Today, doubting Thomases have found it inevitable to concede: this country has surprised with a quick rise from a write-off case to a case of something close to success. And fast shrinking that “close” gap.
In all frankness, even most of us senior citizens who’ve been following her evolution from the beginning – 1994! – weren’t exactly far from sharing that original Thomas sentiment!
Rwanda was a darling of the donors, yes, and their ‘generosity’ was unsparing. That ‘generosity’, however, as many Africans have realised, is a poisoned chalice.
The glaring proof: show me a country that developed on aid and I’ll show you a failed state, any time.
Clearly, then, Rwanda is not here thanks to the donor community. But not being a nation of ingrates, we must show appreciation where it’s due. Without forgetting: the best course is to be ‘inyaryenge’ (one able to read between the lines) and use the aid wisely.
And “wisely” means using it to boost your own means and efforts, in your own manner and method, to ‘grow’ yourself. Always conscious of this: you can’t truly progress without weaning yourself off aid.
But the homemade solutions we tout to high heaven, are they anything special? Methinks not. Any other leadership, working with its people as ours does, can adopt their own for similar, if not better, results.
We all know how countries of the Orient have applied theirs to good effect. Such good effect that some have attained first-world status in decades, where the West, self-lauded first-world, took centuries.
So, diligently fusing borrowed ways with one’s own may be the answer.
Take our simple umuganda that has surprisingly stood this country in good stead.
It has actually been with Rwanda since the day Gihanga, our own Adam, birthed this society. A society whose land covered a chunk of this region before colonialism, but that’s a side story.
Even then, that “side-story” cropped our homeland into a minuscule spec and also gave short shrift to umuganda and many other values that interwove us, as they built us, as a society.
Colonialism effects may be a “side-story” but by 1994 they’d taken us back to the Stone Age.
But alas, when colonialism successor regimes revived umuganda, they made a barbaric mockery of it.
Instead of being an avenue of community development, it was a vehicle for congregating people to promote politicians’ bankrupt sloganeering. Singing praises to colonialism and celebrating the divisions sawn by it.
And for popularising leaders’ obliteration campaign of some Rwandans, without excluding some in their very own camp. The logic? Self-service.
After umuganda the big fish in politics went to gorge themselves on ‘crows’ (ibisiga), ‘chicken’ in their bizarre lingo! And beef, paradoxically forbidden to their people as supposedly promoting enemy countrymen/women.
Then washed everything down with floods of champagne, imported on their hungry tax-payers’ beggarly earnings.
Having been kept in the dark about other countries’ progresses, the impoverished populace jubilantly went back to their hunger, disease, ignorance and shacks of homes, happy for having done their bit in promoting what they were told was “majority-rule democracy”.
‘Demo-idiocracy’, if you ask me, but how were our poor people to know?
Sadly, our wretched Rwanda wasn’t alone. It was in crowded company, on the continent.
To mention but one. In the neighbouring D.R. Congo, those who can cast their eyes back then remember its own ‘umuganda’ rave of the day: “Salongo alinga mosala!” (Every Congolese cherishes work).
Only, like in Rwanda then, no leader gave any of their citizens any chance to do their cherished work.
When leaders gathered citizens for that “mosala”, the president extolled their Zaïre as a continent, not a mere country. “Nyenyeee!” applauded everybody. It was their mighty river. Nye…! It was their great monetary currency. Nye…! It was this, that…..Nyenyeeeeee!
By the time the citizens were through with “nyenyeing”, the leaders had bled the country’s coffers dry, led by the top dog, Mobutu Sese Seku Kuku…, the cock that left fire in its wake. What a twist of irony!
By the 1990s, Zaïre had become a shell of its colonial self. The fleet of ships that used to ply the Zaïre River in bustling trade had been grounded. To buy a kilo of sugar, you needed a wheel-barrowful of the Zaïre currency. “Nyenyeee!” had turned into “Crise kaka!/Njala tu!” (Nothing but hunger!) To this day, it has never recov…but that’s a side story!
How did Rwanda extricate herself from this mucky mess that was the bane of most African countries? And from the curse of the ruling parties of Rwanda then and Zaïre, which only served to pauperise the citizenry?
President Kagame says how, in one sentence. “RPF”, today’s ruling party, “stands for hard work, accomplishing what it has planned to do and putting the interests of the people first.”
And thus, his unrelenting call to the leadership code. “No tolerance to corruption”. “Total transparency”. “Being accountable”. “Vigilant oversight of government institutions”. “Delivering according to mandate”. “Auto-criticism”. On and on, in the same vein.
African leader and led, go work smarter together, you go grow faster together, oh!