Sucker hospitality and what is wrong with our local leaders
YOU might have probably seen them lining the road sides especially during the weekends in residential areas announcing a traditional wedding ceremony. I am talking about banana suckers, pups, whatever you call them.
If you are looking for the venue of an event especially in the countryside, these suckers can be handy. You only have to follow them and bang, you will be at the venue without seeking for any further directions. The suckers can be a mark of hospitality, a welcome symbol particularly for a visiting dignitary.
But how do you describe a situation where the suckers are used to direct a person who knows the place he is heading to so well or it is overdone that it leaves the dignitary stunned? Ridiculous is the word, ridiculous is the feeling!
On Friday July 8, together with three colleagues, we drove to the Eastern Province town of Nyagatare to attend the launch of a granite factory that was to be presided over by President Paul Kagame.
As we tore through the flat landscape, typical of the Province, one new addition to the alluring scenery struck my ever inquiring mind; the banana suckers that lined the roadside miles on end.
A debate ensued on the significance of lining the entire stretch of highway with suckers. The debate shifted further to the labour lost on this activity and if the suckers could have been put to better use; on banana plantations where they are cut down and used as ground cover.
In Nyagatare, there was a meeting of minds. The President, who chauffeured himself to the event, could not help but also question the rationale of lining the roadsides with the suckers especially when he was not new to the area. The local leaders could not help but laugh at their own folly.
The questioning of this ‘sucker hospitality’ even by the highest authority in the land should send a clear message to our local leaders; that in Rwanda it is not about ceremonies, it is about service delivery. The leitmotif for our leaders should be to help people they lead out of the shackles of poverty and not about self aggrandisement.
For a country that strives to do things differently to great effect, every case of a malnourished child, a mother who dies when giving birth, a family that goes without food or has not medical insurance, a child who drops out of school should be the motivation for any local leader worth their tile to even work harder.
There is no doubt that 18 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the country has made tremendous progress in rebuilding itself. This stunning success has been registered largely because Rwandans have chosen a clear path to take to achieve their development agenda. But we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Sustaining the development agenda will require continuous invention and innovation, a break from routine. Glad that we have now chalked off; ‘sucker hospitality’.
Contact email: burkepal[at]gmail.com