I thank God for this New Year. Every year that passes brings on new emotions. And as a seasoned Diaspoman,
I can tell you that the transformation we are witnessing in our beloved country is just overwhelming!
I remember those days when fireworks at the Stadium were unheard of. In fact, I remember the 1st time that
the fireworks were lit – it was on the last day of 2005 at the stroke of midnight. I was on the verge of
breaking down when for the first time in the history of this new country, fireworks were sent sky high with
the accompanying blasts that rocked the whole area. It was simply spectacular. For the first time in our
humble history, Rwanda had sent a message to the whole world. Indeed, our beloved country had emerged from
the ashes to become a truly wonderful paradise here on earth!
Amid the deafening screams and chants from the people around the Peaceful stadium, the loudspeakers were
booming with songs of triumph and hope. Couples embraced and kissed. Others cried. Others sang along! With
their arms waving and bodies trembling in a highly charged emotional atmosphere, we ushered in the New
Year! It was a moment of love and joy. Yours truly had spent the last few days hanging around with my
fellow Diaspo friends who had arrived for the Diaspora conference. They could not believe what they were
looking at. Some of these Diaspo friends had last been to Kigali in the mid 90s, when everything used to be desperate.
And who would blame them anyway? Until recently, our Diaspo friends depended really on the foreign media
where the television pictures depicted only the negative side of things. They also relied on lousy websites
that always portrayed messages of hate and backwardness. So whenever one mentioned Rwanda, it always sent the wrong signals to our brothers out there.
The first impression is usually the last one. That is why our
brothers and sisters in the Diaspora always imagined that our roads had serious potholes. In fact they
imagined that those very potholes had other potholes within them.
They also thought that the Rwandan roads were guarded by roadblocks with heavily armed mambas searching for
the just about anything. They imagined that the streets turned black at night and that we were subject to
curfews every single night. They thought that Rwandans were subject to only one Radio station and that the
only programs ranged from traditional music to funeral announcements. That basically is what our Diaspora
brothers had in mind when they came over for the conference.
But all that prejudice was bound to evaporate in thin air. When they set their foot on that smooth Airport
tarmac, they immediately sensed that they had all along missed the point! Not only did they realize that
the roads were in pure tarmac; they also realized they were as clean as any road in Europe. The side
pavements were beautifully constructed and the grass was very green with flowers blossoming out.
The misconception about heavily guarded roadblocks also vanished out of our visitors’ minds. Instead of
those gun wielding mambas, our guests saw smart and professional traffic policemen in their bright yellow
sunshine like jacket reflectors. They were out there diligently working and enforcing traffic laws, which
could only serve us better. And indeed, this is the country whose car accident rate is far lower than
probably any other country on the continent.
The thought of curfews also disappeared from their minds. They could see that the street lights all the way
from the stadium to the city centre were shining bright. Pedestrians strolled around carelessly with no
threat whatsoever. They can confess that Rwanda is the safest country on this planet! And then of course,
Radio Rwanda has since received step sisters and brothers. Diaspomen were amazed when we told them that new
FM stations had emerged. Not one. Not two. Not three! No way.
Now our Diaspomen around the world can listen to our FM stations via the internet. They shall no longer
rely on lousy websites. T.V Rwanda is also streaming live on the internet! People have a chance of surfing
the New Times website as well the official Rwandan website.
It is here that they shall learn about the
trust and confidence that the Continent has put in Rwanda. That is why for example our very own Dr. Donald Kaberuka became President of the African Development Bank in 2005 and had his mandate renewed. So, as the
fireworks splashed across the skies on the 1st day of 2006, a message was being sent to whole wide world.
Rwanda had come here to stay – Forever!
Fast forward - Six years down the road, developments have cruised on at a breakneck speed. Huge modern
building structures have emerged in all corners of the City. Streetlights have now extended to all major
roads in Kigali and currently, new street lights are being mounted on the highway from Remera all the way
to Kabuga and Rugende. Among the notable high level appointments were our very own Dr. Richard Sezibera who
became the Secretary General of the East African community. There are many more examples! So, thank God
once again for a brand New Year as we look forward to brighter stories and a great future!