Seeing the constellation of African governments’ luminaries and a good number from cities as far apart as Beijing and New York gracing the swearing-in ceremony of President Paul Kagame was one moment of a kind. Indeed, wouldn’t everybody marvel at the way we have sailed through turbulent, shark-infested waters to make it here?
The well-decorated stadium as venue, the flawless organisation of the inauguration, the warm hospitality, all of which have come to mark this country, must have warmed the heart of everybody who followed the event.
It’s a long way from July 19, 1994.
It may dampen our upbeat mood after the exhilaration of the ceremonies and, especially, what they portend for the future, but let’s never shy away from casting our eyes back.
For to many in the world then, apart from having heard of a horror from hell whose scale and magnitude they could not comprehend that had struck a tiny country somewhere in Africa, Rwanda was an unknown component. Having been insignificant, she was dismissed as dead and buried and only neighbours had hope, no doubt thin, that she might have a chance.
On that day, July 19 1994, only a paltry number of those dignitaries at the stadium, in whatever capacity they were in then, could have heard the lone voice and, even then, probably took it to be a voice in the wilderness.
The voice: “...I feel this is a great day.......an important day in the life of Rwanda, although it makes us sad when we remember the tragedies......[of]......the recent past.”
The voice rang out from a different Kigali stadium which, like last Friday’s venue at the time, was literally standing in the midst of a pool of blood.
All around Kigali and in other liberated areas of the country, bodies of genocide victims were being collected for decent burial. In the whole of the western parts of the country, the fight against the army of the time (ex-FAR) and interahamwe was still raging.
Meanwhile, the UN and sundry other international NGOs had ring-fenced off internally-displaced-persons camps which, in effect, were garrisons accommodating a few innocent Rwandans to camouflage those ex-FAR/interahamwe, all armed to their genocidal teeth.
Seeing eminent total defeat, a superpower was shipping some Rwandans off to eastern Zaïre (D.R. Congo), a few metres across the border. The aim: to continually arm them and train more, while emptying the country for the in-coming government to govern a wasteland.
There, too, “the superpower’s Rwandans” included innocent refugees used to shield that collection of killers, who were supplied with sophisticated weaponry to re-conquer the country before it all slipped out of their hands.
Yet, thus besieged and amid rising insurgency, without forgetting the fluid situation inside the country, just sworn-in Vice-President and Minister for Defence Paul Kagame, for that was the voice, had the confidence to declare: “...it’s time for us to stand up and work together...[to]....lead this country along the path of its development.”
For all practical purposes, even some Rwandans behind him were unconvinced this was time to talk development!
But he wasn’t done: “I would like to restate here ...[that]...nothing could now stop us from fighting for the welfare of Rwandans and their rights.....[and]...remind those who might be harbouring plans...[against us]...that the same Rwandans who rejected such evils are still here and that their power grows stronger by the day.”
Of course, as he repeatedly wouldn’t in subsequent years, he never forgot to extend an olive branch: “Even those who have done evil......should.....[know]....they have a place in Rwanda....”
But if in the bushes the RPF/A had weathered a protracted onslaught of the evil forces and their superpower chaperon for rocking the boat that was the property of the West in an effort to birth a new Rwanda, now it had placed itself square in the crosshairs of Western weapons – and tongues.
Yet, against all odds, the RPF/A came out of it all triumphant and has prevailed since.
Which meant dismantling those IDP camps to free Rwandans from the clutches of the UN and NGOs, to place the RPF on an intractable collision course with all Western advocacy and media tongue-lashers that has not let up to-date, but is ignored. Dismantling the camps across the border, though, stung the Western ego so sharply the West helped rope in multiple African forces for the mother of all wallops. Still, the intended obliteration never came to pass!
In the RPF/A itself, there were those whose attention was consumed in lining their pockets and nothing beyond, once in power. On seeing the short – not long! – arm of the law clawing at them, they cut and ran, to join ranks with the advocacy and media wolves disparaging their motherland.
Nothing was going to go in the way of the single-minded pursuit of the unity, cohesion, inclusion and consensual collaboration of all Rwandans in building and developing this new Rwanda, in a united Africa that’s today emerging as we watch.
Last Friday, Africa and the world were witness to the triumph of that objective.
Especially, the world was witness to the unanimity of Africans, by their massive presence, on never, to quote President Kagame after this 23-year rollercoaster journey, “to glorify the old politics of division....”
The unanimity on never being forced “to live on someone else’s terms....[or being forced]...to replace systems that are working for us with dogmas in which their own people are rapidly losing faith....[because, after all]....The governance and prosperity of Africa cannot be outsourced.”
The world should wake up and smell Africa – the scent of cooperation and partnership as equals.
Who’d have believed Rwanda would be here to lend her modest voice to Africa’s self-assertion?