As a Rwandan, especially presidential aspirant, or friend of Rwanda, have you all taken time to think deeply about this word Agaciro? What’s this hullabaloo many are making around Agaciro, the Rwandan word that means their dignity and more?
As is the wont of oldies, unfortunately, in form of opinion I’ll drag you back into the past – hopefully not kicking and screaming! Where we meet a 19th century man who came face to face with, and got to know, about Agaciro probably better than most, despite himself.
Whom, when you think of it, the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) leadership must’ve had in mind when they set up this government. For, when they took on the mantle of heaving this country out of the cesspool, they adopted the mantra in French called “reculer pour mieux sauter” (to jump higher, you need to step back).
And when they stepped back into history, they must’ve seen that there was a time this land was known as “Nchi ya Bwana Mkali” (Land of the Fierce Warrior). That title was coined by a man by the names of Tippu Tip.
Now, if there was any abhorrent quantity that Africans in this region lived in mortal fear of, that quantity was that 19th century man called Tippu Tip. He was a monstrous region-rover whose gun-toting gang all but laid bare this entire region ‘harvesting’ slaves. Slaves who, in the bargain, functioned as freight haulers of his looted ivory.
Sadly, the lot of Africans was such that some of their leaders needed no gun-scare. They were the slaver’s willing salesmen, gathering their own people for sale.
Not so in Rwanda.
At the sound of the first gunshot at the border with Burundi, Rwandan warriors descended from their ridges to spray Tippu’s gang with arrows and, when they cut and ran, Tippu’s slave-hunters never looked back towards Rwanda, ever again.
To this day, the area from where that shower of arrows emanated to put these gunslingers to flight is named Ibwanamukari (“bwana mkali”). Rwanda’s “ukali” (fierceness) had won the day!
In “Bwana Mkali”, Tip may have referred to one leader but behind that leader was an indomitable army of highland warriors. And they were unconquerable because they came from a bonded community where no Rwandan could hurt, betray or in any way harm or wrong another, let alone sell or kill, in their coveted dignity, their Agaciro.
Rwanda was a country of “fierce foes” if you were spoiling for a fight.
But welcoming to, and respecting of, well-intentioned foreigners. Which, sadly, proved to be her Achilles’ heel when colonialists faked friendship, having been tipped off by Tip.
That’s how this otherwise unassailable land was for a century put in the doghouse and turned into the sick man of Africa by colonialism, only to close the century as the pity pet of the world at the hands of its surrogate barbaric leadership.
That during those lost years it could get leaders whose vision was to wipe out part of their compatriots will forever remain a dirty blot on Rwandans’ conscience.
It’s how when they state that they have regained their dignity and confident respect for anybody of good will, it’s no political gimmickry.
When they sing about their Agaciro, they are invoking their ages-old culture. For when they dig deep into their culture and marry what’s appropriate with what they find appropriate in modernity, miracles begin to happen.
Gacaca, for one, that resolved millions of genocide crimes, in the process uniting victim and génocidaire, all in less than a decade, a first anywhere.
It’s how, from the abyss, Rwanda has emerged into “a country of heroic people…..who triumphed over colonial hangover….[to become a society that,]….with determination, audacity and hard work,…..[has achieved]…..great socio-economic development”, to quote a message from one of Rwanda’s bosom-buddy countries, Tanzania.
Tanzania being a fusion of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, where this latter, in an interesting twist of history, was home to the fearsome Tippu Tip, that long ago!
Rwanda’s achievements are a result of a combination of all heads and hands working together to serve dignified common cause as, from the quote again, a “solidly united people….in whom what one sees is what one gets”.
Never again hollow heads whose idea of development was to kill off compatriots, so as to monopolise alms from Western “papas”. Nor naïve sorts who only took pleasure in hitching plane rides from powerful guests as an end in itself and to hell with seeking gainful cooperation.
He/she’ll have our ears, who believes in the equality of all men and women of this earth.
To the point that, if a visiting president from a powerful country you are hosting lays that patronising arm around your shoulders, you patronisingly respond with an arm around theirs, too. A tiny gesture, but one that makes a statement on partnership of equals.
Such statement, we’ve seen. And its loud, clear message: Rwandans must be equal to the best.
Whichever party, whichever aspirant, all should put country before party or self as we, the citizenry, wish them to. So, they must put their heads and hands together, too, to support the best among them, even if it means coalitions beforehand.
The best is that who leads us in our journey of “Rwandanising democracy” and not seeking out those who “can democratise Rwanda” for us, to slightly misquote another message!
As it is, we stand on the shoulders of giants whose 27-year (yes, not 23) track record says that what they say is what they’ll do. And “I will give it my all” tells us volumes.
For that track record, today we are “Nshi ya Mabwana na Mabibi wakali” (country of great men and women)……….thanks to “Agaciro k’Ibwabimukali”?
Need we ask who is equal to the task?