For March 30th 2018
And so there you are, bemoaning your woes of difficulty in fulfilling travel needs because you think that at fifty thousand Rwanda Francs (Frs), the business of acquiring a passport is costly.
You’re not impressed by the fact of simply sauntering into the immigration department to place your document-accompanied request, and that’s it. Nor that in a mere week, day in urgent cases, a polite message will tickle your cell phone to announce that your document is ready.
Yet you want to travel because now thirty African countries have adopted the protocol on free movement of persons and may soon put an end to those irksome visa charges. You’d have wished for all countries to jump on the bandwagon but some are still steeped in this myopic, self-protection shallowness, seemingly oblivious to its stunting effect.
Our ancestors would’ve taught these countries a thing or two. When they coined the adage, “A bird that does not explore the skies will never know where there is harvest down below” (akayoni katagurutse ntikamenya hao bweze), they knew that isolation never advanced anybody.
So, ma’am/sir, you’d better consider inflation, cough up that tiny dough and even make a song about it.
Embrace Africa and the world. Observe one another’s harvest. When you celebrate and party together on shared harvest, others will beg for an invite to collaboration and its benefits.
It’s a chance we could never have dreamt of at one time.
Once we were so isolationist that we made all effort to isolate even some of our own people, to the point of attempting eradication of some. And Rwanda was the poorer for it.
This country was then inhabited by an unrecognisable society of tiered groups that included ‘genuine citizens’ and ‘squatters’. Squatters, one group of who lived for as long as the ‘genuine ones’’magnanimity lasted.
That ‘division-effect baptism of fire’ history is now well known courtesy of the yearly commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi that has been carved into this country’s constitution…..
But we digress. We were talking passports.
The process of passport acquisition one time, to be precise. This process necessarily excluded everyone from the squatter groups. But sometimes in one of these squatter groups, branded ‘alien’, the odd chance of being in the employ of a ‘genuine citizen’ as long-distance driver could earn you that precious paper.
Therefore this story of that passport acquisition concerns those so-called genuine citizens. However, even for you as ‘genuine’, it was no walk-over.
A passport cost about five thousand Frs, which was small beer. The only little nagging problem was getting the passport in your hands, if you were not one of the bigwigs in government.
As small fish, on top of that five thousand Frs you had to pay an un-refundable extra fifty thousand Frs as caution money. Why, search me!
Which would be fine if you were comfortably moneyed, only that the way to the immigration office was not a straight route, the way you see it today. No, it was a long, circuitous line of palms waiting for greasing before they could be smoothened enough to serve you.
But your pockets were not ‘yawning’, since you were part of a small elite group that could afford an air ticket. So you went for the biggest ‘smoothener’ of all – a cabinet minister.
At the ministry entrance, if your name did not ring a bell to the gatekeeper, a dent in your pocket magically saw the gates fling open. To persuade the reception desk lady to go through the tedious motions of shifting her gaze from her nails needed an additional puncture in your pocket. Whereupon, with an ear-to-ear smile, she sprang up to usher you into the office of the minister’s assistant.
Here, a sizeable shrinking of your pocket prompted the assistant to coo in the intercom as he/she informed “son excellence monsieur le ministre” that there is a very interesting man to entertain him. By the time you emerged from son excellence’s office, minus the whole bundle, you’d have promised to meet him in the evening for a chummy chat as you shared igisiga (large bird like a crow, meaning ‘chicken’), washed down with lots of champagne.
In the evening your refilled pockets had to be touched sparingly, however, because the same story would play out at the immigration office, before son excellence’s ‘note of commendation’ smoothened your passport acquisition.
So, being limited in number and only serving self-interest, our traveller compatriots were blind to another of our ancestors’ adage: “Ubwenge burarahurwa”. They thus never got any light of wisdom – of emulating the better living standards of where they travelled – from their visits and returned to live happily with their mud houses (rukarakara) and general poverty till death would they part!
These passport acquisition hassles are only a wee part of the rot that keeps many a country stagnant to-date.
When Rwanda stopped wading in this insular, sectarian-centred murky mire of short-sighted avarice, she opened up to welcome, and travel, the world and embrace and share all. For that, see how the lot of her people has improved economically, socially, politically, say it.
Interaction and collaboration across societies are a sure bet for building strength and wealth.