Will nanotechnology one day bring home our national outlaws?

Fake news is the order of the day these days. And so here is a piece doing the rounds on social media, as you’ve no doubt seen, bearing the bloodcurdling tag of “The Death of Death”.

However, scary as that may sound, it’s reportedly the title of a book that carries the message of hope for eternal life. Nay, not hope. Rather, the authors are said to be nanotechnology wizards who are cock sure that, come 2045, they’ll have made death history.

Some keen technology inquisitor will need to thoroughly check it out for us. Because if there is some grain of truth, then, barring you being snatched by a freak accident, by 2045 you’ll have forgotten what death used to look like. Life will be everlasting.

And going by what nanotechnology manipulators are capable of these days, you should not dismiss such a prospect offhand. You should be wondering: what would it mean?

As I see it, on one hand, as a religious faithful you’d kiss your hope of soaring up to the Kingdom of Heaven goodbye. On another, as an old geezer you’d be condemned to living as a misfit in the company of your progeny. Indeed, one hell of a dilemma!

Even then, some faithful would relish the idea. I don’t know whether Mohammed and prophets of other faiths are set for a second coming. But, for sure, when Jesus Christ reappears on this earth, it’ll be Heaven plus for Christians. They’ll meet Him without having had to leave behind bereaving beloved ones.

Whatever the case, in their second coming, can the prophets have an easy time of it this time round, the way humanity is so steeped in even more sin?

In any case, many societies are involved in so much rough-and-tumble that immortal life cannot be given a chance. Greed, hatred, selfishness, corruption, nepotism, rape, murder, wars, genocides; name any evil, they are in cutthroat competition to see who excels at it.

Yet the crimes of these terrible people are a mere kindergarten variety when compared to the abomination the bully-boy countries of this earth are ready to rain on others.

Right now, if the sabre-rattling between USA and Iran continues, we might find ourselves covered in noxious nuclear dust. If not that, then the way ‘Little Rocket Man’ in North Korea is getting fed up with demands from ‘Bully Boy’ in USA, they may soon slay us all.

However, the trio may shy away from destruction of the world, seeing as they might not be spared either. Which is why the existence of insect spy drones may not be fake news.

Again it’s up to technology inquisitors to confirm this for us but the rumours are too persistent to ignore. So, the next time you see a mosquito, think twice before swatting it.

You might break POTUS Donald Trump’s eardrums!

Yes, the grapevine is alive with news of insect spy drones being in production already. Reportedly, they can be equipped with microphones, cameras and other devices that can take your DNA, leave radio frequency identification (RFID) nanotechnology on your skin, etcetera.

The rest is for the owner of such bugs to sit, listen in and tell them what to do, as per his fancy.

Now those darlings, wouldn’t we as Rwandans love to own a few?

Imagine the genocide fugitives and other transgressors possessively harboured in capitals of the world and the jungles of the D.R. Congo. If we were to be in possession of such furtive little ‘creatures’, wouldn’t we deploy them to go have a conversation with those outlaws?

If you ask me, we should coax countries like USA, if they truly possess these flying objects and scuttling ‘inyenzi’ (roaches), into donating a few to us or showing us how to make our own. For that, we’d eagerly purchase all the tattered castaway apparel and footwear Americans have ever worn!

Imagine deploying a swarm of mosquito drones into the jungles of D.R. Congo. They’d go in generous numbers, each equipped with nano-ability to identify its assigned culprit and plant a device that will act as a nanotechnology magnet to pull our miscreant nationals back home, to have their day in court.

Think of it. There at breakfast table sits illusive arch-génocidaire fugitive Felicien Kabuga, happily munching on his roast sweet potato (nothing else for a Rwandan Mukiga man!), in an East African city hideout. All along, he’ll be unaware of the nano-roach that scurried into his wardrobe last night and into his jacket’s inside pocket.

So, done with breakfast, he picks his jacket from the back of his chair and dons it. Then, like a zombie, he finds himself picking his way to the bus-park to get a one-way ticket to Kigali!

In a few hours, we hear our nano-roach beeping questions of whether the Gatuna-Kigali road repairs have been done with and ‘we are like’ (youth lingo): “Hurray!”

Fake news can play around with everlasting life all it wants.

But this it must get right: our nanotechnology, when it comes, will never be linked to it!

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Is humanity visiting anarchy on this planet?

Mighty Mother Nature is hopping mad and we are at peril! Doubtless, our societies are to blame. Otherwise who else is responsible for the way this earth seems to be coming apart, threatening our very existence? Surely, aren’t we bringing doomsday to ourselves?

As we speak, the Hawaiian archipelago’s Kilauea volcano is spewing out lava that’s hopping skyward. When it comes down, it lays down a scotch-earth carpet likely to keep that area permanently devoid of any creature.

Mainland USA may be a safe distance away but the way the earth’s bowels are unsettled everywhere around, it may not be for long.

In the Caribbean, Puerto Rico is being battered by merciless storms. As for the South American continent, it’s a tinderbox that goes “Boom!” year in, year out.

To the east of our helpless globe, flood waters are washing away everything in the Turkish capital of Ankara. In northern India, freak dust storms are blowing hundreds of people dead. In Pakistan, unprecedented heat is sending citizens scampering for cool cover that’s nowhere to find. In the Middle East, flash floods are ravaging Israel.

We cite all these areas, of course, to only bury our head in the sand; to shirk mention of one area that’s closest to our heart: the East African subcontinent.

But we must face it. These rains, what is it with their devastating ferocity?

They’ve never been so violent for these countries at the same time. Now Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi; none is spared. Heavy rains, floods, mudslides, land split-ups: the whole death load has been loosed upon us. Anarchy stares us in the face.

In fact, the whole gamut of split-ups has led many to speculate that Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique are going to leave us and form a Madagascar-esque archipelago of their own. In this case, we in Burundi and Rwanda will be left as the orphaned duo.

Imagine being marooned with Burundi’s reclusive, hop-hopping and clap-clapping president!

However, speculators have other ideas. After the rains caused a small fissure to open up in south-western Rwanda, they’ve assured us that we are splitting up at the Lake Kivu end-point. That way, say they, we shall join part of the DR Congo, the two Sudans and Egypt to form our sub-continent in turn, if that’s any consolation.

But more seriously, humanity must be offending Mother Nature.

Remember the hole in the ozone layer that’s supposed to shelter us from deadly rays?
We were told to get rid of things like fridges using gases that sailed upward and punctured that layer. Whether anybody actually rid themselves of those gases or whether that hole was sealed, search me. What I know is that all the noises about it mysteriously went silent.

Yet there is no fresh air to breathe in parts of China and none in parts of India.

So the first-world media are all over us, warning us that these countries are misbehaving, soiling the climate and environment and that we should all call them out.

The countries, they say, do not control the pollution gases their mushrooming industries are emitting. These gases are thus heating up our climate and placing the whole fraternity of this planet’s creatures at a precipice.

But between you and me, we know that every developed and advanced country calls itself so exactly because it was enriched by such industries that are pumping up similar gases. Which is why, moreover, in addition to “developed” and “advanced”, they call themselves “industrialised”.

And now, beyond these developed countries assuring us that they are pursuing green economies sans any pollution, they have reportedly gone an extra distance to explore another kind of economy: the “blue economy”.

The little I’ve heard about this kind of economy gives me the shivers!

In search of it, said the titbit of news, people are diving into the bowels of the “Bermuda Triangle”. Mention of that name alone conjures up images of a monster void that swallowed up everybody and everything.

Remember that scary triangle nicknamed “Devil’s Triangle” that used to gulp down people, ships and aeroplanes that ventured above it? Pray, who pacified it?

Anyway, it’s now being touted that there are treasures inside it that are supposed to make our environment cleaner than green Kigali and wipe anger out of Mother Nature’s system.

My view, however, is that even as the hunt for that “blue economy” goes on, the clean air in Africa and South America is being sucked up faster than our natural forests can pump out. And “green”, “blue” or whatever economy, we as countries must work together to protect our environment, without unduly disturbing our earth’s bowels.

We are all inexorably interconnected and, were there to be any implosion it’d do us all in.

So, those who relish dollar-guzzling chest-thumping antics while thumbing their noses at, and trumping, the environment do so at our collective liability.

If we are not to give up the ghost as trivial hobgoblins of this vast universe, we must mend our ways and together, without exception, assuage and pay due homage to Mighty Mother Nature.

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“Rwanda: The Royal Tour” shows us that the summit is in sight

Watching this documentary puts you at the apex of the triumph of good over evil. The top of a literal rise of a country, sphinx-like, from the ashes – liquid and scarlet red ashes.

Be you national or foreigner, knowing that ‘liquid ashes bottom’, you’ll not be left untouched by this display of Rwanda today. And, for that, yearning to know the detailed departure from the Rwanda of those ashes.

That desire is more whetted by the documentary’s little peep into the history of how a people lived happily as one, only to slowly but miserably surely be torn apart by different forces and finally plunge into the hell of abyss that was the 1994 ashes.

The rise from that abyss, descending wherein made Rwanda grab world attention for the worst of reasons, nothing could symbolise it better than the climb President Kagame makes up the stairs of Ubumwe Grande Hotel to the top, in the documentary’s trailer. And at the top, to survey the happy, orderly and clean surroundings.

Surroundings that have ensured this country keeps that world attention for all the good reasons.

This documentary behoves us to take a keen look at what makes this country tick. Some of us locals who think we’ve been here and have seen it all, aren’t we embarrassed when we see some spots and some changes that are new to us?

Yet, what’s more keenly demanded of us all is to know how what we see has come to be. Surely, as we all never cease to wonder, how did we reach here?

Just after1994, if in Kigali there was any top to climb onto, it’d be through the obstructed stairs of Hôtel des Mille Collines, which were covered in discarded rags from those it sheltered. At the roof, you’d be enveloped in the stench and vileness of death, dirt and disorder around.

An aerial view of anything – no helicopters, mind you! – would have been a stare into death, as the danger of stealthy bullets from Interahamwe and insurgents lurked everywhere down below. Animals, too, had fled from the madness of their erstwhile neighbouring human species

Canopy walk? Nyungwe forest itself had been singed dry and animals scattered in fear of the scavenger Interahamwe and ex-FAR soldiers fleeing through them. Mountain gorillas were hiding in any safe nook, cowering from the killers still hiding in their ‘bamboo-food basket’ of a forest or from hungry insurgents from across the border.

A bicycle ride along the rugged, back-breaking roads of south-western Rwanda, winding alright but with unsightly views, would have crippled anybody who ventured there. A boat ride on Lake Kivu – only canoes existed! – would have invited sniper bullets from génocidaires in their safe haven across the border.
Which meant that hardly anybody ventured outside Kigali and major towns, just after 1994.

Except one man — that humble guide in the documentary.

He and his hawk-eyed group of struggle-hardened boys and girls alone seemed to be astir outside safe towns.

Together, they made those back-breaking journeys to comb every inch of this land as the humble guide, then Vice-President and Minister for Defence, allayed citizens’ fears in an effort to pacify them all, even if it meant pushing against a near-insurmountable tide.

A tide that involved what one could only interpret as obstruction to any effort by the incoming government to mend the hearts and minds of its people and rebuild the country.

There was a motley collection pushing that obstruction.

Still-unbending ex-FAR fighters and their génocidaires holed up in internally displaced persons camps. These constantly sneaked out under cover of darkness to see to the ‘fulfilment’ of their interrupted macabre enterprise.

On top of those evil butchers, there were UN peace-keepers – those who’d not cut and run – that had failed to stop the brutality of those killers. Now, miraculously, they were prepared to die ‘keeping the peace’ of those killers, some of who had sent their own to premature deaths.

Yet again, there were foreign NGOs that fed those camp-protected killers. In their hordes, the NGOs advocated for the rights of these “innocent displaced persons”, well knowing how they were shielding killers.

Meanwhile, they shouted to high heaven about how the in-coming government was “surely on a revenge genocide mission”. The foreign media, in turn, hungrily grabbed at the “horror tales” and, like in a relay race, the diplomatic world grabbed at them, in true wishful concert, and descended on Rwanda, breathing fire and brimstone.

Amidst all this cacophony, how Rwandans managed to soberly go about the business of pacifying their country and turn it into what is now being lauded as an “entrepreneurial democracy’, don’t ask me.

Methinks that’s what that documentary is begging you to find out.

Those Urugwiro discussions involving representatives from all shades of our society to examine what ailed this country and the way forward. A whole government sitting, obedient-student-like, listening to best practices for the delivery of goods and services from foreign advice they had hired. And so much, much more.

It has been an agonising climb but, as the documentary attests, the summit is in sight.

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Verily, this country has come a long, hard way

A visit to the Campaign Against Genocide (CAG) Museum in Kigali is a plunge into the scary hole of the near-impossibility of recreating a genocidal Rwanda into the new country we see today! That the museum is in the basement of the Parliamentary building doesn’t help matters.

The terror of the museum’s tale hits you bang in the face when you observe the way the building commands the view of the hills around. Because as it commanded that view, so was it in the crosshairs of the heavy artillery guns atop those hills, all with itchy fingers on their triggers.

Now remember that it was this building that housed the RPF politicians supposed to join the Broad Based Transitional Government and the National Transitional Assembly.
Ranged against a whole genocidal government with a horde of mighty foreign backers, what could a trifling 600-man/woman RPA protection force do to pluck those politicians and itself out of the jaws of death?

Remember, also, that those artillery guns trained on them were not alone. This land and its sky teemed with those and other guns while the land, in addition, swarmed with génocidaires rearing to go, with their killing implements on the ready.

Nearer, muzzles of other guns were pointed at the entrance to, and all around, the building. Just as killer génocidaires laid a 24-hour siege.

Of course, the transitional government never came to be. And, indeed, as the RPF officials sat in wait, on April 6th 1994 the massive final phase of the Genocide Against the Tutsi exploded.

Yet, improbability of all improbabilities, the 600-man/woman force not only protected the politicians and itself but also pushed off the whole raft of maniacal, blood-thirsty attackers to a safe distance. Meanwhile, they cunningly made forays into the areas around to rescue the still-breathing genocide victims and piggyback them to safety.

By the time their comrades joined up, the 600-man/woman strong force had given a good account of itself of setting in motion the campaign against the Genocide.
The hell-fire that they together went through to regroup and finally throw out the demonic killers and bring sanity, only the museum can give you the frightful details.

Think of it then.

Isn’t it a shame that, before I was awakened to the importance of that visit by my workstation group, it’d never occurred to me that the museum was home to such a long, painful story? And, bet on it, many Rwandans don’t believe that the RPA fighters actually covered those kilometres on foot to reach Kigali and join their comrades, in a few days.

Hah! If only they knew!

Some of our fighters have trekked thousands upon thousands of kilometres to go perform wonders in distant lands, through impassable footpaths. And someone asks if a 60km walk-fight through enemy fire was possible in so short a time.

But for the whole story, you’d have to listen to a man who was in the thick of it all the way and seems to possess a photographic and ‘archival’ memory.

Defence Minister James Kabarabe’s accounts will hold your guts like a vice. He places you right inside that chilling journey that pierces and grabs you as if you are in the grip of a monstrous eagle’s talons. Yet that won’t be all for you.

When he tells you of the overall commander who made the impossible look like a walkover at every unthinkable turn, you’ll be left not only speechless but also thoughtless!

Truly, what can you say or think about what has happened and is happening to this country and the man who has led and is leading this then-unimaginable process?

That a man could devise a strategy and lead a tiny team in retrieving this country out of the murky mire of dependence on donated “sumbiligi” she was drowning in, as Minister Kabarebe recalls from his memory of the Rwanda of the 1980s, dumbfounds him when he thinks back.

As, indeed, it rightly does every one of us.

But it’s interesting that, for a man who was here as a refugee toddler (another long story!) in the 1980s for a fleeting number of months, Minister Kabarebe remembers what I could find only one person to confirm, among the many who lived here at the time.

“Sumbiligi”! Many of you have seen “Gift of the UK”, “Don de la Belgique”, etc., marked on, say, vehicles donated by those countries.

Well, when Rwanda was in the grasp of an extensive famine in the 1980s, it was the lot of Rwandans to depend on that “Don de la Belgique”. Only that the “don” was actually “sumbiligi”, a Kinyarwanda corruption of “souris belges”, French for “Belgian mice/rats”.

Just imagine the shame!

Our kith and kin depending on rodents branded as “Don de la Belgique”, which, in any case, only ravaged the little crop they had, before fattening! Whether they were “cochons d’Inde” (French for “guinea pigs”) is beside the point.

Yet if you’d mentioned today’s transformative home-made programme, “Girinka”, that has magically positively impacted poor families, the government of the day would have dismissed it as a “Rwanda-hater cockroach curse” – umuvumo w’inyenzi nyangarwanda!

That, dear Rwandan and friend of Rwanda, is the long, hard road we’ve had to navigate.

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Third world, reject being turned into “the grass that suffers”

Published: April 20, 2018

Every time you wake up, Rwandans all, you should remember to give a thought to the God of Rwanda, Imana y’u Rwanda. It’s not all the time that a people manage to choose a leadership whose governance code is the single-minded pursuit of one goal: their total emancipation.

But first, a disclaimer lest we court the wrath of anybody. There is one God, Creator of all on earth. He is only thus invoked as, reportedly, only two peoples in the world have ‘appropriated’ Him: the God of Israel and Imana y’u Rwanda. Right or wrong, it’s harmless, anyway: none can monopolise the Omnipotent.

Otherwise as we were saying, in our third world getting a leadership that sees the importance of a people-centred governance is not always a given. Some leaderships are self-serving, in which case they seek out a ‘big brother/godfather’ to help them keep at bay any heckling public daring to voice opposition to their selfish manner and method. Or to just bully neighbours!

What the leaderships forget, though, is that once you make yourself easy prey, you open yourself to other big brother predators who’ll also want a piece of you. With that ensuing competition over you, your wishes will prove to be the chickens that came home to roost, lending credence to the old adage: “When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers”.

Is it the case with the leadership of the tortured people of Syria? A people being wiped out under the noses of all God’s creatures?

I wouldn’t say I know, but what a demeaning shame!

The UN, that noble body that was conceived to harness the resources of the world’s population and perforce ensure our peaceful co-existence, has turned impotent. Like us, it’s a bewildered bystander.

These godfather predators, why can’t they live and let live? And we, the grass, why can’t we, as governments or rebels, fight our wars if we must, without yelping to godfather for help?

On whatever turf the biggest-brother cowboy of the world, USA, senses that a competitor big-brother bear, Russia, is claiming interest, the cowboys raise their hackles and call upon their lieutenants, the UK, France or the entire NATO force, to come rain hell on the turf and ‘save’ souls.

Next thing we know, then, Syria may be left as a charred heap of sand.

Big-hearted USA says it’s on a ‘humanitarian’ mission to rescue Syria from the plague of nerve agents sprayed by Russia, even if it comes raining bombs too. But it’s not lost on us how the other day when it claimed to rescue Iraq from the fury of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, the weapons turned out to be ants’ feathers (non-existent).

Saddam is gone, alright, but Iraq remains a pile of rubble to-date.

“America first”, tweeting Trump, do you remember?

America, indeed, should do a self-re-examination and keep to itself. We see its hand when we look at Libya, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nicaragua, Haiti, ad infinitum, all of them damaged. Russia, if it still has any hegemonic tentacles to spread around, should also fold them.

For the sake of the weeping peoples of the world, these turf wars should be halted. The world needs, nay, craves, peace.

Invited or forcing themselves on others, enough with these godfathers! Also, leaderships inviting them should learn to work with their people and other peoples of the world for all to empower themselves, instead.

Which is how Imana y’u Rwanda comes in. If today’s Rwanda hadn’t got a tiny RPF/A leadership that was sharply opposed to any patronage from any quarter whatsoever, we’d be history today. It’s by being content to survive on their own meagre means that Rwandans came together and are here as a united force.

This, mind you, meant facing off with superpowers wielding all those weapons of mass destruction. How Rwanda survived is a long story. Suffice it to say that she actually triumphed.

The coast isn’t clear yet, of course, but if she couldn’t be wiped out when she was at her nadir, those who wish her ill today are whistling in the wind.

Yet many around think that they can gain anything by doing the bidding of these destructive godfathers who failed to do her in. We can only wish them good hunting!
Only problem is, with all their efforts consumed in that futile enterprise, the struggling belligerent leaderships turn their people into the grass that suffers.

But, of course, when the leaderships reject Rwanda’s extended hand for gainful collaborative engagement, it’s a lost opportunity for us all.

Such leaderships, they do a disservice to us but primarily to themselves.

The poor people to our west seem to have been cast adrift and none knows if they’ll ever find their direction. Those of the north are led into groping in the dark, each feeling for what they can selfishly grab. And to the south, they are sent jumping up in confused circles to no end.

For all the peoples’ miseries, aver these leaderships, Rwanda is to blame.

May Imana y’u Rwanda show us all the light that we may be guided to a gainful, collaborative future!

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For advancement and consolidation, we dare not tire in remembering

This day twenty four years ago, this land was already awash with the blood of close to sixty thousand victims, if not more.

Yet these were only the first six days. At the end of the ninety-day genocide, the final count of this hollering, horrendous butchering orgy, whose ferocity had never before been witnessed anywhere on this earth, would be in excess of one million innocent citizens.

Yes, in excess of one million and counting.

“Counting” because, to this day, remains of the victims of this horror who have not been accounted for are being discovered in hitherto unknown places. If therefore today the precise number of those identified is 1.3 million, tomorrow it may be 1.5.

And that’s not considering those without surviving relatives, or willing neighbours, to report them. Which means some remains will never be discovered because some may have been washed away in rivers, therein to feed amphibian animals. Others may have been thrown into abyssal chasms like Urwobo rwa Bayanga (a reportedly bottomless pit that’s so mysterious that no one has dared explore it), a few kilometres south east of Kigali.

So, dear reader, if the flood of stories on this topic are getting on your nerves, bear with Rwandans. You surely can’t blame them for screaming out loud when gripped in the trauma of this abhorrence every time this period of remembrance comes round.

For, as many of them have said, every time one remember, the goriness of it all rocks one’s whole being as brutishly as it did those targeted, all those 24 years ago.

Fresh and raw as the memory remains then, imagine how it galls your gut when you hear some people uncaringly bandying around incorrect numbers of the victims of that evil. Or see some refusing to recognise the horror by its correct, albeit ugly, name.

If Rwandans have faced the reality of the magnitude of this abomination, what’s it about the Genocide against the Tutsi that the world cannot come to terms with?

Why is it easier for some to put the victim count at a disparaging “more than five hundred” rather than the nearer estimate of “more than one million”? Why is it easier to call the revulsion “the Tutsi Genocide” or “the Rwandan Genocide” as if victim turned against victim in a self-immolation paradox?

Isn’t that an effort to deny, negate or belittle the genocide?

Those in the world who are sworn to “Never Again”, and yet at the same time are intentionally distorting facts about it and jealously shielding its perpetrators from justice, how double faced can they be?

Maybe, like the horde of these fugitives and their sympathisers out there, they would like to see a consummation of the shame today.

I remember such a Rwandan belittler of this evil, then in the top ranks of a new government that was trying to pull this country out of that genocide pit, cynically wondering how people were still grieving four months after the brutality!

A mere four months and the heartless aged loafer, currently based in Brussels, was wondering how those who lost their loved ones were still grieving!

But whatever his thoughts then and now, in his freezing fleabag of a residence, I know now he has begun to get the sense of “Remember. Unite. Renew” after observing the galloping growth the country that he abused is registering.

So is it with the callous denial-and-negation world out there. To them all, President Kagame has a curt and concise answer: “Rwanda is changed for good and forever.”

For information, “Remember. Unite. Renew” is the theme for this year’s genocide commemoration.

Which means that every time Rwandans remember that deep, dark hole to which they were consigned by their traitorous own, actively supported by some superpowers, they find in themselves the power to tighten their bond of unity ever more strongly. That power is further reinforced when they remember how they pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps.

And it’s by their own bootstraps that they will continue to heave themselves up, always renewing their effort on the way, to build themselves into a society that will be counted among top dignified societies of the world. And that will not be the end of the road, no. Envisioned is a healthy, wealthy society. Nothing less.

But even there, they will know they cannot let their guard down. One such careless kind of complacency, however minor, and the sharks…..sorry, sharks, you are not so satanic! I meant to say the génocidaires and their sympathisers, local struggler or superpower, will pounce. It’s no secret that they are lying in wait.

However, seeing that guard down will remain a pipedream for our diabolical desperados.

This day as we talk, the land they manipulated at will exists no longer.

Today, to revisit the quote, “Rwanda is changed for good and forever.”

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Is total selfless leadership achievable in this land?

You remember the cartoon in these pages: a suited-up government dignitary at the head of an entourage of mollycoddling local leaders tossing up his coat behind when he feels hot. And, sure enough, the leaders are jumping over themselves, each to carry the prised coat for the honcho as others are attending to his shoes.

Of course cartoonists will always exaggerate for the sake of their sharp, concise expression. But that’s exactly the reason we are attracted to them.

So the cartoon in The New Times was a piercing kind of summary illustration of President Kagame’s impassioned plea to government officials to puncture their self-importance feeling and serve us citizens with humility. That they, at whatever level in government, should shed their pomposity and do what they are hired to do: work. That what they earn is not meant to build them prestige but that, rather, it’s a form of facilitation during their tour of duty.

The president was especially irked by the fact that everybody drops whatever they are doing to swoon around a senior government official, when such an official appears in the area, ignoring what they supposed to be doing.

That’s the cartoon’s pithy point of illustration.

It’s an illustration of a message that warms the hearts of the hoi polloi of this land.

It could warm the people’s hearts many degrees centigrade higher, however, if they remembered the deep cesspool of wastage and vainglory we have dragged ourselves out of.

It used to be that whenever a person was given a post in government, they’d gather friend and family and party hard because the position came with power and riches. In fact, I remember a gentleman who, on being named to parliament, partied himself so zonked that he could not be sworn in the following day because he couldn’t even pronounce his own name!

Today, you don’t hear of those lavish parties anymore. If there are any perks that go with the post, you’ll sweat for them. A delegation to a working visit consists of one person; two if extremely necessary.

The dirty, self-satiating old days are gone.

Then, apart from claiming huge travel and entertainment allowances on such visits that none ever touched, dignitaries used to be accompanied by a horde of attendants to see to their every need. These, in turn, would claim their generous allowances.

In the village, the local leaders would bring out all the citizens to tiredly sing and dance for the big officials after hours of waiting, after which they’d be dismissed to trudge their worn-out way back to their hungry homes. A wasted day, baking in the sun or soaking in the rain.

Meanwhile, the hosts would’ve sheltered their visitors and themselves in tents, after which the visitors would be extravagantly entertained to food and drinks because the local leaders, too, would have drawn substantial allowances for that.

Day wasted for all. Still, the dignitary’s assistants would churn out copies of so rosy a report on the ‘working’ visit that it’d charm the most sceptical of superiors.

Those allowances were chicken feed, however, compared to other perks. When it came to a ‘ka-mission’, which nobody seemed to get enough of, it was partying plus.

It was called a ‘ka-mission’ because getting it was as good as striking gold, despite the fact that many officials used to be experts at manoeuvring to always be recipients of it.

That prefix ‘ka-’ denotes a petite, rare thing, as a foreign working trip was considered a treasure for its accompanying foreign currency allowances that translated into fat bags of local currency.

It was the running currency (no pun intended!), therefore, to see a government official and his train of report-crafting attendants hopping from country to country for a seemingly endless string of conferences. The officials had mastered the art of arranging with conference organisers who always knew which country would host which conference next, every after attending one.

The rest was for the dignitary’s assistants to spice the report in a way that would make such a conference, and the next, and the next, etc., sound ever so relevant to their boss’s line of work.

In those old gravy-chomping, swollen self-importance days, the dignitary would have tossed all their clothes up and not only junior officials but also all villagers would have fought over being first to carry the pot-bellied mass of nudeness on their shoulders!

It was not until the year 2000 that the dirty rot was halted, and we know why and by whom. After all, among all those leaders, only one man always returned to the central bank every penny of the unspent contingency allowances during those bounty-hunting days.

To a man or woman, no other leader ever did or does, even today.

From that year then, this one crusader has been tirelessly working at bending fellow leaders towards selfless commitment to an ethic that drives one national ethos: serving the advancement of this country and these, her people, in all humility.

But let’s take heart. Methinks our leaders may still be having a distance to cover towards that goal but I am optimistic that they’ll get there.

Then our cartoonist can give us some pithy pleasantries to chuckle at.

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