The effects of this leadership on the Rwandan society are manifest in many ways and those who put their lives on the line to rescue it know best. Uti how?
I was shuffling along KK104 Street doing my routine exercise when, on looking to my left, I burst out laughing, startling passersby who, looking at me, seemed torn between fleeing and carting me off to a psychiatric asylum.
Good souls, they didn’t know how, in the mid-1990s, a friend and I once literally tore our way through a forest in this area known as Nyarugunga, a stone throw from the airport, as I escorted him to a hardly habitable hovel, but which was going to be the sorry home for his family.
My laughter was prompted by seeing my famished-looking friend of then, now with ample paunch sitting on the porch of a sizeable mansion in a lush garden.Bordering the garden is the wide asphalt street on whose equally wide walkway and under whose bright street lights I was walking.
The forest of prickly nettles of that long ago, does he still remember? It’s the path in that forest that has turned into a veritable boulevard today.
Truly, times have changed!
But, not wanting to disturb a friend’s peace with those nightmarish memories, I continued with the evening walk past his house and then back towards my new abode.
Unbeknown to me, I was soon going to hear many stories similar to the evolution of his condition from the horse’s mouth, so to say.
When it started raining near a place popularly known as Estate for War Veterans, I ducked into the veterans’ common hangout for shelter and, finding them in happy conversation punctuated by guffaws of laughter, decided to sit the rain out and – why not? – eavesdrop!
A veteran was good-humouredly chiding a fellow veteran for lamenting about not completing a second house fast enough, knowing he already owns one. It’s ok to want another house, said he, but, more importantly, we are alive and are here and for that alone you should be happy.
Yes, interjected another veteran, our fallen heroes did not die in vain. They died, and we fought, to rescue Rwandans’ destiny from negative forces and build happiness by winning back our rights as sons and daughters of this land. We mustn’t betray that cause.
And, added another, he should never forget: outnumbered, outgunned, out-resourced, nationally outcast, internationally diplomatically ignored, generally existentially threatened, in his heart of hearts; did he in the least believe as a tiny rebel group we’d outfox all and join others and all together as Rwandans be here again?
Ariko murasetsa, shot back another, if it were a matter of just being here, so are some neighbours, distant Syrians, name them, and some may be happy.
We are not just here; we are here big-time, making a statement of deliberately maintaining our chosen leadership that’s proven capable of mobilising us to together craft a future of progress and prosperity.
We are doing a great job of that crafting and that’s cause for joy.
It is indeed an insult, as even the lifetime oppositionist Faustin Twagiramungu admits, for some in the international community to posit that we deserve the likes of what he calls a ‘mupishi’ wielding a cooking-pan or a lady he calls an unprintable, flesh-related name for better leadership.
“Bugger the negative world opinion! What contempt!” spat out a lady interlocutor.
Who has not been confounded by our unexpected rise from devastation, a rise which is unprecedented, considering our context? Can you divorce our leadership from that rise?
For this leadership and our rise from shame to honour, the president of China, first lady in tow, has rolled out his rare red carpet, not for fifty-four African presidents but, for one.
Pope Francis, in all his holiness and splendour – his trademark humility, too – has stooped to a level un-stooped to before by any pope for any sin in the short space of 23 years, rather than hundreds, to ask for forgiveness in the name of the Catholic Church.
Yes, noted an aging veteran, justice may come later rather than sooner but now, more than ever before, it beckons – and, even if delayed, it won’t be justice denied. The world’s conscience is stung and the writing is on the wall for countries and organisations still harbouring and shielding genocide fugitives, clergy and lay alike.
From genocidal human ‘nettles’ of 1994 on to the consolidation of the security, healing and unity of a dislocated people; consolidation of institutions to govern it and a constitution to protect those institutions by 2003. Thirteen years hence (yes, not 23), we have built “one of the most promising [economies] on the African continent” as stated by “the most famous rabbi in America”, Shmuley Boteach.
Talking of Rabbi Boteach, shouted a veteran, did you hear what he said about President Kagame, the man at the helm of this leadership? “Few personalities alive have brought healing and harmony to such a devastated people.” He and his mostly-Jewish community should know.
I shyly rose from my seat to shuffle on home. Indeed, our veterans and those like the quoted rabbi appreciate the impact of this leadership on our society more fully than some of us.