African leaders need to go beyond their call of duty

Today, doubting Thomases have found it inevitable to concede: this country has surprised with a quick rise from a write-off case to a case of something close to success. And fast shrinking that “close” gap.

In all frankness, even most of us senior citizens who’ve been following her evolution from the beginning – 1994! – weren’t exactly far from sharing that original Thomas sentiment!

Rwanda was a darling of the donors, yes, and their ‘generosity’ was unsparing. That ‘generosity’, however, as many Africans have realised, is a poisoned chalice.

The glaring proof: show me a country that developed on aid and I’ll show you a failed state, any time.

Clearly, then, Rwanda is not here thanks to the donor community. But not being a nation of ingrates, we must show appreciation where it’s due. Without forgetting: the best course is to be ‘inyaryenge’ (one able to read between the lines) and use the aid wisely.

And “wisely” means using it to boost your own means and efforts, in your own manner and method, to ‘grow’ yourself. Always conscious of this: you can’t truly progress without weaning yourself off aid.

But the homemade solutions we tout to high heaven, are they anything special? Methinks not. Any other leadership, working with its people as ours does, can adopt their own for similar, if not better, results.

We all know how countries of the Orient have applied theirs to good effect. Such good effect that some have attained first-world status in decades, where the West, self-lauded first-world, took centuries.

So, diligently fusing borrowed ways with one’s own may be the answer.

Take our simple umuganda that has surprisingly stood this country in good stead.
It has actually been with Rwanda since the day Gihanga, our own Adam, birthed this society. A society whose land covered a chunk of this region before colonialism, but that’s a side story.

Even then, that “side-story” cropped our homeland into a minuscule spec and also gave short shrift to umuganda and many other values that interwove us, as they built us, as a society.

Colonialism effects may be a “side-story” but by 1994 they’d taken us back to the Stone Age.

But alas, when colonialism successor regimes revived umuganda, they made a barbaric mockery of it.

Instead of being an avenue of community development, it was a vehicle for congregating people to promote politicians’ bankrupt sloganeering. Singing praises to colonialism and celebrating the divisions sawn by it.

And for popularising leaders’ obliteration campaign of some Rwandans, without excluding some in their very own camp. The logic? Self-service.

After umuganda the big fish in politics went to gorge themselves on ‘crows’ (ibisiga), ‘chicken’ in their bizarre lingo! And beef, paradoxically forbidden to their people as supposedly promoting enemy countrymen/women.

Then washed everything down with floods of champagne, imported on their hungry tax-payers’ beggarly earnings.

Having been kept in the dark about other countries’ progresses, the impoverished populace jubilantly went back to their hunger, disease, ignorance and shacks of homes, happy for having done their bit in promoting what they were told was “majority-rule democracy”.

‘Demo-idiocracy’, if you ask me, but how were our poor people to know?

Sadly, our wretched Rwanda wasn’t alone. It was in crowded company, on the continent.

To mention but one. In the neighbouring D.R. Congo, those who can cast their eyes back then remember its own ‘umuganda’ rave of the day: “Salongo alinga mosala!” (Every Congolese cherishes work).

Only, like in Rwanda then, no leader gave any of their citizens any chance to do their cherished work.

When leaders gathered citizens for that “mosala”, the president extolled their Zaïre as a continent, not a mere country. “Nyenyeee!” applauded everybody. It was their mighty river. Nye…! It was their great monetary currency. Nye…! It was this, that…..Nyenyeeeeee!

By the time the citizens were through with “nyenyeing”, the leaders had bled the country’s coffers dry, led by the top dog, Mobutu Sese Seku Kuku…, the cock that left fire in its wake. What a twist of irony!

By the 1990s, Zaïre had become a shell of its colonial self. The fleet of ships that used to ply the Zaïre River in bustling trade had been grounded. To buy a kilo of sugar, you needed a wheel-barrowful of the Zaïre currency. “Nyenyeee!” had turned into “Crise kaka!/Njala tu!” (Nothing but hunger!) To this day, it has never recov…but that’s a side story!

How did Rwanda extricate herself from this mucky mess that was the bane of most African countries? And from the curse of the ruling parties of Rwanda then and Zaïre, which only served to pauperise the citizenry?

President Kagame says how, in one sentence. “RPF”, today’s ruling party, “stands for hard work, accomplishing what it has planned to do and putting the interests of the people first.”

And thus, his unrelenting call to the leadership code. “No tolerance to corruption”. “Total transparency”. “Being accountable”. “Vigilant oversight of government institutions”. “Delivering according to mandate”. “Auto-criticism”. On and on, in the same vein.

African leader and led, go work smarter together, you go grow faster together, oh!

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Last 4th July represented more than liberation

They rose with vigour and vehemence, some trying to veil their fiery passion, others too impatient for such cautionary niceties. Our vanguard defenders, our martyrs of justice, did.

At the time, what they thought too primitive for normal humans to imagine, or saw and were ready to face, was that the invading foreigner had a knife to their throat.

And, verily, this invader controlled all instruments of death. And was ready, nay, eager to unleash them in all their forms. But when the knife struck, few knew what hit them.

Yet our hapless victims, forerunners of our justice, were claiming only what was their peoples’; our sovereign rights.

But the enslaving invader was ruthless and ready to silence the smallest voice. We euphemistically called them “colonialists” but they were enslavers with many tools, among them their foreign tongues.

Today we revisit those who came spreading the French language in particular; the French and Belgians. They were executioner ‘Eligoses’, demons of the mind and of the body.

In the Great Lakes, the first to fall under their brutal knife was our own Mutara III Rudahigwa. His father had been banished for speaking out, to die in foreign forsaken solitude, and Belgian colonialism sought to mould the young son to their will.

At maturity when Rudahigwa saw through their malevolence and spoke up, they licked him up, poisoning him with an injection in 1959.

Rwanda thus continued her hurtle into the deep, dark hole.

Our neighbour, today’s D.R. Congo, had Patrice Emery Lumumba. He spoke with fire and fury as, truly, the carnage visited upon his country by Belgian colonialism demanded. If amputations, torture, death and other forms of evil suffered by his people can pass for “colonialism”.

The fiends used Lumumba’s countryman to zip his lips for good in 1961. From then, the Congolese are in the perdition they were confined to.

In another neighbour, Burundi, Crown Prince Louis Rwagasore may not necessarily have breathed fire. But he spoke out with force and firmness against injustice wrought by Belgian colonialism.

A hired assassin’s bullet fell him in October 1961. Burundi is still stuck in the mire of those years.

Meanwhile, the French were wreaking their own havoc all over Central and Western Africa. And its effects are still holding their dominions of then in a vice, to ‘disappear’ those who stand against their influence, long after they are gone.

That hell claimed its first victim in the person of Francois Tomabalbaye of Chad in April 1975. A group of Chadian soldiers did the job in.

Next, the sword visited Marien N’Gouabi of the Congo Republic, in March 1977. A fellow countryman commando was used to assassinate him.

Then Mali’s Modibo Keita followed, after a hard and long fight, dying in the detention of a parachutist commandos’ camp in May 1977.

Despite the long and bitter struggle, amid much destruction of his country, Ahmed Sékou Touré lived through it to be 63. Only a heart attack managed to conquer him.

Every African heart bleeds at the memory of Burkina Faso’s Captain Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara. Perforce, we all grieve to think that his own comrade was the hired gun to personally see to his short-lived end, in October 1987.

The agonising war that ended in the defeat of France by Algeria is one of triumph. Ahmed Ben Bella’s central but tormented role in it is well documented. That he could live through it to attain the age of 96 in April 2012 was a triumph in itself.

An apt point to cast our eye back to Rwanda that we left, a few paragraphs up, plunging into the abyss, egged on by Belgian colonialism.

Well, by 1990, France had come in to give a hand to Belgium in making sure her (Rwanda’s) flag independence was worse than her Belgian colonialism. Where Belgium had fractured her society to shreds and made fissures so wide that Rwandans would never be glued together again, France set out to train sections of the society to wipe out another section that was their own, too.

The intended effect was to give the plunge into the chasm more momentum.
And this almost came to pass. Then a ragtag small band of Rwandan patriots materialised from thin air, as it were, to say “Gasopo (stop)!”

But abomination of all abominations: some in that RPF/A nucleus were English-speaking!

Yet another blasphemy of blasphemies: the more diplomatic alliances tied, death squads galvanised and the war material unleashed on them, the stronger this ragtag group grew.

To cut a very long story to a phrase, Rwanda sank to “the place with no name”, the Genocide against the Tutsi is the place. And, defying those insurmountable odds, odds that none of the said countries above had seen, she emerged stronger than she has been before, in her long, convoluted history.

Today, only memorial sites can convince that she was killed and rose from the dead.
The leadership that has led Rwandans to the smart place of this day, as I’ll sing till yours ears ache, is a phenomenon that begs to be studied.

Last Wednesday, July 4th, represented more than a liberation day. Much more.

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To create peace, unite and build themselves, S. Sudanese need a strong, selfless leadership

Imagine being caged in the contemptible conditions of a refugee camp. Yet, as if that hell is not searing at the core of your heart to engage your total attention, you go for fatal combat with kin, over a broken chair. How laughable, yet how tearfully pathetic.

Mayhem and death because of a stool for your emaciated behind!

You are confined in this misery because a common enemy, though a countryman, has rendered you stateless. But what consumes all your passion is that a different tribesman, denied the same identity as you, took your seat.

With due apologies, I am tempted to distort one of the great literary works of Mzee Richard Ntiru, the august poet who hails from an area close to the soil of my birth. His poem, ‘The Pauper’ is a must read for all who care about the wretchedness of some humans.

The poem, first with distortion: “[African, kin African, killing kith over a mere seat/Rushing to your death in far-flung waters]/What brutal force, malignant element/Dared to forge your piteous fate?/Was it worth the effort, the time?……/What crime, what treason did you commit/That you are thus condemned?”
But first, why I am grieving.

During a world Cup match last Sunday, two S. Sudanese refugees went for each other’s throat just because one, on returning to his chair, found it occupied by another. A non-issue, really, but the problem: one was a Dinka tribesman while the other, a Nuer!

It didn’t matter that they were countrymen, in the same hopelessness.

Still, maybe it’d have been understandable as a simple brawl between two men, but was it? Not on your life! A deadly fight broke out between the two tribes, each to the defence of their man. The death toll: ten, if not more.

Elsewhere and earlier, the fight by the refugees was about delayed food. Equipment belonging to relief agencies was destroyed, triggering a longer delay. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

That was not all. Earlier again, S. Sudanese refugees clashed with refugees from other countries, resulting in eight deaths. A motorcycle accident had knocked down a child, most probably accidentally.

But the belligerence of these people is out of this world!

There had been another time before. With Dinkas and Nuers pitted against each other again, they sent eight of their own to the hereafter. And the violent bizarreness goes on.

What’s more dreadful, however, is that inside S. Sudan itself, it’s not this relatively small-scale duel going on. It’s an all-out war engulfing the whole country, involving all tribes to turn this sorry young nation into a land of killing fields.

To misquote Ntiru again, “[‘Do these lords of the killing fields’] pat their paunch[es] at the wonderful sight?”

I talk of the leaders, who are in an endless deadly tussle of their own. President Salvar Kiir and your nemesis, Riek Machar, you stand accused for your inability to deflate your swollen egos. It’s for that ego that you are sending your people into the abyss, without sparing yourselves.

We can only hope that the accord recently inked will hold. It’s hoping against hope.

This side of the pond, I shudder to think that twenty-four years ago, Rwandans could have easily taken this route. It’d have meant that in place of this fast-growing nation, we’d be in a void, dead as dodo.

We didn’t go that way because we knew the point where our history went horribly wrong. The close-to-a-century history of divisive and oppressive colonialism and then its genocidal indigenous successor regimes was where our history got fractured.

When in 1994 our forces of good halted its horror hurtle into darkness in 1994, then it was time to re-forge our destiny for a future of hope, with our erstwhile, albeit modernised, ‘Mudugudu Leadership’.

A leadership that’s anchored on every single member of this society. And which is therefore both centralised and decentralised. How so, you may ask.

An idea can be incubated at the lowest village (umudugudu) level, go through the cell (akagari), sector (umurenge) and district (akarere) levels. From the local government, the idea reaches the province (intara) level, where it’ll have entered the central government and its three organs.

With the consensus of all, the decision from the idea is then shared by all levels, in a down-up, up-down continuum of leadership.

But to reach and collectively work from there to promote our society has required sacrifice and determination.

Punishment of crimes, yes, but with forgiveness for some wrongs instead of wholesale revenge. Total security of person and property. Consensus-building and end to belligerence. Humility, not hot-headedness. Dialogue, reconciliation and unity.
Building a society around a common vision; and so on.

Societies and leaderships are built on more complex and more varied pillars, no doubt. However, it’d be a good point for South Sudanese leaders to start for social cohesion.

Otherwise, self-seeking leadership can only land a people into self-immolation.

The South Sudanese need to form a united front towards a purposeful future, or else they’ll remain an embarrassment to their caring neighbours.

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Peddlers of alternative truths; time you got off your high horse

So, where has this Wild West ‘cowboy’ sprung from, guns blazing, to aptly come to our rescue? Were we not beginning to miss these passionate protectors of ours, no tongue-in-cheek?

For information, ‘cowboy’ is in inverted commas because Rwandan civility forbids calling anybody ‘cowgirl’. Moreover, the lady referred to is “professor of sport management and tourism studies”, no less, by the hitherto-unseen name of L.D. Neirotti.

Intriguing, no, “Sport management and tourism studies”? Lucky compatriots may be familiar with this ‘sport-tourism’ wonder lady. Befuddled old geezer that I be, I’d never had the privilege of accessing views of this grand guru, who seemingly knows best how to catapult this country into a tourism dreamland.

Prof LDN, where have you been all our lives?

Don’t say you were not yet born when Rwanda rose from the pit and, confounding all who thought her dead and gone, started growing exponentially as an economy of a united society.

Imagine if we’d had you as professorial counsellor. Wouldn’t we be high up there, in the clouds?

Writing in The East African (June 16 –22, 2018), this sagacious professor offers this tip, among others: “…in developing countries, up to 90% of the tourism dollars spent by each tourist does not stay in the country, a situation referred to as ‘leakage’”.

How eye-opening! And all along we thought our tourism earnings had surpassed all export earnings. That’s crap, swears our king…er…queen-fish, because those earnings and the impressive rise in living standards that we and the rest of the world see are only “leakage”.

And, avers our perceptive pundit, we are doomed to forever harvest “leakage” unless we overcome our handicaps.

Among which, that of all of us being simply Rwandan and, therefore, incapable of adopting the “Batwa Experience which consists of a hike into the forest with the Batwa pygmies, the first people of the forest.”

Maybe some bright mind out there could decipher for me who these “…pigmies, first people of the forest” are and how lacking them only earns us tourism “leakage”! Plus, how does advertising with Arsenal FC compound our handicaps? Mute mind that I am, it’s beyond me.

“Destination marketing through sport sponsorship” has been successful with countries like Mexico, she contends, but alas! That’s not for us: “it is widely known that the president of Rwanda is an avid fan of the team”. And her penetrating intelligence sees that as killing the targeted fan viewership as a marketing strategy.

Well, I’ll be buggered! As naïve citizens, though, what else can we be except damned?

But hold your horses! Am I the only one smelling a rotten fish in the views of this “sport-tourism management’ czar?

Why does she rely purely on observations of others? Because her analysis confidence is similar to that of a part of her that defied God’s order to get a lid, only to be ‘wasp-stung’ a few steps away? (Disclaimer: the ‘lid’ adage is from a local language in a part of Uganda).

Quoting what others observe as “raising eyebrows”, as “widely known” or what “many people have….expressed….”? Second-hand wisdom? An expert it does not make, if you ask me.

Familiarity with the ground and having facts at your ‘classroom’ fingertips does.

Seek facts, else you’ll end up in the dump pool of professor trolls on Rwanda who found themselves turned into clowns for their careers!

They were a dime a dozen. Filip Reyntjens, the constitution-expert hoax. Peter Erlinder, the rights-defending fraud. And sundry other quacks of the ilk, too many to waste ink on.

They trashed Gacaca; it astounded with justice and reconciliation delivered in record time. They rubbished Umuganda; then saw their countries starting to adopt it. They lambasted Girinka; now see our healthy citizens. Mitweri, Imihigo, Umushyikirano, Umwiherero, Abunzi, Itorero, …. They tried to pick holes in them all but drew blanks, cheap chaps.

Cool your heels then, armchair commentator. Rwanda has seen the likes of you all and showed you up for the phonies that you are.

Tell you what, self-trumpeted “tourism studies” Swami, why don’t you consult your compatriot, Ms. Laura Powell of Skift, lest you imagine we are blowing our own trumpet?

She’ll tell you a thing or twenty about Rwanda’s approach to tourism. And it’ll sure yank you down to earth, from your cloud nine.

She will impress it upon you that instead of exposing tourists to the dangers of killer animals and wasps, your unsolicited advice, “Rwanda is setting itself up as Africa’s new big luxury tourist destination.” To the lack of hospitality facilities you bemoan, she’ll tell you “a spate of international luxury hospitality operators are opening nature resorts in the countryside” to complement the many luxury and other hotels in Kigali.

LDN, innovative ideas like advertising with Arsenal FC are responsible for today’s buzz: “Rwanda, the next new seat of luxury tourism’”.

For laughing out loud, you may wish your editor hadn’t so splashily mocked your “flashy own goal” opinion!

That apart, a plea to our respectable local news outlets: please don’t allow yourselves to be used as conduits of vilification messages by such trolls.

Africa is alive with generators of factual opinion.

Why outsource lopsided opinion from the ‘Wild West’?

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Last call, please! Anybody clinging to the greetings of yore, let go

Reader of this greying column, have you survived the night, waraye, wararmutse, bwacyeye, wabonye (imyugaririro) ivamo, wabonye bucya? With the latter literally asking if you miraculously saw the sun rise!

Or, depending on where you are on this globe, if it’s afternoon or evening, have you survived the morning or day, wiriwe? And, in case you are hitting the hay for a shut-eye, may you survive the night, uramuke.

Only “Sleep where it itches, urare aharyana”, conveyed hope, despite its stinging threat!

Please, in case you don’t understand Kinyarwanda, don’t take offence. Those are all well-meaning greetings, after a restful (or otherwise) night or rigorous (or otherwise) day.

No doubt, the ominous ring to those greetings would scare the pants (for trousers!) off any of you but it can sound worse. When you are sick, the greeting could easily hasten your expiry: are you still breathing, uracyahumeka?

When they were coined, they were all well-intentioned. Yet how they reveal a lot about the lot of Rwandans, as they lived it.

At the time of their coining, for all of humanity, life involved roaming the jungles, which meant that life expectancy depended on who ate who first; humans or beasts of the wild. But as if that was not bad enough, from the day the first animated thinking beings were placed on this earth or evolved from whatever Charles Darwin told us, they’ve courted conflict paradoxically as if their lives depended on it!

Maybe you know these little creatures, the Tasmanian devils. From birth, before siblings can take the first steps, they’ll be at one another’s throat in mortal combat to see who lives and feeds or who gives up the fledgling ghost. Meanwhile the mother, who’ll have survived by a whisker to conceive during clashes with her mate and her older kin, would’ve been lucky to get time to deliver. But immediately after, she’ll be off to resume her wars.

A classic display of Charles Darwin’s theory and Herbert Spenser’s coinage of the phrase: survival of the fittest.

However, when you think of it, parochial humans, even with some reasoning power, are no different. If in doubt, ask anybody in Burundi, South Sudan,Yemen, Syria, et al.

And, in the not too distant past, those greetings were so perniciously pertinent for Rwandans.

With no healthcare at all, after the little left by colonialism was run down by genocidal regimes that succeeded it, they’d been left at the mercy of the elements. This, after killing off and hounding out compatriots in the misguided belief that they’d be better-off, grabbing their property. In spite of which all, hunger and strife ravaged the land.

All along, the infighting within the ruling clique was intense as they struggled to encase themselves around regional roots, dragging in their innocent peasant kith.

The deprivation and deaths the whole kerfuffle left in its wake were inestimable. The future for the surviving fittest was not certain, either. Their hope of “miraculously seeing the sun rise” was zee.

Then 1990 happened.

You remember this as the year the RPF/A came to lay claim on the right of identity and rights of all type denied all Rwandans outside the cliques.

This prompted a pause in their infighting and the reunion of the entire collection of factions – the elephants that fought, the grass that suffered, the sick, the famished, all – to together embark on wiping out compatriots who’d long been denied identity and branded foreigners.

And thus the Genocide against the Tutsi sealed the ominous forecasts of those greetings. For 15% – and counting – of the then population of this land, “miracles of seeing the sun rise” had been put to a halt by compatriots akin to “the Tasmanian devils”.

Then, from the bushes, July 4th 1994 emerged.

And slowly but surely, “seeing the sun rise” ceased to be a miracle.

With hearts and minds bonded together to live in brotherhood/sisterhood harmony, possibility to stretch everybody’s lifespan became real. Today, unshakable security, comprehensive healthcare, countrywide hygiene, healthy nutrition, improved household income, universal education, redirected mind-set, worldly outlook, shared focused-vision pursuit – mpere he, ngeze he? (the lot) – have helped place Rwandans “where it itches”.

Rwanda is no longer the eat-self-to-the-death snake-hole it had become. Numbness and death have been exorcised from her system.

Statisticians have put a Rwandan’s life-expectancy at 66 years up from 47. But I don’t believe in fixed statistics. I believe in what I observe to evolve.

And what I see evolving, the senior citizen that I am, is that myriad numbers of my seniors are increasingly alive and well at later ages. So, I see 70 – 80 years, or else my seniors in towns and the countryside would be distant history.

So, dear reader, wherever you are, have you had a good night, waraye neza? Or have you had a good day, wiriwe neza? And sleep well, ugire ijoro ryiza.

Last call! Those of us still clinging to the past by force of habit, we are better advised to let go.

The pessimistic greetings and byes of yore have lost relevance.

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Can Rwanda, setting example, push for a truly functional AfCFTA?

Rwandans may be decrying the imperfections of service delivery today but they should never forget where they are coming from. Only about two decades ago, there was no service of any kind to talk about.

I remember going to the only shop that sold good shoes, bearing the odd Kinyarwanda name of what translated into something like “At-Mrs-Little-Lunatic’s”!

Quite a mouthful, and rather scary too, but I was not put off. On enquiring as to the price of a pair I fancied, I cringed to see the good lady size me up and spit out: “Hah! It’s beyond your means. I am closing, anyway, it’s time for my mid-day nap.”

Cut to the quick, I feigned politeness and, before she could bang the door in my face, entreated: “Please, can you give me three pairs in different colours?” Not that I needed them; but how else could you have punctured her arrogance? The insolence of it all!

I was still in exile and was only testing out my long-lost home so that I could go back, formalise my departure, and return. Unfortunately, once back I encountered worse in many sectors.

But if I quote Mrs-Little-Lunatic, it’s not to dwell on her as a topic. It’s to recall the pathetic state of the service industry and everything else of the time, generally.

The routed government had built a system of kingpins of all sizes around whom everything gravitated. Which is why many places bore the names of these kingpins. There were places called ‘At-Kabuga’s’, ‘At Rubangura’s’, ‘At Mironko’s’ and on, after the buildings’ or business owners’ names.

That’s how the shop took the nickname of the lady-trader.

The business and trading community functioned in this way following the operational set-up of the government.

In government, at the top was the head honcho who was the country’s president, whose power was the tower guiding everything that happened. His top confidants drew their power from him and in turn distributed it down the chain of underlings to the smallest fish. Everybody who was somebody was not so because of hard work but, rather, of how they paid homage to the top banana and their own immediate superior. And power meant affluence and influence.

Be it in the public or private sector, from top dogs power and wealth were doled down in doses of different sizes or in many ways extorted from hapless citizens. Everybody’s attention was thus focused on creating connections to that gravy sequence.

You were respected or disfavoured according to your apparent place in, or out of, that hierarchy.

The poor masses paid up or sang praises for attention, else they were condemned to oblivion. No ruler gave a damn for their bothersome little existence.
It was this status quo that both the rich who had always been here before 1994 and some nouveaux-riches fresh from exile settled in, hoping it’d puff them up into big demi-gods for eternity.

Little did they know that there was new leadership in town that was an altogether different kettle of fish.

Slowly but surely, the leadership was gnawing at, and disrupting, this whole ‘lick-my-boots-and-I scratch-your-back’ mockery of a system to single-mindedly centre all goods and services on the citizenry.

Remnants of this “man eateth where he worketh” and for whom “he worshipeth” mind-set may still be in existence. But methinks we are seeing the last of these avaricious self-declared power brokers.

From the ashes of that sorry system is rising a country of order and united purpose.
Today, buildings and businesses bear their own names. Individuals are just that: individuals.

Yet again, if I ruminate over the state of this country in 1994 and before, it’s not to celebrate its demise only. It’s also to bemoan the existence of this glorification of patronage in systems among some of our fellow African countries.

What kind of twisted logic leads some leaderships into rejecting the idea of uniting their people around the persistently purposeful goal of together achieving a common good? Why are they averse to opening up to other countries for the good of a united, stronger, wealthier Africa?

With a truly functional African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Africa can go places.

If Western Europe can consume Russian gas, however antagonistic they claim to be, we as Africans are also capable of sharing all, however varied our interests. We can together process our primary products and build and link our different infrastructures. We can consume our own, before exporting the surplus for common gain.

To reach there, however, we need an efficient workhorse of a service-focused workforce for the faultless delivery of goods and services. Can we get there?

Where in Japan, for example, some days ago when a train departed twenty-three seconds too early, the authorities saw reason to apologise? And some years ago, when a train was five minutes late, the in-charge committed suicide?

Yes, for one, Rwandans can. I see them soon making first-class goods and perfect service delivery to a point of rolling out the red carpet at the mere sight of a potential customer.

Indeed, we must, to set example. Even if we are to get the moniker of ‘Little-Lunatic’ for it!

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Advertising with anybody, don’t all countries or companies do it to increase earnings?

There is this English media know-all I heard on BBC radio last Tuesday (29.5.’18) morning, call him “KA”. You know, one of those fellows who have fronted themselves as experts on the Rwandan society and their citizens’ thinking.

So, says this English KA: the Rwandan government is squandering British citizens’ taxes when, at a fee, it partners with Arsenal FC to promote the country’s tourism. And depriving us Rwandan citizens of a precious offer, when we are one of the world’s poorest countries.

If only this KA and similar birds of a feather knew! There is a time Rwanda wasn’t one of anything and yet ‘squandered’ even more of such offerings.

When Rwanda was at her nadir after the tragedy of 1994, she depended wholly on foreign NGOs. And since they had the money, they assumed power to run this country, unconcerned with and uncaring of the new government. They were not ready to play a supporting role and let the government run its own affairs.

But honour is honour. A man does not claim your house and, slave-like, you say: “Yes, Sir!”

So, even without any income to write home about, Rwanda gave the boot to all these NGOs, with their bags of ‘precious’ hand-out offerings.

The KAs of the West went berserk!

This impoverished tiny country, they shouted, how were her poor citizens going to survive? Rwanda coolly went about her business, ignoring them.

When she started working with only NGOs that gave support on her terms and donors who channelled aid through government’s budget, from a blood-splattered lost case she began to transform into a country ready to take her place among respected countries.

Then she spoilt everything, again!

She started to launch unheard-of programmes like gacaca, umushyikirano (national dialogue), imihigo (performance contracts and assessments at all levels of leadership) and many others. The KAs went bananas!

These primitive programmes were disguised tools of torture and Rwandan citizens were in mortal danger, they yelled. Donor countries’ citizens’ were sponsoring a tyrannical regime that gagged and oppressed its people.

But these media KAs should have known their noises went with the wind.

In 1998 when ICT was alien in many parts of this region, Rwanda approached MTN South Africa to see if it could set up shop in this country. She was given the cold shoulder.

Talk about audacity! She offered to ‘squander’ all her meagre resources as shares to partner with it. The rest, to quote a worn cliché, is history.

From its South African shell, MTN has become a continental giant, triggering other telecommunication companies to come give it a run for its money.

Rwanda today is one of the strongest ITC hubs in the region.

The KAs have been gagged instead. Their yodelling met deaf ears.

After all, all the time this country has been transparently showing how she touched no offering, only relying on locally raised resources for these ventures.

However, before all that, we had yet again sent the KA fraternity into a quandary.

Around the year 2002, Rwanda set out to build two world class hotels, another costly venture that she was ‘not supposed’ to afford. Yet within no time, the buildings were up and ready, sending all KAs into a fit.

The country is going on a vanity cruse on their citizens’ taxes, they screamed, and Rwandan citizens are being starved of the offerings.

Today, the two Serena hotels have been eclipsed by top-range world-class hotels.
And so it went on, without any hand-outs being touched.

The hullabaloo was therefore dying.

Everybody has seen the truth of how, from a truly dead case, a happy and confident population in a fast-rising economy is busy at work. From needing 100% foreign, they are fast and furiously racing towards doing away with those hand-outs, already now at a point of financing 86% of their budget.

It’s a prospect that scares the hell out of donors: how will they push their weight around here?

Thus, a desperate clutch at this Arsenal deal straw!

So, their KAs must attack somebody; a huge misstep as it turns out to be.

After having always been caught with an egg on their face, thoroughly shaming themselves every time the KAs tried to attack President Kagame over such trash, they know better than to go that way again.

That’s how later that Tuesday, another English KA thought he had landed on the treasure of a softer target to attack. And went at the Rwanda Development Board CEO hammer and tongs.

How can an impoverished country, fumed he, sink British citizens’ taxes into a flashy-wealthy Arsenal FC when the Rwandan citizens it was intended for are starving (Ahem..!)?

When the CEO uploaded all the statistics in his face, despite his constant heckling interruptions intended to cow her, the man changed tact and opted for the usual familiar route for all of them. Brutal leadership, with which KAs believe they can pull the wool over their audience’s eyes.

But here too, the CEO was ready for him, piercingly penetrating his heckles to point out the positive indices on governance and all. Which he should know, added she, unless he was “…..ill-intentioned”.

“Eureka!” this KA must have shouted to himself. And whispered to fellow KAs to come to his rescue and flash out headlines of how she had called him “unintelligent”.

Which, come to think of it, maybe he was all along fearing we all might notice!
But that apart, watching all this, a media personality commented in The Independent (UK): “…I almost felt sorry for the old sod.”

Well, know-alls of the West, seems the days of your feast on Africa are waning.

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