to a point of no return.

And thus, the celebrations of the ‘orchestres’ just after the intensive retreat, a prelude to true celebrations that evening, with laughter and dance, food and drinks, medals and all.

Those medals! Best employee. Best dressed. Most loving of ‘pecks’. Biggest envy displayer. Even more, being inseparable pairs! Although, maybe, it might be a form of protective shield for the pair of Gaguls, against this implosion of youth. The pair has been here so long they could as well be counted as part of the furniture and so, that fear!…….

All of which showed that these workaholics, ‘twitterholics’, what have-you, have a life after all.

So they made merry. But before cockcrow the following day, they demonstrated that they are grounded in their context. Some fanned out to every village. Others pounded out computer sheets. Some yet again knocked heads together to sound out and share this or that strategy. Others prepared or hosted this or that event. And on.

The whole train of activity crunches ahead to inform what has come to be termed as the spectacular turnaround: this country.

Meanwhile, President Kagame is in the North today, educating the world on the essence of Rwanda, drawing on the departments’ work and on personal experiences and observations.

Tomorrow it’s the village, inspiring Rwandans to adopt best practices, working for the future. With youth the following day, stirring them to build their future, and so on. The train that’s Rwanda pounds its ‘piste’ into the future.

The war on corruption, ignorance, capacity deficit and everything prickly notwithstanding, it’s exciting to be a fly on the wall, as witness to the dynamic action-pack that’s this land.

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