I want to make it clear that I am not anything like an authority on what I write. I simply express my opinions according to how I see things and will always welcome differing opinions.
In response to an e-mail to me, I can only say that the messages I often receive are awakening and teach me a lot.
On ethnicity, personally I have never seen in any statute book where the government of Rwanda has outlawed mention of ethnicities or any denial that they exist.
What has been outlawed is the act of using ethnicity for ill motives. Examples are legion where ethnicities have been invoked to divide Rwandans and win undue favour.
In fact, an elder I talked to early this week told me many revealing things. For instance, it has come to be believed that during the reign of monarchs, queens used to pierce children with swords as a way of the queens helping themselves to stand up. The act is not only impracticable but actually queens never carried swords!
The gentleman explained how these ludicrous stories had virtually entered Rwandan lore and yet they had been spread by colonialists so as to plant discord among Rwandans and ease the colonialist’s divide-and-rule strategy. Another example was the type of administration in monarchical Rwanda.
Before the advent of colonialism, there were Bahutu, Batutsi and Batwa chiefs. However, in a ruse that Batutsi took for being the favoured group, the colonialist decreed that they were divinely chosen to be rulers.
As an example in my native northern part of Rwanda, the elder pointed out Basebya (a Mutwa) and Rukara (a Muhutu), who were powerful chiefs before colonialism.
There is also the case of ‘kiboko’, the whip, in colonial Rwanda. Anybody who defaulted on forced labour was subjected to whipping. Any chief whose people did not satisfy the colonial master in this forced labour was punished with whipping and asked to go do the same to his people.
The trick here was to whip the chiefs in secrecy so that his people would not be wise to the fact that they were sharing the pain. In fact, when the chief whipped the people, the later took it to be his initiative. And if I refer to chiefs as masculine, it’s because colonialists had relegated women to the kitchen where before they used to form part of the ranks of chiefs.
As the gentleman told me, there were many other tactics, some plain, others subtle, that the colonial administration and the church used to tear Rwandans apart. And those were the tactics that were passed on to the succeeding Kayibanda regime and which the Habyarimana regime sought to perpetuate.
In order to build a Rwanda divorced from these malignancies, it is only logical that the foundation upon which they were erected is uprooted.
If in the name of Batutsi, Bahutu and Batwa classes were imposed on Rwanda, let Banyarwanda be concentrated on what improves their welfare and places them on the road to wholesome, common development.
However, it should not mean forgetting the rough road that has been trodden. That history must be recorded and read to give emphasis to the importance of highlighting what division into Bahutu, Batutsi and Batwa has meant for Rwandans.
The facts of history must be acknowledged and that is why there is no contradiction in talking about the genocide against Batutsi.
As to the other problems that my e-mail correspondent raises, I must confess that I do not have enough information. However, the case of Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) that he quotes is confounding, to say the least. In which circumstances can a student be denied his/her marks?
For any reason, sure, students should not be allowed to miss classes and must be penalised if they do. Still, students should not be awarded marks and then denied them on discovering that they did not attend 85% of a lecture. There are many ways of punishing a student and denying marks earned should not be one of them.
I remember that our secondary school used to pride itself in being lax on rules. In fact, this laxity in rules used to spur fierce competition such that students who were frequently out of school worked themselves to near-fatal exhaustion. Every institution must strive to build a solid reputation of dos and don’ts where everybody who aspires to join it is clear about them well in advance.
On the thorny issue of land redistribution in Umutara Province, I can only say I know that it has consumed a lot of government officials’ time and energy. That the problem is not going away should not discourage the officials from following up the President’s initiative and concluding its resolution.
Surely, such problems should provide fodder to these ‘opposition newspapers’ which are instead engaged in looking for angles of attack on government through pips on the shoulders of generals or through government officials’ bedrooms. They’d be redeemed by being useful to the citizenry.
If you can prove that a government is not doing its mandated duty of serving its citizens, would you need to shout lies about “no press freedom”?