Young generation, “Claim your rightful place” at the high table

Today, like during this year’s Umunshyikirano, President Kagame spells the message out clearly, not as something new but for emphasis on the weight it carries for the future of this nation: “Ntakugenda buhoro; ntagucika intege; ntakwirara.”

The message: if we are to realize our set goals for transformation, we cannot afford to walk instead of running, we must not slacken our pace. We cannot allow room for losing heart, feeling discouraged. And for any achievement, we must not indulge the luxury of resting on laurels or being complacent, as if we were at the apex of our desired ideals.

Coming hot on the heels of the 30th anniversary of the RPF-Inkotanyi, it’s a message that should be seared on the minds of this generation, where in some of us it’s not already, and all coming generations for the good of this society.

Thirty years today, when a scattering of Rwandans got together to reorganize and set clear goals of ‘re-railing’ their country, they were groping in the dark. None, in the wildest of imaginations, could have foreseen the state of their nation today.
With their communal back against the wall, they had to push forward or be squashed on the wall. Pushing forward needed all hands on deck; their whole society pushing together as one.

But this was easier said than done. Determination and clear goals alone cannot stitch back together a society split down its middle by some of its very own. In so torn a society, a nucleus that’s part of the disempowered, oppressed, divided, disowned or otherwise marginalized will find it hard popularising its goals for all to together work on attaining them, however noble the goals.

The goals: to re-unite a society; recover its sovereignty and security of person and property; initiate and establish democratic leadership; build a self-sustaining economy; eradicate nepotism, corruption, mismanagement and such ills; uplift the wellbeing of the citizenry; eradicate conditions that generate refugees; work with other societies for shared benefit.

And, later, last but perhaps worst, to fight against the no-where-near-envisioned Genocide and its ideology.

Fulfilling these goals was a tall order. And yet, all this has come to pass.

They are goals that have served this generation well thus far and they’ll always be evergreen for generations to come.

They may not be a 100% in the bag but that total achievement is certainly well in our sights.

This has been possible thanks to the tireless and relentless pursuit of serving the cause of those goals, without being dismayed by setbacks or bogged down in the stagnating of thumbs-up on piecemeal accomplishments. In short, sticking to the tenets of “kutagenda buhoro; kudacika intege; kutirara.”

But this necessarily demands indefatigable leadership.

Fortunately, this 30-year-old RPF with its armed wing, the RPA, that went through the furnace during the armed liberation struggle and came out bruised but not broken is here exactly because of that. It was opportunely beneficiary of an indefatigable top leadership.

Today, it’s this same leadership that’s steering the ship of a united force of Rwandans through waters, tranquil or turbulent, upon which it’ll sail towards the apex; total achievement of those noble goals. We may only be at the foundation, as our leadership always cautions, but we know it’s a firm foundation.

From a launch-pad so strong, there is no reason not to soar.

“Kutagenda buhoro” (fast pace) led the RPA to triumph during the armed liberation struggle, where superior fire-power taught its fighters tricks of going around the fire to advance faster and quickly swell its ranks at every battle won. It has served well after that struggle by leading to our society’s fast progress, considering the impossible odds that had to be navigated.

“Kudacika intege” (no discouragement) came in handy during that struggle where, with multiple moneyed armies ranged against it, the RPA adopted guerrilla tactics that decidedly overwhelmed opponents despite meagre resources. It immunised the new RPF government against donor-country pressures to toe a paternalistic West-serving line so that it freely stuck to its chosen trajectory of politico-socio-economic transformation, with or without donor support.

“Kutirara” (not being complacent) was classically demonstrated the night 1994 gave birth to 1995. To usher in the New Year, some of the triumphal RPA solders tried to shoot in the air, as is customary of celebratory armies, but their commander instantly halted the habit; the liberation struggle was only beginning. The same ethos guides the RPF government today.

In a word, at every point we reach, we must hit the ground running without ever letting up, obstacle or none.

Our young generation, having had the opportunity of being under the tutelage of this tireless leadership, should work on replicating it and passing it on.

Again, in President Kagame’s succinct words: “……being young is not enough. You cannot afford to waste any opportunity. Do not let the fear of failure or taking risks stand in the way of who you can be. Claim your rightful place in the world, no one will hand it to you.”

Youth of this land, the ball is squarely in your court.

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Rwandan mountain summits daring mountaineers to conquer them!

There are humans living amongst us and looking every inch like us but who, interestingly, do not belong to our world; they are otherworldly. With your wits about you, can you voluntarily tempt death by plunging right into the belly of the beast that’s boiling magma?

Memories of Nyiragongo Volcano in 2002 and the devastation its eruption visited on the border town of Goma, D.R. Congo, are fresh in our minds. The resultant relatively small-scale molten lava flowed over and melted buildings and all else in its path and its vicinity.

It killed 157 people despite early warnings and evacuations.

Yet for curiosity, sport or a living, there are people prepared to undertake the suicidal venture into that simmering lava without thinking twice!

The other morning I listened in stupefaction as a voice on radio explained how a German lady goes about this death-courting business for Planet Earth, the series of documentaries that put you bang in the midst of Mother Nature. The clarity of the photos of, and proximity to, the splendours and mysteries of nature bring them to life in a way your physical sighting cannot.

However, behind those spellbinding wonders that you observe in the comfort of your sitting room will have been sometimes bloodcurdlingly risky acts by a unique species of humans.

That lady is living example. To get the best close-up photo of an active volcano, she goes so deep into the volcano’s cone that the boiling lava’s sparks will be licking at her feet. At temperatures in excess of 1000°F, even with a custom-built industrial proximity suit as protection few daredevils would be ready to try it once, leave alone make it an occupation.

This world can count few braves capable of such spine-chilling stunts.

However, ordinary adventurers are legion, which brings back memories of days when colonialists used to climb Mt. Muhabura, one of our chain of mountains. The mountaineering enthusiasts were leaders, priests, teachers and their students; these latter sometimes being local.

Rwanda should try and revive that attraction to mountaineering enthusiasm for the tourist world.

True, mountaineering cannot compete with gorilla trekking as the latter combines the excitement of the treacherous climbs through brush and nettle with an exhilarating socialisation with our gentle giants and the jeopardous descent back.
All the same, an addition to a variety of tourist attractions never did any country any harm.

Only, if it were to be reintroduced, caution must be exercised as, indeed, it is in gorilla trekking.

I remember stories of how one time the descent down Mt. Muhabura cost the lives of two Rwandan students.

It must have been 1953 and the case involved students from a college not far from the mountain, Ecole Commerciale, Kinoni. After insisting on climbing the mountain despite the locals pointing out it wasn’t the season for it, the colonial head-teacher and his students followed the local guides up, headed for the summit.

Stamping your claim on a piece of ‘summit-territory’ by planting your flag there was the ultimate triumph of all!

Midway, however, all of them except four found the conditions too harsh and backtracked. The stubborn four were given leave to continue, with a guide, but also soon gave up. Without alerting their guide, they sneaked back, thus opening themselves to the hazards of straying into unknown danger.

Two of them somehow found their way to a base across the border into Uganda, almost frozen to their bones, but the others were not so lucky. They were found in the forest the following day, frozen to death.

But that sad episode aside, imagine this wonder of wonders.

The guides were loin-clothed inhabitants of the forest at the foot of the mountain – a kind of cold-defying hunter-gatherer group of tiny Tarzans that knew the mountain footpaths like the inside of their, er….loin-cloth folds. Even the heavily furred gorillas never ceased to marvel!

Anyway, all that now past, the freezing temperatures; the slippery footpaths covered in bushes that slap back together (or slap distracted you, behind!) after a climber has parted them and passed; the itchy nettles that sting every part of a climber’s thinly-clothed body; the ever-dripping canopied trees that afford no location of anybody’s bearings.

They are heavenly gifts for world adventurers and any amateur climbing-enthusiast, plus the odd student given to studying the mysteries of Mother Nature, since now there is gear to guard against any danger.

And, like the landscapes in Tour du Rwanda, the mountains need no advertisement.
Just get close-up photos of climbers tackling those terrains and vegetations, even if it means hanging on helicopter winches precariously, and transcribe the mountains’ challenge in their own words: “I am Mt. Muhabura summit, reach all of my 4,127-metre-tall stature if you can! Negotiate the capriciously slippery path to me: prickly brush, stinging nettles, dripping forest canopies and freezing temperatures and you can plant your flag on me.”

“I am Mt. Karisimbi summit. At 4,510 metres, I am taller, steeper; a meaner proposition. Plant your flag on me if you can!” I am Mt. Bisoke summit, Mt. Sabyinyo, Mt. Gahinga……

Even yours truly, with that protective gear of today, would readily drag creaking bones up there to answer such a challenge from any mountain!

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Nothing is more golden than uniting to live and advance together

Seeing mature individuals being at peace only when they are sabre-rattling or spoiling for a fight never fails to astound. We may have accepted to swallow slurs wrought upon us by bullies of our youth who only gave us peace when we licked their toes because we knew they’d grow out of it.

But could you imagine those brutes doing the same as responsible adults? It’s odd but, sadly, there are hordes whom that nastiness has followed into their near-dying days.

In my long and roaming life of a refugee, I had my fair share of an eyeful of such abhorrent tormentors.

Wherever we lived as refugees, we were persecuted by many grown ruffians but, rather than belligerence, our communities always sued for peace and cooperation.

Only when they were dangerously pushed against the wall did they put their foot down. That’s when, like coiled rattlesnakes, they transformed into vicious and tenacious opponents whom many regretted having provoked.

Take Masisi, North Kivu, eastern D.R. Congo, in 1964. A community of refugee peasants was set upon by a gang of neighbours following a rumour of a fellow refugee caught fighting for the Mulele insurgency, thousands of kilometres away.

When these unprepared refugees organised themselves and showered the attackers with arrows, stones and sticks in a counter attack, the locals took to their heels. The army, when it came to their rescue, lost the taste for confrontation on meeting with those silent lethal missiles. All opted for peaceful co-existence again.

One could quote myriad other cases, but why not the mother of them all, instead, even if we’ve quoted it umpteen times?

After this country’s two successive post-independence oppressive regimes had persistently refused to listen to pleas of rightful reintegration into their society by a majority of citizens, a few of these disowned citizens decided to face up with the small elite in power.

For close to forty years, many had lived as second-class citizens; others’ fate as a seasonally cropped (read “killed”) class had been sealed; yet others had been condemned to roam the jungles of foreign lands, there to hopefully wither and finally give up the ghost.

Talk about being pushed against the wall. This was something else; thus, October 1st 1990.

How, after suffering an initial devastating shock, the RPF/A got a new captain at the helm who initiated them into the calculus of advanced guerrilla warfare is known. It’s known, too, how, when the guerrillas swung into action with these new surgical-phantom-attack operations, the lackey of a president hightailed it to France for rescue, emphatically claiming an invasion by a foreign force.

It’s reliably reported that his master-puppeteer, President François Mitterrand, wondered aloud: “Mais, fils, legend has it that Rwandans used to be reputed warriors. How so, then, that you are wetting your pants over a feeble force’s attack?”

The lackey is said to have mumbled: “Pardon, papa, but if truth be told, those are the very same warriors gunning for their land, the very home that we erstwhile all shared.”

But a slave-son is a son and so, the superpower leader assembled all the forces from his Francophone dominions, an Anglophone one, too – now happily turned chummy – and together with his forces they set off, ready to crash the fledgling guerrillas into smithereens.

The humiliation the superpower and its surrogate forces suffered, though satanically leaving horrendous atrocities in their wake, has to this day the entire African Francophone fraternity crooning “Eureka!”

None of them could have imagined seeing a tiny African country take on and overpower what to them was no less than an ‘Almighty’!

And that was only then, when Rwandans had not yet consolidated into a united herculean force.

The meaning of this, we saw in graphic expression recently, thanks to social media’s pictorial presentation: a fifth-generation president of said superpower averting eye-contact in reverence and literally kneeling in the stately presence of that “captain at the helm”, where to other presidents he patronisingly patted cheeks.

When you stand firm for your dignity and fight for what’s right, nda ndambara yagutera ubwoba (no fight of any magnitude can scare you), as Rwandans say. Remember, as a song, recently it portentously rang out loud and clear in Kasarani Stadium, Nairobi.

In other words, with a united community of East Africans, we can vanquish any enemy: poverty, ignorance, terrorism, all. So, hopefully it’s not true that there is a mind that can be so myopic as to want to bully a fellow EAC member and see that as more beneficial to our citizens than rallying together for common progress.

This, especially with the knowledge that there are some citizens still ravaged by jiggers in their backyards. Not even the urge to massage a massively hubristic ego and get said superpower financial crumbs in the process can drive anyone to that point, surely.

Or can it?

Whatever the case, sabre-rattling or none, again as the saying goes, u Rwanda ruratera; ntiruterwa (a united Rwanda can attack; none is capable of attacking her). Coined in the 18th century totally sans arrogance, the saying called on Rwandans to always be ready to pre-empt any imminent armed attack.

So far, they’ve not fallen short on the pledge. And I don’t see them beginning to, any time soon.

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Where there is no rancour, a rabbit skin as a ‘blanket’ can host a multitude! (corrected version)

In Rwanda, there is a saying that goes: “Ahatari umwaga, uruhu rw’urukwavu/imbaragasa rwisasira batanu”. This, literally, can translate as “Where there is no rancour or hostility, a rabbit or even flea hide or skin can suffice as a ‘blanket’ to accommodate five adult persons.”

The translation is quite a mouthful, I must say, where its near-equivalent in English that immediately comes to mind would simply be “Where there is a will, there is a way”. But then again, that’s because the latter doesn’t exactly capture the profundity of the magnanimity that the Kinyarwanda saying conveys.

Now, the accuracy of my translation and comparison aside, consider that Rwandans have had this adage for probably as long as they’ve been in existence. An example of the point made, even if hyperbolically expressed, being this: Rwanda rwa Gihanga (as she was created) has never been too small to accommodate anybody; too mean to come to the rescue of anyone in distress; too poor to support whoever is vulnerable; and any equivalent as you may think of.

No doubt, it goes against the grain of the 1994 calamity and the “Rwanda-being-like-a-glassful-of-water” septic catechism of the regimes that begot that monstrosity of a calamity. But need we go into how some blockheads swallowed whole outside influence and set this country on a collision course with self-destruction?

When today Rwandans say they’ve gone back to the basics, it means re-adopting their positive traditional values that include altruism or self-sacrifice for others, as expressed in the adage, which were abused with the advent of that foreign interference.

So, cynics who have turned this country’s volunteering as safe haven to persecuted or unwanted migrants into a smear campaign about attempting to impress or make pecuniary profit there-from and think it’ll stick should perish the thought. Eons ago when that adage of a big heart instead of “umwaga” was coined, no one knew there were rich countries to impress or milk for money.

If the gesture serves for anything, at least it’s that to some countries these poor souls are as preciously valued as their own citizens.

The cynics’ contemptuous attempt at dampening the strength of the statement Rwanda is making need be ignored. The statement: everybody on this earth, but especially on the African continent, should express outrage at what’s happening to the migrants in Libya.

Individuals, organisations, countries, where is the outrage?

Why should humans be auctioned off like hand-me-down furniture? Furniture which, when auctioned, meets a more honourable fate. It wouldn’t be enslaved; worked to its bones; sodomised; raped. It would not be ‘mined’ for organs.

We’ve heard stories of these migrants’ internal organs like kidneys being forcefully removed for later sale but why are the stories muted? African media, why are you not shouting it out?

Where is a Muhamed Amin, the late famous Kenyan investigative photojournalist who stung the world conscience by exposing the famine scandal of Ethiopia in the 1980s, among others before and after? Why should we rely on CNN you-tube titbits to open our eyes to the embarrassment that’s dangling right under our collective nose?

On top of this, it’s an indictment on some African countries that their people find living conditions so appalling as to use their life savings to buy death on the hot deserts and the high seas. Reports of able-bodied men and women, along with babies, children and pregnant women, paying as much as $3000 to embark on these hazardous journeys are a dime a dozen.

Why, Africa, why?

Why can’t our governments facilitate citizens to invest such an amount of money in improving the lot of their families and in building their country? What does it say about the governance of such a nation? Has it ever heard of citizen-centred governance?

Governments that sit and content themselves with playing blame games or that throw up their arms in despair are not worth the flags fluttering in their compounds. They must pack up and buzz off!

Meanwhile, our news organisations need to get to the bottom of it.

Countries in West Africa where, to this day, nationals reportedly practice slavery on fellow nationals should be exposed. And so should countries in the horn of Africa whose leaders are said to keep their nationals in the bondage of destitution.

And, come to think of it, regional bodies like ECOWAS and the continental body, AU, with apparently only a lone voice, isn’t their silence deafening? Or, perhaps, are some member countries burying their heads in the sand to avoid the aforesaid vexing questions?

Those AU proposed reforms, methinks some countries can only have them forced down their throats, kicking and screaming!

Still, at least they can join up and we all together condemn the outrage playing out in Libya with the vigour it deserves.

But alas! All condemnation will come to nought as long as Africans do not take the said adage to heart. Their countries’ skins, whatever size, must accommodate their peoples equitably. And that, lest we forget, includes every citizen having their fair share of the national cake.

The prerequisite to which is harmony in the citizenry: no discrimination, no hostility all round.

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May we live to see more blood-kinships!

Many, especially in the youth, may’ve been taken by surprise when they heard President Paul Kagame confer Igihango upon some friends of Rwanda. Igihango? Either they’d never heard of it or, if they had, they thought it was an ancient primitive ritual consigned to the dustbin of a bygone era.

If only they knew that it has everything to do with this leadership and everybody on earth, today!

I happen to have intimate knowledge of, and an attachment to, this serious bond of kinship and for a reason. It must have been 1960, just after we’d been rendered stateless, when I, at individual level, got to undergo this bonding (kunywana) as it was practiced then.

However, if truth be told, at that tender age I didn’t engage in it out of my conscious will.
I was led into it. Crossing back from exile into Rwanda, my old man and an uncle clandestinely led me to the home of a prominent clan elder, where a few people awaited us.

After the usual welcoming niceties, a boy my age and I were sat on two stools, facing each other. Between us and on a ‘ring/pad’ (ingata) was placed a calabash with two straws. Then, with a razor blade that’d been sterilised on a fire, a man made a slight incision on my stomach and offered the other boy the blade to lick. He reversed the exercise, with the other side of the blade, while intoning a recitation, and made us repeat after him: “Sinzatatira iki gihango!”

And with that, we’d pledged never to betray our bond of blood-kinship as individuals and as families. Upon which, thunderous applause broke out and we were ‘rewarded’ with a pull at the straws to partake of the calabash’s mystic drink, thus sealing the bond.

Other details apart, from that time it meant that what belonged to my whole clan was my blood-brother’s clan’s for the taking, and vice versa. To the extent that his people risked their lives to come help us in any task and anything, as hapless refugees in a foreign land.

In fact, in 1978 when news filtered to my blood-brother that my parents were alone in Zaïre (now DR Congo) as we, their children, were either in school or in employment elsewhere, he found his way there and lived with them as their son, to help them with everything.

Today, we’ve been reunited in our country as one family, those who are still living and all offspring, in true respect of that indissoluble and lifetime covenant, Igihango.

All the above details which go to show you that when this leadership says it has entered into Igihango with the citizenry, it will never spare any energy, resource, anything, to ensure the comfort, wellbeing, everything, of every single individual on this land.

And that’s how come, this concerted and unrelenting search for total security, omnipresent order, comprehensive cleanliness, best possible shelter, health, education, energy, transport, say it.

The rituals that went with the bonding may have been done away with, but the solemnity of its meaning will never die. It’s been pledged and it’s lifelong.

So the leadership works both as if it were humble blood-brother/sister me or you and as family in a society that believes in, and lives according to, its norms and values; its tradition. The strict adherence to this gihango is here till the end of time.

Every citizen is the coveted concern of this leadership and examples of this are legion.

To quote but a few, remember the bus accidents in Uganda and in Tanzania and the earthquake in Cyangugu (present-day Nyamasheke/Rusizi)? Even as the government was stretched for resources, it still managed to airlift all the victims and place them in the comfort of the country’s best referral hospital, no expenses spared.

You don’t see that every day, around us in the region.

But as it takes two to tango, so does it, kunywana. So, Rwandans, to a man and a woman, have equally partaken of that mystic drink (now metaphorically, of course) and are sworn to that bonding with their leadership. Thus, there is never a hitch during elections and there is no other national engagement that attracts controversy.

That’s what translates into dictatorship to those uneducated in Rwandan ways!

That apart, Igihango seeks not only to expand and bond together the Rwandan family but also to extend this blood-kinship to families and countries both near and far.
It’s in recognition of this that we were witness to the first conferment ceremony of the Order of Outstanding Friendship – Igihango on individual friends, last Saturday, November 18.

Though this world be cursed with individuals with destructively enormous egos, including in our neighbourhood – definitely doomed to be self-destructive – may we live to see more abanywanyi (blood-kin-and-kith), individuals and countries, and fewer traitors to this call for bonding!

As for Rwanda, she is open-arms to embrace anybody on the face of this earth (e.g. visa on arrival for all), with or without a home of their own.

Humans being sold for $400 each or otherwise humiliated and the world averts its eyes?

We knew Rwanda could not be party to this moral bankruptcy!

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What’s too costly when your very dignity is at stake?

When, in his opinion piece, a fellow columnist rattled off names of hangouts in this city, though he mentioned only a few in passing, I felt like an alien. I realised I’d need a tour guide if I wanted to know all the hospitality places around.

It’s intriguing. Only the other day, I was the best guide there was!

“The other day”, of course, is relative to my donkey years because it means 1994-5!
But think of it: in the life of a nation, isn’t 1994 actually the other day?

The other day then, 1994, you didn’t need all your fingers to “rattle off” the country’s hospitality spots.

Kigali’s hotel business counted Mille Collines, Diplomates, Merdien and Chez Lando and that was about it. Other hangouts were run-of-the-mill eatery, dancing or watering holes where, before 1994, “eatery” meant over-indulgence in chicken chomping. The chicken, in a crass, village-bumpkin attempt at what went for their humour, was referred to as ‘ibibisiga’ (crows).

The joints, dingy dens, were for the pre-1994 crèmes de la crème of society. So, woe unto thee, ‘fluker’, if you were not nimble of leg when the Mafia overlords walked in! Their goons would toss you out like a dirty, damp rag.

In Kigali, other resorts were Kiyovu ‘Hotel’ (‘hostel’ seemingly having been mistaken for ‘hotel’), Sun City, Cosmos, Kigali Night, Filaon, grimy others. The seat of academia, Butare (in Huye), boasted its worn and weather-beaten hotels Ibis and Faucon. The home of gorillas, Ruhengeri (Musanze), was graced with bug-infested Hôtel Muhabura.

Cyangugu (Rusizi) had a run-down Hôtel des Chutes and Kibuye (Karongi) a collection of village huts whose name escapes the mind. Gisenyi (Rubavu) had a number of hotels that had seen better colonial days: Merdien, Regina, Palm Beach, others.

So, if the hospitality industry of the time were to see that of today, it’d wish for the earth to open and swallow it!

When I mentioned this one evening recently, someone in our group newly arrived from France but who’d been in Rwanda before 1994 laughed me off.

Said he, it’d not only be the hospitality industry to wish for that. So would the whole assortment of bankrupt and directionless politicians in charge of the then leadership, if those dead were to resurrect and those living repatriate and look at what ‘their’ Rwanda has turned into, today.

This progress was supposed to be for European countries, not ‘their’ Rwanda! But the situation was direr than you may imagine, he told us.

In fact, but for the existence of Kaddafi’s Libya as the gatekeeper to Europe, many Rwandans would have become fodder for the Mediterranean Ocean, such was their abject poverty.

For, while it was a life of scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours for this clique of politicians and their business community hangers-on, the populace languished in squalor.

The government depended on donor funding for everything. The business community depended on contracts from government to implement the latter’s projects. To get the contract, the business person gave a cut to the politician or else no deal. After a shoddy job and tax evasion, the business person made a handsome profit and was happy. The politician, envelope of cut in pocket, happily okayed the shoddy job.

And so, together they popped expensive champagne from donor countries and chomped ‘ibisiga’ bought on the cheap from the local peasants. After which, politician and business person sang praises to the donor, who happily poured out more funding. They were riding the apex of their development.

Que la vie était belle!

And the ordinary person? Well, there were crumbs of salary for the workers and little earnings from cheap agricultural produce for the farming peasants.

Now to the present. At the end of his course in France, when our friend announced that he was returning to his country, fellow African students were aghast! How could he squander the opportunity he had of one day becoming a citizen of a European country?

For answer to the sympathetic Africans, he recounted an anecdote.

When one day he offered his seat to an elderly, frail French lady in a commuter tram, the lady threw him a dirty look and spat out (here I ‘shoddily’ translate!): “You’d do a lot better returning to your country!”

Our friend’s polite answer: “Madame, please take the seat. Tomorrow I leave your freezing winters and head for my year-round sunny Rwanda.”

The frail lady exclaimed: “Ah, le Rwanda de Kagamé! What a haughty lot, Rwandans!

“As a lecturer, I remember how, when our government cut the sponsorship of Rwandan students after their government had dared boot our ambassador out of their country, from € 850 per month we used to offer each of their students, their government immediately offered them € 1000 each! And I loved it, in spite of myself. Let’s be saddled with your génocidaires, young man, whatever our government sees in them. A fat lot of good it’ll do us! Thank you for the seat.”

Life today may be more expensive than during their time, as some exiled Rwandans usually say in self-defence. But what can be too costly where the very dignity of Rwandans is concerned? For our dignity and pride, let’s happily pay our taxes and our produce’s true worth.

France sojourner and TNT columnist, I owe you one! Thanks for opening my eyes to the pace Rwanda is on towards self-sustenance.

You pointed to a lot more happenings that many of us look at without seeing.

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Can our police achieve a crime rate of 0.3 per 100,000 people?

It’s unbearable grief when young lives are carelessly snuffed out at the hands of rogue drivers.

Last weekend saw this kind of tragedy when seven students from Kampala International University, six of them Rwandan, perished in a road crash on the Kampala-Gulu highway in Uganda. May their precious souls rest in peace!

On which note, we also mourn the precious souls of the young victims of a grenade blast in Tanzania last Wednesday and the victims of last week’s church shooting in Texas, USA, as we do all those on the African and Asian continents killed in senseless wars.

The Ugandan and US incidents particularly should remind us that we cannot afford a disinterested attitude towards individuals with the power of endangering others’ lives.

We need to be alert to the conduct of such villainous drivers or fickle weapon-bearers and by all means report them to institutions entrusted with our collective safety. That way, we shall have done our bit in being our brother’s/sister’s keeper and in helping our state to protect us.

It’s an all-together different matter, of course, when some states allow individuals to purchase that “power of endangering others’ lives” from the next gun shop at will. Or let law-enforcers turn their guns against those they are in the employ of protecting.

We can only pray that our society does not get advanced to that level!

Having said which, and coming back to road accidents, we revisit the good job of work that our police keep reporting. Who can forget the butcher spots on our roads and how they had become an existential threat to everyone of us?

There were many accident-prone parts of our highways but some had seemingly become inescapable graveyards for many a passenger.

For example, we cannot forget the notorious Musha descent, on the Kigali-Rwamagana road, and the Umutara highway, where some drivers never cared to heed signs of cattle crossing roads.

And who didn’t dread mention of the Kigali-Huye highway, with parts that spelt definite death?

Nearer to Kigali, the Nkoto ku Kivumu and Karengera spots, in Kamomnyi District; the Rwasave swamp spot, before you reach Huye town, that was nicknamed Mukobwa Mwiza (beautiful lady), supposedly a Kinyarwanda version of ‘femme fatale’; and then further to the south-west, Nyungwe Forest’s Kamiranzovu swamp (elephant-swallower), which seemed to have swapped elephants for vehicle-borne humans.

It’s thanks to the vigilance of our traffic police that these human-swallowers have been tamed and road fatalities generally reduced. A firm enforcement of discipline on the police by our state was all that was needed for the problem to be minimized.

Alas, the “firm enforcement” words alone may be alien to some states.

Anyway, apart from the good work our police are doing in ensuring the security of person, on the road or anywhere else, we must commend them for the security of our property, too.

And here, maybe the best example comes from our “prim and pretty airport”, to quote a traveller.

Without even mention of the wads of dollar bills recovered for negligent travellers, sometimes more than enough to pay the concerned policeman’s/woman’s lifetime earnings, you may remember the excitement of a regular traveller from the USA, as he shared it with us.

When his iPad was snitched from his trolley by a fellow passenger as he was distracted in the baggage hall and he fussily reported it at the security desk, he was politely asked to calm down: “Sir, here nothing can be stolen and disappear. Please give us your contact mobile number.”

Even his confidence in our police, as regular visitor, had not prepared him for their profuse apologies for any incontinence caused, when soon after they showed up at his door. They were not only bearing his iPad but also a video of the snitching act and the arrest of the suspect.

But the traveller is among the finest of fine story-tellers and you can punch “Rwanda’s Finest: RNP” into Google and get the story from the horse’s mouth (with all due respect!), if you haven’t.

When you remember how our police go beyond their plateful of duties to assist the poor and vulnerable, in services and materials, and how they have become exemplary in UN missions abroad, you can’t but marvel.

That is, however, until you read about the Japanese police force!

In Japan, police has reduced crime (with a murder rate of 0.3 for every 100,000 people) and road accidents so much that they are idle enough to come to the ‘rescue’ of a lady who reports an undergarment that’s been “swiped from a clothesline”! Recently when a man left his car unlocked for a week, with a crateful of beer inside, they laid ambush the whole time, just in case.

Luckily for them (!), that “just in case” came when a middle-aged man decided to help himself to one beer. “Five policemen….pounced, nabbing one of the few…..remaining law-breakers,” it’s reported.

Can our police get there? After all, on murder rate, we are not far from there.

As our leadership never tires in saying, with the involvement of us all no mountain is too high.

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