Will the West ever allow Africa to create its own pictures?

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” we are constantly told. However, none has considered corn artists who paint replicas of our pictures and accompany them with trumped-up interpretations?

True, when you identify with a picture and its context, it may be worth a whole library of history. But con artists’ works may be worth a load of wordy drivel.

These umpteen foreign con artists corrupt our pictures and their interpretations so that the veracity of our interpretations is crowded out of public view.

Take a video clip I recently got in a whatsapp message. It shows a group of Rwandans in front of a family home, dancing to the original version of the “Nta ntambara” tune.

To me, that clip alone illustrates how colonialism had categorized that group of Rwandan dancers as “hunters and gatherers” as opposed to the categories of “land tillers” and “cattle herders”. And how it was during the post-colonial-Rwanda era before 1994, an era (pre-1994) when that categorization had been pushed further into fracturing this society.

It’s not of the colonial era because it’s in colour. Photography had not yet acquired colour. Nor of the pre-colonial era, not only because it’s black-and-white but also because that group wouldn’t be dancing alone; all other categories of their compatriots would be there.

Before colonialism, at the mere sound of a clap of hands, crowds of villagers would have poured out of homes around to join the singing and dancing, everyone with their musical instrument. An impromptu kind of celebration would thus start.

It was the same with the call to work, hence the origin of today’s umuganda that has attracted international appeal. So was it, at the sound of an alarm or, more ominously, when war drums were sounded, a reason no single Rwandan was taken slave.

All of which, and more, goes to show that Rwandans lived as a symbiotically closely-knit society.

The bond was so strong that whoever wronged a compatriot, no matter how highly placed in society, received the prompt penalty of a hastily convened Gacaca. Again, thus the origin of the namesake community court system that did wonders with genocide trials, with their accompanying reconciliation bonus.

Of course, as in any society, there were hardcore outlaws whose crimes could call for capital punishment. But these were markedly rare.

How colonialists tricked Rwandans into breaking this bond, with their sweet Bible talk of shared humility, while behind that talk they carried lethal guns unknown in this area and their would-be coup-de-grace genocidal weapon of divide and rule, we do not have to repeat here.

So, back to the clip. Why wouldn’t it be of this post-1994 period?

For one, after the Genocide against the Tutsi, no group of Rwandans was used as a curiosity for tourism, as the clip depicts. The compartmentalisation of Rwandans into categories was the first thing the new government did away with.

The unity, equality and dignity of all Rwandans were priority points on the Rwanda Patriotic Front’s 8-point programme (before the genocide necessitated a 9th), from its inception in 1987.

That alone, without needing details, explains why that family home wouldn’t have consisted of a derelict grass-thatched shack. Those singers and dancers wouldn’t have been bare-foot. The dirt and ballooned tummies with protruding navels wouldn’t have been there.

This side of 1994, everyone is clean thanks to ‘kandagira ukarabe’, a government programme to provide clean water where there is no running water yet. Kids are in good health thanks to mutuelles de santé, the 90+% community health insurance cover that’s admired worldwide. Add to that the Girinka programme, the government offer of a cow per poor family to ensure healthy nutrition and many other benefits and you see a people with improved livelihood all round.

But a Helen C. Espen, even as a veteran of education, would she allow us to see that picture of rich history and how it ensured a speedy recovery from a horrific catastrophe? Not on your life!

The hireling has put some jumbled-up titbits together to make a rambling, clumsy semblance of an opinion on Rwanda to distort all the aforesaid. And a newspaper swallows her tedious ranting of deformation, hook, line and sinker.

In that closely-knit society of our history, a respected mother of our nation used to make a citizen her object of torture? That’d mean she could as well have sold her people into slavery.

A trusted and disciplined high-ranking cadre confided the RPF’s guarded secret to a foreign pedestrian in a foreign office’s waiting room? If it’d been so, slipping out of Uganda unnoticed wouldn’t have happened.

It beggars belief that a self-respecting paper can peddle such reported, nonsensical hearsay from an unknown foreigner as a valid opinion!

Betrayals have happened, all right, but none in those categories quoted, at their various times.

But blame it not on such Espens. They are only hirelings and assets to all those erstwhile trusted custodians of objectivity, for their con pictures: The Guardian, The Financial Times, BBC, VOA, The New York Times, Le Monde, the horde. On matters Rwanda, they’ve lost it!

To them, a fast-transforming Rwanda is a whole load of loathsome unconformity. Such a picture that’s not all hunger, dirt, disorder et al is not a good example to the rest of Africa and a con job need be presented, else these news outlets will starve. For they, too, are hired guns.

Behind them are the systems that killed Lumumba, Rwanda’s Rudahigwa, Burundi’s Rwagasore, to quote only our next-door neighbourhood. And these systems have not exhausted their perpetual puppeteer passions and will use any tool, including “bankrupt” leaders in our neighbourhood, to maintain them.

Talk about turncoats. One such “bankrupt” leader, how sad to recall, set off as the transforming exemplar of an African society that hungered for change but has since morphed into one of what he denigrated as “quislings”.

In your twilight years, selling your soul to what you formally termed “Imperialist vultures” is to face a most dishonourable end, to put it most mildly. But that’s neither here nor there!

As Africans, it behoves us to create masterpiece pictures of growth and integrity in our societies.

On their own, the pictures will tell their stories in thousands of words and defy distortion.

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Who will come to the rescue of the Rohingya and other threatened communities?

What’s wrong with Myanmar, the country that we used to know and respect as Burma?

We remember, don’t we, Burma as the name that had been branded on our brains by our aging parents’ stories as the country of a brave people who put up a goog fight against some European colonialists. Sadly, being only subjects, our parents had to fight for those colonialists.

However, at least they drew lessons from that experience: at the battleground, colonialist and colonised were equal, as they shed blood equally. And seeing as they were equal, why should any human claim superiority over another? It’s partly thus that the seeds of independence agitation from colonialism were sawn in Africa.

Then, nearer to our present, the name Burma, or Myanmar, surfaced again as home to a great freedom fighter, Aung San Suu Kyi. We admired her for single-handedly peacefully but powerfully taking on a diabolically dictatorial military regime and managing to wear it down until it became a budding democracy. And she was rewarded with a Nobel Prize, to boot.

Today, San Suu Kyi is Myanmar’s de facto leader, as its State Counsellor.

But alas, that democracy never came to be. Now when Myanmar and its Nobel laureate are mentioned, we cast our eyes down in shame; such an embarrassing place has it become. In fact, all who care about that country pray that the prize is withdrawn from Suu Kyi.

Few of us had ever heard of the Rohingya community. Personally, I started hearing about them around the mid-1970s and it was always in connection with their persecution. To-date, this persecution has not let up. If anything, it has become a cleansing effort where the military is committing genocide in front of a world that seems too impotent to act.

In this 21st century, a country is united in the commission of the most despicable crime in the world against a defenceless people and it’s not ashamed about it. The Rohingya community may be said to originate in Bangladesh and Bengal but this has been their home from as far back as the 8th century, we are told. Such a people, who can dare call them migrants?

And Aung San Suu Kyi, who earned a prize on the back of fighting for the suffering innocents of Myanmar at the hands of a despotic military regime, is playing possum; feigning deafness and blindness to all this. Knowing it’s mainly the same military regime that robbed the Rohingyas of their legitimate right to citizenship but no, now she is sitting cosy, her job done.

This hounding of an innocent community, whether Muslim or Hindu, why is it allowed to continue? Why should they live in internally displaced persons’ camps, or as refugees in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, India, UAE, Thailand, Indonesia and even Bangladesh?

Myanmar must know that the Rohingya Muslim community crisis is its crisis. Aung San Suu Kyi and the Myanmar government must rein in their army so that it can begin to respect all the people of their country equally. Fiddlesticks to talk of a ceasefire, as if between two warring parties!

However, as we in Rwanda learnt with genocidal bitterness, the liberation of a community begins with itself, whatever enormity of odds staked against it.

The Rohingyas, wherever they are in the said countries and whatever religion, must unite and speak with one voice. Once able to mobilize around the cause of self-assertion, a leading voice will emerge to articulate their plight and push this slumbering world out of its inertia.

And, again as we in Rwanda so painfully learnt, none should put their hope in that chimera of a world organisation, the UN. It has never pulled any people out of their predicament and cannot go beyond blabbering about “a problem that needs to be addressed urgently.”

Yet how Aung San Suu Kyi and her country, as well as Bangladesh and India, need to urgently be pushed to sit together and hammer out a solution. If they need it, they can solicit the support of the countries accommodating the Rohingyas as refugees.

Where is the global force that can galvanise countries of the world into heaving this grieving community out of this sinkhole? For, finding such a force, the world will have found the force to similarly rescue bleeding communities around the world, especially the third part of the world.

Maybe the world should join the voice from strange quarters – the lips of none other than US President Donald Trump, supporting the UN Secretary General on reforming a body he (Trump) had sworn to starve of funds. Time for “concrete changes in the United Nations to better align its work on humanitarian response, development and sustaining peace initiatives” is long overdue.

And if the UN wants real, tangible reforms, it need not look further for lessons than the AU and the man who penned the much appreciated reform proposals for it (AU). Even Donald Trump is reported to have seen the sense in that, if I heard correct.

In fact, why not hand that AU reformer the duty and the leeway to pick his reform team, give him liberty to effect the reforms (can they?), sit back and observe? This moribund UN body will erupt into action like they’ve never dreamed before!

For any reform to be meaningful, however, the UN will have to be wrenched out of the grip of the self-considered superior Security Council and shear the latter’s veto powers. Then the UN can be turned into a global body of equals for, doesn’t it baffle that one country should monopolise leadership of the Department of Peace Keeping Operations?

The UN can best serve the victimized of the world if all nations embraced this simple maxim: united we stand, divided we fall.

United in the majority of equals, these nations can vanquish any sabre, or even nuclear, rattling rogue nation/s; against its/their own communit/y/ies or against any other nation/s.

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Kudos to RPF campaign organisers for showing us that we can!

If foreign detractors have been accusing our leadership of being intolerant, may it be happy to plead guilty! And, in fact, beyond that, may it now start to be more severely so!

After all, the people of this land are happy exactly because of that.

It’s true, though, that even some of us, leave alone foreigners, took time to appreciate the sense of it all. Because when first we saw this intolerance, say over our walking on grassy medians of double carriageways, it did not immediately register into our minds that it’d in the end put us among the cleanest and most orderly societies of the world.

And can you point out a people that restored their peace and reconciled faster? It was all thanks to this intolerance. Intolerance to dirt, disorder, laxity, poverty, insecurity, impunity and more. Intolerance to any abuse to anybody or to us as a people.

But our people are not yet where they deserve to be, said President Kagame the other day after the new government had just sworn in. Now that! Who doesn’t know its weight and significance?

We know, because our president’s method of work hasn’t been called “imvugo ni yo ngiro” (his word is his bond) for nothing. This new government will deliver or else!

Which will mean severer intolerance to graft, where some leaders manage to find “comfort zones” in a country that’s averse to enjoying any, when work awaits. The “comfort zone”, for instance, of anybody siphoning off part of funds for building roads to end up delivering shoddy work.

It will mean severer intolerance to economic stagnation, citizen impediment, inequality, unreliability, obscurantism and opacity where what’s done is never clearly communicated and shared among all concerned parties.

And what’s democracy if it’s not citizen participation, equality, accountability, transparency, no abuse of power and, paramount among them, economic freedom?

Tolerance, too, yes, in the sense of being intolerant of those who cannot tolerate divergent views, the exchange of which ensure better performance.

That’s how that intolerance, in effect, has birthed democracy.

From its deathbed this country has advanced beyond all expectations, despite the detractors’ unceasing “but” intended to negate everything. Still, it remains a fact.

There is no ground to doubt, therefore, that the country may turn into a smooth working machine that delivers comprehensively consensual democracy à la Rwandaise, to finally tie these detractors’ tongues.

There are teething problems like youth unemployment, full infrastructural development, proper health service delivery, quality education provision, agricultural expansion and mechanisation and many others but they are not exactly unsolvable.

If our government can get its act together and work in complete concurrence across and up and down all institutions, departments, agencies and the citizenry, this country can go far, faster.

The possibility of this was borne out by the amazing organization of this year’s RPF campaigns.

For every campaign site, GPS measurements were taken to determine the square metres required for the expected size of crowd attendance, worked on in consultation with national, provincial, district, sector, cell down to village levels. Tents were set up for the vulnerable, pregnant and young, always leaving walk- and drive-ways for the candidate and service-providers.

Meanwhile, those intending to attend campaign rallies had been identified, transport vehicles found and their mechanical soundness ascertained for the orderly transportation of people to and from the campaign venues, wherever necessary.

For the peoples’ health and hygiene, campaign sites were dotted with enough medical tents that were manned by teams of doctors, nurses and health workers, in case of emergency.

Tanks of treated water with disposable cups for the able-bodied, bottled mineral water as well as juices and biscuits for the weak and young were at the disposal of all these categories, without forgetting portable public conveniences in addition to those already at the site. Their cleanliness, plus enough toiletries (water, soap, disinfectant, disposable towels, etc.), had been ensured, too.

Seeing the logistics in place; the decorations; the sound systems and projector screens; wifi internet everywhere and facilitation for media coverage; the security checks and maintenance of peaceful assembly to cap it all, and knowing everything was done to cater for crowds sometimes upward of 40,000, one could only marvel.

Remember that all the above had to be replicated twice, thrice, sometimes four times in each of the thirty districts of this country. And that everything was packed into 20 days flat of campaigns. Yet at every single venue throughout, all went on without a single incident.

The efficient crowd control, care and concern as well as the maintenance of their security, I doubt any first world country could rival, no exaggeration!

As for the clean, smooth, orderly and transparent process on polling day, in Kenya it’d have thrown their Supreme Court out of business!

Talking of which, let’s pray that nullification judgement was passed after considering the context the judges operate in and that they have not handed our brothers and sisters a tinderbox. May they all have the heart to remember that Kenya matters more than any single individual therein!

As their Chief Justice was once told, “…..laws are based on values, but they are not the same as values.”

So is it with us. RPF campaigns opened our eyes to what we are capable of, basing ourselves on our values, if we commit to maximally apply ourselves. But then again, should we be surprised?

Wasn’t it the RPF that gave us the audacity to exert our intolerance to mediocrity of any form?

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From lone “wamfunguriye” voices towards a middle-income society? (unedited)

I remember visiting the chaotic downtown Kigali market, “Isoko rya Nyarugenge”, in August 1994, fresh from exile. To reach a desired stall, it was a veritable struggle forcing your way through the mob of people in rags all with outstretched hands, pleading: “Wamfuguriye!”

That word can be a request or a demand, depending on the tone, either to open for or offer food to someone. So, with my memories of a 1959-Rwanda that knew no begging ‘trade’, I opted for the former and asked where the door for opening was.

When the strong young man fixed me with a red-eyed stare that ill-veiled his threat as he made the sign of putting food in mouth, I cringingly understood. Quickly, I rummaged through my pockets for coins, whatever morsel of food those’d buy him.

The point being that wherever you turned, there was no avoiding those “wamfunguriye” outstretched hands from persons of all ages and all physical states. On streets, on building entrances; in the city centre, suburbs: they were there to haunt you every minute of the day and night. In villages too, as I found out a few days after the market incident when I visited what used to be my home area before exile.

When I wished an old lady weeding her field a good working day, as is the Kinyarwanda custom, she glanced up at me with perceptible recognition but disinterestedly resumed her work with a curt: “As if your wishes would fill my tummy!”

Despite the snub, I humbly proffered a 1,000 Frs-note. Her reaction totally blew me!

The indifference instantly vanished and, from a bent wizened woman, she was galvanized into a lithe woman who executed a few gigs of the traditional dance before grabbing me in a hug that painted her muddy arms, hands and fingers all over my white shirt, to the amusement of relatives with me. After which, she counted off our names, before similarly painting the others muddy!

What devilish spell had bound the good hearts of Rwandans of old, whatever their station? Those who spoilt you with whatever they had, to the point of self-deprivation? Those who, even when hungry, never showed it, let alone beg?

Admittedly, there was a category that went around for offerings but, understandably, those were still primitive times. Still, the whole society, excepting a small elite group (who used alms from foreigners to oppress their own), hadn’t sunk so deep into this ubiquitous begging misery and heartlessness, even with efforts of colonialism.
Now, fast-forward to today.

In place of the chaotic market sits a multi-storied building of a modern market, shops and offices owned by a cooperative of those stall operators of yore. From peddlers of a few items on improvised rickety tables, they’ve transformed into true members of the private sector and employers.

In villages, the omnipresent desolate “wamfunguriye” peasant, having joined cooperatives that sell their produce at competitive prices, has become an employer in his/her own right.

How has it come about?

Take one mudugudu (village), like Umudugudu wa Kibaya, as an example. But in this case it’s a city estate, not village, as it’s in one of the suburbs of Kigali.

On one muganda day, after the usual communal work, the subsequent meeting and decisions on reports from different volunteer committee members, the mudugudu chairperson welcomed back a member who’d just come out of hospital. Immediately, all members were falling over themselves to offer money, fruits, meat, whatever, for the member’s convalescence period.

The other day, when news spread that a mudugudu member had lost a father, within a few hours the better part of a million Francs had been raised to assist in funeral arrangements. A few days before, it’d been the exact same thing for a member who’d lost a new-born baby.

Mind you, this is not a mudugudu that comprises a majority of well-to-do members.

Now consider all midugudu (plural), especially the more compactly self-organised villages outside urban areas, or those with more means, and the way they look after their security, their general welfare, everything, with ubudehe committees examining categories of poverty for members, to identify the type of assistance required in a poverty-eradication crusade.

Consider, too, that the midugudu are coordinated by akagari (cell), which is in turn coordinated by umurenge (sector). Umudugudu, akagari, umurenge: these are the centres of power.

That’s how, for instance, you find a group of elderly and vulnerable villagers gathered at umurenge, awaiting their government financial support, in a third-world country. Those will have been identified at umudugudu level by ubudehe committees, where the elderly but able-bodied will also have been found salaried employment in activities that advance their area.

Those activities involve building roads, making terraces, initiating irrigation projects, planting trees, addressing sudden emergencies, et all, leaving government to deal with the bigger projects, while it assists them too. This it does by mobilising its departments, other institutions as well as private companies and international development organisations.

To encourage a culture of saving and accessing credit at those lower levels, Umurenge SACCO (saving and credit cooperative) has been set up. All this is organised through Vision 2020 Umurenge Project (VUP) as a vehicle to eradicate poverty and enhance rural growth and social protection.

There are miscreant corrupt elements, habitual beggars, unruly hawkers, all right, but with government committed to an unrelentingly vigilant up-down-down-up coordination from the lowest level to the topmost, these will be a thing of the past.

Hopefully, imirenge heads will stop appearing as if they are going through revolving doors – such is the speed of ejecting those who are corrupt or incompetent!

The level of enthusiasm in almost all Rwandans for a dignified existence is such that they are with their government to the hilt. They are thus eager to alert government on any malpractice.

So, in the not too distant future, that lone “wamfunguriye” voice may be a curiosity for Rwandan tourists to go and view in other countries!

At a street corner in New York, London or Paris, for instance?

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Can Kigali trigger Africa’s total unity of purpose?

Seeing the constellation of African governments’ luminaries and a good number from cities as far apart as Beijing and New York gracing the swearing-in ceremony of President Paul Kagame was one moment of a kind. Indeed, wouldn’t everybody marvel at the way we have sailed through turbulent, shark-infested waters to make it here?

The well-decorated stadium as venue, the flawless organization of the inauguration, the warm hospitality, all of which have come to mark this country, must have warmed the heart of everybody who followed the event.

It’s a long way from July 19, 1994.

It may dampen our upbeat mood after the exhilaration of the ceremonies and, especially, what they portend for the future, but let’s never shy away from casting our eyes back.

For to many in the world then, apart from having heard of a horror from hell whose scale and magnitude they could not comprehend that had struck a tiny country somewhere in Africa, Rwanda was an unknown component. Having been insignificant, she was dismissed as dead and buried and only neighbours had hope, no doubt thin, that she might have a chance.

On that day, July 19 1994, only a paltry number of those dignitaries at the stadium, in whatever capacity they were in then, could have heard the lone voice and, even then, probably took it to be a voice in the wilderness.

The voice: “…I feel this is a great day…….an important day in the life of Rwanda, although it makes us sad when we remember the tragedies……[of]……the recent past.”

The voice rang out from a different Kigali stadium which, like last Friday’s venue at the time, was literally standing in the midst of a pool of blood.

All around Kigali and in other liberated areas of the country, bodies of genocide victims were being collected for decent burial. In the whole of the western parts of the country, the fight against the army of the time (ex-FAR) and interahamwe was still raging.

Meanwhile, the UN and sundry international NGOs had ring-fenced off internally-displaced-persons camps which, in effect, were garrisons accommodating a few innocent Rwandans to camouflage those ex-FAR/interahamwe, all armed to their genocidal teeth.

Seeing imminent total defeat, a superpower was shipping some Rwandans off to eastern Zaïre (D.R. Congo), a few metres across the border. The aim: to continually arm them and train more, while emptying the country for the in-coming government to govern a wasteland.

There, too, “the superpower’s Rwandans” included innocent refugees used to shield that collection of killers, who were supplied with sophisticated weaponry to re-conquer the country before it all slipped out of their hands.

Yet, thus besieged and amid rising insurgency, without forgetting the fluid situation inside the country, just sworn-in Vice-President and Minister for Defence Paul Kagame, for that was the voice, had the confidence to declare: “…it’s time for us to stand up and work together…[to]….lead this country along the path of its development.”

For all practical purposes, even some Rwandans behind him were unconvinced this was time to talk development!

But he wasn’t done: “I would like to restate here …[that]…nothing could now stop us from fighting for the welfare of Rwandans and their rights…..[and]…remind those who might be harbouring plans…[against us]…that the same Rwandans who rejected such evils are still here and that their power grows stronger by the day.”

Of course, as he repeatedly wouldn’t in subsequent years, he never forgot to extend an olive branch: “Even those who have done evil……should…..[know]….they have a place in Rwanda….”

But if in the bushes the RPF/A had weathered a protracted onslaught of the evil forces and their superpower chaperon for rocking the boat that was the property of the West in an effort to birth a new Rwanda, now it had placed itself square in the crosshairs of Western weapons – and tongues.

Yet, against all odds, The RPF/A came out of it all triumphant and has prevailed since.

Which meant dismantling those IDPs camps to free Rwandans from the clutches of the UN and NGOs, to place the RPF on an intractable collision course with all Western advocacy and media tongue-lashers that has not let up to-date, but is ignored. Dismantling the camps across the border, though, stung the Western ego so sharply the West helped rope in multiple African forces for the mother of all wallops. Still, the intended obliteration never came to pass!

In the RPF/A itself, there were those whose attention was consumed in lining their pockets and nothing beyond, once in power. On seeing the short – not long! – arm of the law clawing at them, they cut and ran, to join ranks with the advocacy and media wolves disparaging their motherland.

But nothing was going to go in the way of the single-minded pursuit of the unity, cohesion, inclusion and consensual collaboration of all Rwandans in building and developing this new Rwanda, in a united Africa that’s today emerging as we watch.

Last Friday, Africa and the world were witness to the triumph of that objective.

Especially, the world was witness to the unanimity of Africans, by their massive presence, on never, to quote President Kagame after this 23-year rollercoaster journey, “to glorify the old politics of division….”

The unanimity on never being forced “to live on someone else’s terms….[or being forced]…to replace systems that are working for us with dogmas in which their own people are rapidly losing faith….[because, after all]….The governance and prosperity of Africa cannot be outsourced.”

The world should wake up and start seeing Africa through correct lenses: an opportunity for cooperation and partnership of equals that should be seized upon.

Who’d have believed Rwanda would be here to lend her modest voice to the need for Africa’s strong self-assertion?

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Rwanda charting her own dignified destiny

Methinks the coming years will see exciting times for everybody, Rwandan or not. When you take into account the changes taking place, especially the increasingly high speeds at which everything is being created from nothing or bettered if there, you can’t help but wonder.

Where will these ‘Thousand Hills’ be in the near future?

The not-too distant future, why not, may surprise and defrost hearts of the Ken Roths of this world who hate our guts and yet know their object of hatred, Rwanda, if not by name only, then, courtesy of Google map.

Yes, let’s mention them all, even if it only soils our tongues.

The likes of Filip Rentjens who, remember, breezed in, hot on the heels of the 1994 liberation, pompously confident that he’d be picked to pen our new constitution, the way he’d helped pen the one that assisted the near-total destruction of our society.

On receiving a cold shoulder, cause of the hatred for many, he’s been on the grieving war path ever since. Only, to us, it’s an effort in futility.

Futility talking of which, we cannot forget The New York Times and its fellow foul-mouthed rags which, for lucre or for favours of influence, are crying themselves hoarse from their distant offices in pretentious panic about our being engulfed in fear and oppression, as if they’d give a hoot if we were to be blown off this earth “with fire and fury”.

Which, let it never escape our mind, one of their sponsor countries attempted but miserably took flight, tail tucked between cursed legs, in humiliating defeat.

These opportunistic hobbledehoys getting under our skin, as a friend says? Fat chance!

A people genuinely working hard to better their lives and bearing no ill will against anyone, despite abuses suffered from many, can melt the heart of Lucifer himself – only, lest we forget, many are worse than this ‘guy’!

Maybe, who knows, it’ll be a case of “If you can’t beat them, join them”.

Anyway, our tongues cleansed, let’s get back to the topic at hand: the coming years. They’ll be exciting because since I moved house and relocated to the suburbs, my eyes seem to have opened to small wonders around me, due maybe to not being in the city centre glare.

Only after a week of not visiting the city centre, I was met with two towering buildings there that were totally new to me. Imagining my eyes were playing tricks with my mind, I took shots of them and relayed them around but everyone was equally in the dark. The first multi-patterned tower will house Banque Populaire HQs and the other, HQs for what was Cogebanque.

But that was then and then was some three weeks ago.

Today, take the street from what’s popularly called “Rond Point”, having been the sole 1980s roundabout around, to where “1930” prison used to be, looking to your left all the way. If you thought the new Chic and Downtown buildings with their spacious, lush parking-areas and the wide taxi park were the only attractions there, you are in for a surprise on your next visit.

You’ll realize that “surprise” was premature, however, when you go down from Rond Point to Nyabugogo or from Rwandex to Prince House and see what’s happening to those narrow streets that used to attract accidents more than light attracts moths. More than the double-carriageways in the swift process of completion, you’ll be impressed by the Gothic-architecture patterns decorating the roadside embankments.

For the innumerable complexes shooting out of the ground around the city like mushrooms, only the Kigali skyline will tell the story.

But that’s not all. The “premature surprise” will prove to be too rushed, too, when you see that that city centre glare is right over your head, in your suburb. What we thought were suburbs are fast turning into satellite cities, the reason for infrequent visits to the city centre.

The veracity of this was borne out to me on my way to Komironko Estate, when I took a diversion to avoid the infamous daily traffic snarl-up at the market, only to find the erstwhile dust backstreets nearly all asphalted and lit.

When I was told of plans to turn the whole area into a Dubai of some sort and that similar projects are underfoot in all suburbs of Kigali, I wondered what “city centre” would soon mean.

Villager that I am, however (yes, you can’t get the village out of me!), my heart was buoyed by the information that most of the high-rise buildings of Kimironko belong to village farmers, thanks to their sweat on the land.

What do you know! The peasant of yesteryears is transforming into the propertied farmer of today.

Remember, though, that that ignores the fact that the small provincial towns of yesterday are themselves evolving into satellite metropolises of Kigali that may soon steal the shine from their mother capital.

With vulnerable groups all getting model city-house clusters, as in Nyabihu District recently, the dream of Rwanda turning into a network of cities and city estates may no longer be far-fetched. Then the land can be freed for more organised productive activity.

Think the fast-paced infrastructural activity in this country. Think all projects that should be in the works in the region, if it weren’t for some saboteur quislings playing to the tune of outsiders. Try as they may, though, they’ll fall by the wayside and we’ll prevail in the end.

It’s not that Rwanda is doing what other countries haven’t done, far from it. It’s that 23 years from the abyss, she is fast getting equal to many a country that hasn’t known such traumas.

“We are not special but we are different,” summarised President-elect Paul Kagame recently.

That “different”. It’s going to be exciting.

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Hunger for power in Rwanda? Give me another!

President Kagame is back at his desk and, so, bajya he? To Western do-gooders who called him uncharitable names as the man who has engulfed us all “pitiful citizens” into “a climate of fear”: he is back and you can eat your hearts out!

As these unrelenting critics may have seen from the massive numbers who turned up at his campaigns and from responses everywhere, especially social media, we, the citizens, are prepared for them.

They may harp on the impossibility of a 98+% win to no end, for instance, but in addition to chewing that cud, let them ask themselves where in their countries they have seen a near-100% voter turnout, with the sick and the infirm insisting on being assisted to cast their vote, if it was the last thing they’d do.

Those mammoth crowds “were forced to cheer and vote”, they’ll say. What they won’t tell us, though, is who forced Rwandans in the Diaspora to do likewise in near-equal numbers.

But still on the cud, let them chew on the way the election was delivered: the order, elegance, efficiency, creativity, spotlessness, calmness in jubilation and all.

That was the work of the youth, sending the critics’ claims of any crave for life presidency flying in their faces. The young in government and other institutions plus the busy-bee involvement of the youth in the polity of this society speak to a dynamic youth leadership already in operation.

So, after witnessing only “a climate of cheer”, as young tweeps put it, and their quivers emptied of all abusive arrows, these hired-gun organizations of the Western hegemonic system may see their ‘feeding bowls’ upturned (imbehe zubitswe); Rwanda no longer being their source of bread.

Because the sole surviving missile, that of “hunger for power”, is a stillbirth today as it has always been. Hunger for power cannot go hand in hand with putting one’s life on the line for the rescue of their people.

In his modesty, of course, President Kagame calls it acting as “shock-absorber” for his society. But one old lady expressed it more graphically and emphatically when she stubbornly stuck on sleeping the night out on the hard cold surface of a classroom bench till voting time in the morning.

“It’s the least I can do,” said she. “My son Kagame can’t have suffered all those years being bombed in the trenches and I fail to brush off one cold night for a chance to vote for him.”

That’s what Rwandans mean when chanting: “Kagame wacu!” (No one else but Kagame, son of our community).

They know that that “son”, as soon as he was capable of enquiry, never ceased to seek answers as to whether Rwandans were fated to lead a life of mockery, statelessness and abject poverty.

Statelessness which meant poaching on other people’s land and living at the mercy of meagre charity or suffering dehumanizing gloom, eking out a living.

That son, when he got the chance to “poach” on foreign schools as a refugee, hungrily absorbed what was taught him and combed all books to get as much world knowledge as possible, including that of whether there were societies created to lead a cursed life.

And seeing that there were none, he resolved to find out why it should be so for his people.

As a youngster, knowing his features would mark him out for death, he ventured back into the land that had cast him out as a baby. In villages, shopping centres and towns, life for many was actually worse than the despair of exile.

At the highest seat of knowledge, Butare University, where he hazarded a visit and received catcalls that almost degenerated into lynching, it was dirt and gloom that’d have embarrassed some primary schools of his exile.

The culprit was bankrupt leadership. So, who was the man who had the callousness to contentedly oversee this shame?

Of course, the closest he could get to seeing the then president, Habyarimana, in flesh was stealing a peek at his residence by passing by, head hidden in the novel he read. How he zigzagged his escape from the guards on sentry through the wooded area when spotted, it’s a story fit for suspense-action movies.

Unfortunately, that modesty compels us to only content ourselves with snippets of such hair-thin escapes (because he won’t let on) in his efforts to contribute to regaining the dignity of Rwandans stolen by all manner of self-seekers.

The escapes include how he cheated death at Kabamba Barracks, in Uganda, and in the rigorous training of TMA in Monduli, Tanzania, that took many a life.

Both of which pale in comparison to the dangers in Rwanda, when the liberation struggle entered a collective phase that’d make or totally break this society and send it into oblivion, after the now matured soldier miraculously escaped myriad traps all the way from USA.

Plunging into a situation of cowering, scattered and scared fighters unprepared to fight again and daring to regroup them and together risk another attempt. Yet in the end he turned them into a force that faced multiple armies backed by a super power and overpowered them all.

Oh, before that, the detail snippet on a tent in which Commander Kagame was briefing the High Command. As he concluded and ushered the fighters out, the tent was bombed to smithereens and nearly made a mockery of that envisaged final “overpowering them all”.

Still – for there is a ‘still’! – the aforementioned are totally eclipsed by the miraculous survival of the guerrilla group together with a section of Rwandans when the UN gave the green light to a superpower for a so-called humanitarian Zone Turquoise that was armed for World War III.

Not only did Commander Kagame and his group survive the “Zone” but they stopped the most horrendous genocide of the 20th century single-handedly, to place Rwanda among respected world nations of today.

From refugee, guerrilla, military strategist to renowned statesman. This highly risky path is no shortcut for anybody hungering for power!

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