The 21st-century tourist will be a hard nut to attract

In southern USA, between the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, there is a short stretch of road that has become a sensation among Americans, and bagged ‘bags’ of money for residents of the area in the process, for exactly not being a stretch!

It’s said to be an 11-mile long road of “hairpins, blind cutbacks and cloverleaves” that had always been there without attracting attention until a motorcyclist decided these turns and twists, all 318 of them, posed an interesting challenge and let out the ‘secret’.

Today, the road, nicknamed ‘The Dragon’, has become the never-miss destination of motorcyclists, car enthusiasts and all who have an adventurous or curious spirit, money to spare and time for an outing. Residents of the area are said to be laughing all the way to the bank.

Bankers, health providers, hoteliers, restaurateurs, those who sell curios, artifacts, photos, name them – maybe even sim-card sellers and battery-chargers? – are harvesting dollars (not “deplorables”!) by the basketfuls.

Now, if you ask me, that’s exactly what the doctor…, the economist?….ordered for this Land of a Thousand Hills.

For this is not only the land of a thousand hills but also of over eleven million souls eager to be free and weaned off the pittance of donor handouts. These souls need to lure money spenders to this land, and remember to give back money’s worth, if they are to finally sustain themselves.

Lacking in natural resources, we have to borrow a leaf (as suggested elsewhere before) from out-of-the-box thinker countries and places that are rich without being overly resourced. Only then can we wean ourselves off dependence on others’ taxes and stand tall, our dignity fully intact.

There are many ‘leaves’ we can borrow from many countries and places.

For instance, the leaf we can borrow from ‘The Dragon’ is that of projecting ourselves as ‘Adventureland’; Disneyland for the old, so to say.

What many people don’t know is that ‘The Land of a Thousand Hills’ is a gross understatement!

Strictly speaking, this is the land of almost as many as 12 million hills, the number of the souls who call it home. The veracity of this is borne out by the fact that our ancestors used to say that every Rwandan had their own hill, such that “Agasozi ka Nyira/Kanaka” was a common point of reference for directions.

These many hills, then, imagine how many turns and twists you can put on them, Karongi and Musanze roads being good indicators.

Adventure, however, cannot be hand-in-glove with smoothness and comfort, which is what asphalt-covered roads mean.

That’s where, once again, we can borrow a leaf from the East African Safari Rally of yore. Those who remember that car rally season will remember the clouds of dust and splashes of muddy waters associated with it. The death knell of the Safari Rally was sounded the moment many roads were covered with tarmac.

Considering how rugged and wild our innumerable hills are, it’d be no sweat etching out new rough tracks that will be hell in the dry season, worse in the wet!

Then, in the bargain, our Gorilla Rally and Tour du Rwanda can also learn to borrow an appropriate leaf, not simply that of being “rally”.

Which is not an indictment on Rwanda for not thinking out of the box for, if there was any clincher to so-thinking, Kwita Izina was brilliant it.

And, come to think of it, somebody in our neck of the woods may have borrowed a leaf from that, our baby gorilla naming ceremony.

You’ve probably heard the story. In Mamba Village, at the Kenyan coastal town of Mombasa, wedding bells will soon be tolling in nuptials that will attract the Guinness Book of Records.

Come December, the lucky groom, a 100-year-old, 1,000-kg crocodile named Big Daddy will be tying the knot to his two croc brides, 35-year-old Sasha and 40-year-old Salma. And don’t fret for good old bozo BD; he ain’t breaking no laws. Kenya legalized polygamy in 2014.

It’s said that crowds galore from every known corner of this globe are raring to descend on Mombasa, their money bags on their heads for the event!

If borrowed, this indeed was a good ‘leaf’ and should be a pointer to how many more ‘leaves’ Rwanda can continue to borrow, from herself and others. Lion cub naming ceremonies; wrestling matches between human and buffalo ‘matadors’; ‘skiing’ in the volcano mountains (not with skis); water skiing competitions…… Our youthful brains, those who have ears…..

All of which goes to show you this: gone are the days when all you needed to attract money were mountain gorillas; parks and their game; sandy, sunny beaches and their clear waters, et al.

We need to create more stories around luring money to this land, plus these clean, orderly and peaceful streets must be made to chip in and more loudly tell their story, too.

Well handled, money spenders can sound the death knell to the shackles of donor aid.

But, beware! Attracting the 21st century money spender will call for a whole new paradigm, adorned in a whole new sequence of continually renewed spins.

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Why Rwanda’s swift turnaround should be celebrated

Whenever I visit my watering hole in evenings, I like to take a shortcut near my home as exercise while I’m at it. It’s ill-advised because the steep path can be perilous in the gathering dusk but I relish the challenge of seeing school kids effortlessly run through it while I’ll be panting my way up, breathless.

If you know Kigali’s Kiyovu area, then you know a path that cuts through an unlit thick brush that’s interspersed with eucalyptus and mango trees between what was once Republika Restaurant and Kiyovu Street. I like going up and down the slope a few times before proceeding to Rugunga.

It’s along that bushy shortcut that you’ll always find kids from the many primary schools in Rugunga late in the evening, playing hide and seek or streaming home, in groups or singles, without a care in the world.

Apart from enjoying their laughter and feeling a tinge of shame at the way they make me conscious of my fear of breaking my bones, I like that they can so freely play in this thicket and no one, parent or other adult (here everyone cares about a child as their own), thinks twice about it.

Knowing such feeling of security here, I was eager to see how we fair in comparison with the rest of the world.

But, on seeing this 2015 Gallup Law and Order Index report that’s just out, I was disappointed.

It’s a worldwide measure of people’s sense of personal security and their experiences with law enforcement and Rwanda ranks fourth alongside Spain, after Norway, Hong Kong and Singapore.

So, those rankers, apart from considering answers from respondents, did they have their own opinion, considering the conditions of those countries?

Because if you look at the areas ranked with or above Rwanda, they are all countries or city-states with lots of resources at their disposal and they have had a long time to consolidate their security, where Rwanda has had only a few years.

Still, for instance, if those countries had some dark spots like my ‘exercise spot’ that their kids have to walk through and play in, a dime a dozen in Rwanda, especially in the countryside, I doubt the respondents would have expressed such confidence in their security.

You have probably been to ‘Tarinyota’, that area in Biryogo where you’ll always find groups of loafing youths waiting for an offer of a mechanic’s job from passing motorists, and seen equally big groups of European and American back-packers freely thronging past them.

The back-packers are here as tourists or interns, mostly skimpily dressed youthful females, and live in such dingy areas, knowing they are safe and easy on the pocket.
In areas ranked with or above Rwanda, wouldn’t these females be attracting catcalls, if nothing much worse maybe with a racial hue, even when their unemployed youth are not many?

However, if all these are not considered, it’s probably as well. Maybe ranking top would go to Rwandans’ heads and render them complacent.

Of course no one gives a hoot about making impressions but let’s acknowledge appreciation where it’s due, nonetheless. It does wonders for motivation, when your aim is the apex.

Anyway, all that apart, do we pause to remember how we came to take this security for granted?

The Genocide against the Tutsi that haemorrhaged life out of this land, the mine bombs immediately after and the insurgency attacks after them all, I remember being witness to a small indicator of how they’d all soon be a thing of the past.

It was year-end, 1994, and we were in a then-popular hangout near ‘Payage’, ‘sipping the old year away’. At exactly midnight, gunfire erupted but before we could run for it, someone explained that it was only celebration by RPA soldiers, as was expected every end of year.

Surprisingly, though, that celebration itself ended in no time. Only the following morning did we learn that the celebration was abruptly stopped “Because PC anapanga”!

That “PC anapanga” (Political Commissar is in charge, strategising) would come to define the struggle by this government and the people to provide for themselves and all on this land total peace of mind.

It was an idealistic call but none can deny that it has meant some measure of freedom from harm, want, ignorance, disease, ethnic or racial bigotry, say it – in a word, the pursuit of freedom for all from all ill or abuse of any sort, with physical security as the launch-pad for everything.

While the “PC anapanga” of 1994 meant that Vice-President and Minister for Defence Paul Kagame of then was personally involved in leading a contingent of soldiers in halting those disruptions, he as President today leads a contingent of all Rwandans in climbing out of all forms of backwardness.

That’s why Rwandans scoff at accusations of autocracy and dictatorship by a self-proclaimed world-pacifier Uncle Sam, USA, and its ilk and their effrontery to give Rwanda lessons on democracy.

Consider this: according to a recent BBC report, in some parts of the city of Chicago, USA, never a night passes without a shooting. In fact, on average, there are 12 shootings every day.

But for their high-tech ambulances that whisk victims to hospital as they are being treated, the death toll would have hit the 2,949 mark, the number of shootings this year alone.

Where Rwanda counts one death allegedly at the hands of a doctor gone berserk and one attempted baby-snatch by a childless nurse so far this year, USA counts 500 deaths at the hands of criminal (and police?) gangs.

The count of the West’s cities’ muggings, robberies, shootings, rapes, homicides, etc, Chicago being only the worst case, let’s not rub it in!

Rather, let’s ask ourselves: what’s democracy where life is not assured?

Indeed, we should appreciate and celebrate our steep slope of swift rise from death to tranquillity.

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Mediterranean drownings: the height of human callousness

Once upon a time, there rose what became the scramble for Africa and it came to pass that the continent was invaded, occupied, partitioned, colonized and annexed to European powers. But we all know about that and don’t want to go there again.

Try as we can, however, we cannot ignore that history because it has followed us, seemingly to haunt us for eternity. So now, in a kind of poetic injustice, there is also the scramble for Europe.

“Poetic injustice” because it’s the opposite of “poetic justice”, where those wronged are avenged in a manner that’s ironically appropriate.

In the present case of “poetic injustice”, the innocent are wronged instead, as our African brothers and sisters, victims of that scramble for Africa of yore, in their mad rush for Europe are ending up belly-up in the Mediterranean.

Is our continent cursed that our people should risk turning the waters of the Mediterranean, if they survive the sands of the Sahara, into their own grave just to leave it?

Only the other day, 3,000 Africans were plucked out of the Mediterranean Ocean. As the tiny boat they were crammed in teetered on the verge of capsizing, humanitarians arrived in time to rescue them. The previous day, 6,500, among them five-year-old twins, had been rescued.

During pick migration periods, every year sees close to 4,000 African lives perish in those treacherous waters. These periods seem to have been two so far, with the first being in the mid-2000 while the second can be said to have been after 2011.

The cause of the first pick, search me, but 2011, if you remember, is the year that Muammar Khadafy was killed. That wasn’t surprising, then, since he used to be paid by some European countries as their gatekeeper to keep migrants at bay. Also, we should not forget the fact that a sizeable number of them used to obtain employment in Libya and surrounding countries.

Considering the aversion of European countries against these migrants, perhaps Khadafy’s death mostly at the hands of the NATO forces was the only true case of poetic justice!

Anyway, since these countries are so much into avoiding this dreaded migration problem, why don’t they channel those funds, earlier meant for Khadafy, into addressing the root of the problem? They can instead support the source-countries of migration in solving their problems of conflict, poverty, unemployment, general hopelessness and other such challenges.

All of the above aside, however, these powers should know that they can save themselves a lot of pain and save Africans a lot of lives by simply being human. Being human means being free to sample what the heart desires and not working to deny others similar freedoms.

It’s a human instinct to rebel when barred from anything. Some will even risk limb and life in that pursuit.

Erecting walls, setting up sentinels, paying gatekeepers, hunting down people-smugglers, stiffening anti-migration laws, patrolling the Mediterranean waters or letting these hapless migrants die in them will never keep Europe ‘uncontaminated’.

Before the 2000s when there was no impediment to migration, Africans went in and out of Europe freely and no one was desperate about it. If this showed anything, it was that no one had intentions to make it home. They went for job opportunities and worked or found a way to rejoin their people back home if such opportunities were not found.

Of course an odd one here and there worked or lay-about jobless and stayed but did we witness a desperate rush of this scale then? And, come to think of it, isn’t Europe the richer for it?

Methinks that’s why the Rwandan government, having learnt this little truism long ago, sometimes the hard way, will always be committed to an open-door policy visa-wise.

The hard way came with exile, when a section of Rwandans were forcibly turned into refugees and had to eke out a living in other countries. Otherwise, from the colonial days, Rwandans went “i Bugande” and other surrounding areas for odd jobs but always made sure to come back and build themselves with their earnings – without forgetting the relish of a lit lamp during the day!

Still, lamps aside, that’s why this government holds its Diaspora Rwandans in high esteem. And it’s why it allows all Africans in the country visa-free, while it extends the same gesture to any other country, on any continent, that’s ready to reciprocate.

Europe should learn this little wisdom from Rwanda: an open-door policy on entry into country never hurt anyone; rather, it’s enriching.

It won’t be the first time Europe learns something from Rwanda. Unfortunately, the first time when some countries remembered to put army personnel on the streets, it was too late. But can you hold that against anybody?

No, there is no scramble to colonise and annex Europe. Africans are scrambling for freedom to mix, exploit opportunities and advance as they reciprocally advance societies that host them.

To advance one another, and save one another from fatal waters, that’s only human.

But to tolerate the Mediterranean as a cemetery, that’s the height of human callousness.

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Of the mysterious, and not so mysterious, allures of this land

If I waxed poetic about my journey to the north last week, it’s because some areas of this country never cease to amaze me, however long and often I’ve been seeing them. There are some interesting features of this land that our tourism promoters seem to overlook.

Yes, an eye-to-eye encounter with the mountain gorilla, a Nyungwe canopy walk, a rush of apprehension at an Akagera lion roar, a laze around Kivu waters and other such tourist delights are an experience to treasure. However, they cannot beat the pleasure of standing atop a high point in any part of Rwanda to take in the panorama of varying sights before your eyes.

Even then, though, I have a curiosity about the people of this land that’s always itching to be satisfied, before all the above. There is an intriguing nature to them that I seem unable to explore exhaustively, even after my long years of reconnection to them all, together.

I think the high point of tourist attractions is the Rwandan, as a human being. Rwandans have some uniqueness to them whose close observation should be encouraged.

For instance, on that journey, I witnessed a spectacle that I was not used to. Yet how I deluded myself that, for the umpteen times I’ve visited that area, I knew everything about it.

The camaraderie the people showed my group and I, from Kigali; the stories of old they willingly and happily shared; the excitement in taking group photos; all these were new to me.

What’s the big deal about old memories and what’s Old Geezer on about, you’ll ask. Well, I am on about memories of the days of 1995, when the northern area was still in the grip of insurgency, even if fast weakening, compared to that recent visit.

Perhaps a recount of what happened in 1995 will explain my bewilderment.

New from exile, when a few of us dared to venture into that area, we were puzzled to see no old person around. Then, as we stood there, a lone old man emerged from a house to greet us. When we recognised him as our neighbour of the years before 1959, year of our exile, we all took rounds to excitedly hug him but we could see that he was guarded in whatever he said or did.

To our question, he quickly pointed out our pieces of land of those days and then, inexplicably, immediately bid us bye and shuffled away.

Back in Kigali, the following morning we were shocked to learn that the old man had been killed.

Three of us at once rushed there but we were met by a menacing group of mostly old men who seemed ready for war. We called out to a soldier nearby who shot in the air but this did not deter them. However, when one of us made to take a photo, surprisingly they all vanished.

A few days later, the killers were apprehended and punished but, to this day, I am at a loss to understand how a camera could scare them, where the risk of being shot couldn’t!

Was their conduct due to the hatred they bore for us? Were they just afraid of losing the land they had appropriated to themselves? In not fearing guns, was it because they knew that the new RPF government and its army could not target civilians, even where these were ready to kill? And in cameras, did they fear being identified?

Surely, in all the above instances these villagers would still have felt too ashamed to show such warmth, even if belatedly.

I could not comprehend this delayed happiness, nay, excitement, at a reunion, knowing their hostility of the past. It could not be due simply to the fact that politics of division is long past. Nor that the emotive land question has been cleared, with every citizen now having a UPI number to identify their piece of land.

On the contrary, the bond in Rwandans seems so strong that wrong politics cannot break it. However hard one group may hurt the other, however hard one may be bruised, they’ll find it in themselves to repent or to forgive and reunite.

Because, make no mistake, that camaraderie is not unique to any particular area; you’ll find it everywhere. In reconnecting after an ‘own-inflicted’ calamity, it seems ‘impossible n’est pas rwandais’!

That’s how you find that, despite over fifty years of a concerted effort to divide them, driven by colonialism with help of the Catholic Church, in addition to over thirty-four years of the Kayibanda-Habyarimana divisive and oppressive regimes, Rwandans can still live as one.

That’s how you find Rwandans who were for over thirty years torn from one another now living together as if that long hiatus never happened. That’s how you find genocide survivors who have not only pardoned confessed génocidaires but have also gone ahead to marry them.

My guess is that that bond perforce unites Rwandans, with or without their knowledge; wanting it or not, they are destined to be one.

If it can, that should be packaged as a tourist allure!

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A journey of discovery and rediscovery

And so it goes……

It goes that time comes when I’m seized by this irresistibly compelling ritualistic urge to pay homage to my soil. And when it strikes, I must thither go post-haste, for my soul will never rest (don’t get ideas!) till it sees the slopes of Mt. Muhabura.

The urge is even stronger when spurred on by a chance to hitch a ride on a car that, if used, is not mechanically abused like those that have been turned left-hand from their original right. In those abused, read the Dubai hand-me-down jalopies whose tyres, in old age, rebel and go straight even as you are negotiating a left turn on a steep incline – where “straight” means off the road and towards a literal ‘cliff-hanger’!

If you’ve ever seen the twists and turns on the way to Musanze, you get my drift.

Anyway, that’s how I found myself atop Buranga hill, beholden to and smitten by, as always, the expanse of vista that stretched before mine eyes. Imagining more than seeing, at a distance to the right, the ‘terraced’ twin lakes of Ruhondo-Burera, ringed in by the hills that border Uganda.

Straight ahead and towards the left, the chain of volcanic mountains with their summits shrouded in clouds, telltale sparks from Mt. Nyiragongo regularly piercing the sky to the west. The shimmering asphalt road snaking its way through gleaming iron-roofs, to disappear in the hills of Bigogwe, one of them complete with its ‘breast’, Ibere rya Bigogwe.

And, to cap it all, the street-light posts (a night marvel, with lights on) continuing their uninterrupted journey from Kigali all the way to Rubavu, to stop dead at the DR Congo  border.

That spectacle will charm you, however indifferent to Mother Nature you may think yourself.

Yet the charm to beat other charms is Ruhengiri town in Musanze, more so if you knew it in the 1950s, like donkey-years-old yours truly. For, with its spotless cleanliness and dirt-free, orderly crowd, wide streets, storied structures and world-class hotels, it’s not the Ruhengeri you knew.

Gone are the black volcanic-soil streets and roads, dusty or sticky depending on seasons but always cosy for lice that colonised your feet, toes and hairs, however meticulously you scrubbed your body. Gone, too, are the kids with bulging navels on ballooned-up tummies and grime-caked faces with running or ‘mound-blocked’ noses, a ceaseless feast for swarms of flies.

And increasingly history is a crop of aging adults with cracked feet, set at an outward angle, that boasted ‘knock-berried’ toes (amano y’ubuhiri, victims of jiggers), as they boasted no acquaintance at all with shoes.

Ruhengeri: gone is the “Yuk!” that’d likely have been your involuntary reaction, which’d have been only a little less impassioned any time up to the mid-1990s.

Today, wonder of wonders, trucks water that loathsome dust away, wherever it may attempt to rear its ugly head!

Which reminds me: Kigali residents, anyone of you know that, long before our army of broom-manipulating experts appear to furiously sweep away any stubborn litter (bless their work), such trucks will have mopped this capital’s streets in the dead of night, as you blissfully snore away?

But we aren’t done with our journey of re-engagement with the soil.

The 27-km stretch of road from Ruhengeri to Canika (“Cyanika” to proponents/students of Bavuga, Ntibavuga!) is glaringly un-Rwandan, being worse for wear. This, in a land whose lexis is allergic to a whiff of the word “pothole”.  That whiff, gladly, will soon be history, word has it.

In any case, it can’t get anywhere near dampening the ecstasy of taking in the view of the majestically gigantic mountains that loom all over you, to your left. Nor can it, the view of the elegantly tall-slender hillocks that seem to play hide-and-seek with Lake Burera, to your right.

With these views competing for attention, Canika appears to annoyingly come rushing to you, like a noisy kid interrupting an interesting conversation to cling to your legs.

And noisy, Canika is. And cling to you, it will. Now a blusterous beehive of activity in construction, it is set to play host to a one-stop border post and an international market that will turn the harsh hustles of cross-border activity into distant history.

Detach yourself from this din and a short distance towards Mt. Muhabura you’ll be in Umudugudu Amajambere (-jya- to you), the soil that’s cradle of my pedigree.

Once here, look around. From Mt. Muhabura to the hills across in Uganda, to those to your South-East in Cyeru, to those beyond Ruhengeri and to the chain of mountains that join Mt. Muhabura, they all rise to hug the sky and form a womb, wherein you’ll be sealed. You’ll be in a world of your own.

When you finally tear yourself away and depart for your Kigali, it’ll be as a re-energised, if not reborn, creature. A healthy creature, enriched by the abundance of tourist attractions you’ve imbibed!

A communion with this soil reveals many of its secrets and enriches your life.

But, remember, this is but one ‘soil’ out of the myriad other ‘soils’ of Rwanda that are a feast for a tourist, local or foreign.

And so it goes……


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Leapfrogging in Africa: to leap or not, that’s not the question

In African countries, “The main leapfrogging that takes place is over the open sewers.” Imagine someone entreating us to look before we leap, after making such a comment. They have assured us that when we come down to earth it’ll be back in the mire of our dirty poverty and so, what’s the looking for?

That advice, if you’re lucky and haven’t seen it, is contained in an article in a British newsmagazine of some time ago. But, being so insulting, maybe it should not be popularised, which is why I comment on it this late.

For, tell me, why should an outsider think that Africans cannot remember that leapfrogging anything alone, without thinking of putting their poor infrastructure ‘house’ in order, is futile?

And, to rub in the contempt, the article is illustrated by a drawing of a famished Africa, weighed down by a famished frog, the continent’s spindly legs already sunken in the sewer, all the fancy inventions of today like drones, mobile phones and the like, sunken with them.

It’s an article that makes for depressing reading because it insults our confidence and honour but, why not? Maybe it does us no harm not to “leapfrog” it, for introspection purposes. Or maybe we could find the advice laughable, by its uselessness.

Should we “leapfrog” anything, anyway? Or, to use a less fanciful expression, should we “skip” any phase of our growth, “jump over”, “hop over”, etc?

Because, what’s the hype about “leapfrogging”? Down the length of history, humanity has been leapfrogging. Where humans reach a stage of development before others in one area, those others abandon their own to jump to that stage.

That’s how China may soon overtake USA or Europe in development, even when it’s still dealing with its backwardness in some areas. That’s how India is advancing fast, when it has yet to pull many in its population out of dire conditions.

That’s how the Japanese auto industry is among the biggest in the world and the South Korean mobile-phone industry is equal to the best, both in a short time, after hopping over the many phases Western companies had to labour over, navigating.

So is it with African countries: wherever possible, people therein will not go through the motions of reinventing the wheel.

When mobile telephony hit the scene, the continent, to a country, happily and quickly abandoned the wiring-up and pole-planting that Bell’s invention would’ve called for. We joyfully went mobile and now everyone is connected to the world in ways that Motorolla, or whoever the mobile’s inventor, never imagined.

And it has not meant that that wiring-up or pole-planting was totally abandoned, far from it.

When it was seen that fast internet helped in education, health, trade, or whatever, and it required broadband, then the earth was wired up for that. Just as phone masts were planted when mobile telephony needed them and satellites alone did not ‘bring it down to earth’.

But, most importantly, it didn’t mean that life as Africans had known it ceased. Clean water, lighting, educational institutions, health facilities, transport and the rest of our ever-mocked shaky infrastructure have continued, and will continue, to get their fair share of boosting.

Africans have seen that it’s possible to skip back and forth, leapfrogging whatever is unfinished or is obsolete here and there to hop to the latest technology, without forgetting to dive back and deal with the unfinished business; at the same time if possible, later if not.

So, yes, “In Rwanda, where most of the population live in cut-off villages, the government wants to skip straight to drones.”

But, before we go “skipping’, is there any village that’s completely cut-off? To my knowledge, none that’s not accessible by a dust road; difficult to navigate with a two-wheel drive, all right, but not with a motorcycle, a four-wheel. The drones’ added value of speed – and reduced cost? – cannot be skipped over a near-inaccessibility.

What’s important is that even as they hop over to drones, Rwandans continue to deal with these roads. Which is no cause for alarm, as the mud/dust track system is slowly but surely diminishing.

If drone medicine-delivery will supplement the insufficient road system delivery to serve the sick better, as mobile phone banking has supplemented the existing banking system, then let’s roll. Let’s equally go for solar panels, as they are supplementing our deficient power stations.

Meanwhile, no one ignores the fact that “leapfrogging has limits.” Rwanda will not cease to train her professionals and technicians as she has always done; doctors, engineers, teachers and others.

She’ll not cease to improve her infrastructure and she’ll not cease to work with investors and other partners, if they can help in hopping over whatever is obsolete on to the latest technological invention.

The audacity to try what’s new, without flying blind, and supplement what exists has put Rwanda where she is today. And these ‘wise’ dispensers of unsolicited counsel will not deny that this is a much better place, for daring.

Africa, let’s leapfrog away! When we come back down to earth, it’ll be a better earth, bet on that.

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All-round cleanliness is not an unachievable ideal

Last week when I was jolted out of my ‘cleanliness reverie’ (my musings about outsiders’ admiration of our cleanliness) by a sharp retort, I sat up and thought. Indeed, how could we talk about cleanliness for our cities when they do not enjoy central sewage systems?

I know that plans to build them are in the works for all cities, starting with Kigali, but shouldn’t they have been our starting point? Since getting the whole country clean is a much bigger hurdle, why didn’t our government get this little obstacle out of the way first?

As Rwandans say, you can’t eat a cow and fail to eat its horns. But before I invite the wrath of animal-lovers on myself, I hasten to add: it’s only an adage. For a Rwandan adage is never taken at face value and since Rwandans jealously defended the rights of animals, especially tame, and hardly ever ate beef leave alone horns, it’s not meant as it’s said.

But to continue, when you carefully observe the turning points that delivered this country where she is today and how resolutely and slowly but surely they were effected, you realise that all in good time, all waste disposal systems will be in place.

Said turning points have set this country on a trajectory whose magnitude, significance and implications are yet to be fathomed even by many of us Rwandans, methinks.

But, what turning points?

The first turning point was the birth of the Rwanda Patriotic Front.
Itself an evolution, as it germinated and gradually developed in many minds from the time of the massacres and expulsions of a section of Rwandans of the 1950s/60s and manifested itself in many forms after that, the revolt against dictatorship crystallised into a liberation movement in December 1987, on foreign soil.

From an uncoordinated group of individuals to an elite one that was ill-prepared to attract popular membership, now it became a liberation movement.

This became a veritable turning point when masses of Rwandans, in and out of the country, joined up and gave it the confidence to launch an armed struggle. Even if, excruciatingly sad to recall, immediately after, the RPF/RPA as we’d just known it was almost wiped out.

But from ragtag survivors of that launch, an elusive guerrilla force emerged that became the second turning point.

Pitted against a whole government army that was supported by no less than a super power, without mentioning the power’s African minions and cover of diplomatic support from other super powers, the RPA did not only repulse this whole mishmash of mass murderers but was going to rout them when it was hit bang with another dimension of the government’s ugliness: an elimination campaign of part of the citizenry.

When the RPF/RPA stopped the Genocide and, instead of engaging in revenge killings, installed a government that embarked on bringing victim and perpetrator together in a process that later was coined ‘Ndi Umunyarwanda’ to solidly unite all Rwandans, to all intents and purposes an impossibility to any other society out of similar strife, that was a turning point to cap all turning points.

To some of us who had been watching all this with apprehension, knowing any RPF/RPA failure at any point would have meant the complete obliteration of this state, with the success of these efforts, the rest of this galloping growth and cleanliness in the whole management of this society were a fait accompli.

A society that has developed from this lost hope has many priorities all right but, ever so methodically, will see them all delivered whatever time it takes.

Rwanda’s attention may currently be consumed in the effort to boost investment, tourism, trade with the region and beyond, etc, so as to generate her own revenue and do away with dependence on handouts from donors. However, it will not be at the expense of any detail.

This cleanliness we see is the face of an effort to fundamentally transform this land and must be comprehensive and must not ignore the littlest frills.

For, to come to the deeper meaning of the adage, your cow cannot grow into a beautiful animal if you don’t care for its horns as you care for it (the belief of then).

Similarly, you cannot care about your cities when you have predicated them on the powder kegs of waste, which is the meaning of a dependence on septic tanks. A simple tremor will send them into the sinkhole of shame.

I dare posit that the next turning point will be when Rwanda achieves cleanliness in the full sense of the word.

By this I mean not only total physical cleanliness but also total clean governance: no corruption of any form, no iota of injustice, complete absence of lethargy, blameless service delivery, etc. In short, having got rid of the smallest lingering shortcoming in the management of this society.

And last but by no means least, finally having said bye to handouts from donors.

Total all-round cleanliness is not impossible to achieve.

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