Seeing mature individuals being at peace only when they are sabre-rattling or spoiling for a fight never fails to astound. We may have accepted to swallow slurs wrought on us by bullies of our youth who only gave us peace when we licked their toes because we knew they’d grow out of it.
But could you imagine those brutes doing the same as responsible adults? It’s odd but, sadly, there are hordes whom that nastiness has followed into their near-dying days.
In my long and roaming life of a refugee, I had my fair share of an eyeful of such abhorrent tormentors.
Wherever we lived as refugees, we were persecuted by many grown ruffians but, rather than belligerence, our communities always sued for peace and cooperation.
Only when they were dangerously pushed against the wall did they put their foot down. That’s when, like coiled rattlesnakes, they transformed into vicious and tenacious opponents whom many regretted having provoked.
Take Masisi, North Kivu, eastern D.R. Congo, in 1964. A community of refugee peasants was set upon by a gang of neighbours following a rumour of a Rwandan refugee caught fighting for the Mulele insurgency, thousands of kilometres away.
When these unprepared refugees organised themselves and showered the attackers with arrows, stones and sticks in a counter attack, the locals didn’t know what hit them. The army, when it came to their rescue, lost the taste for confrontation on meeting with those silent lethal missiles. All opted for peaceful co-existence again.
One could quote myriad other cases, but why not the mother of them all, instead, even if we’ve quoted it umpteen times?
After this country’s two successive post-independence oppressive regimes had persistently refused to listen to pleas of rightful reintegration into their society by a majority of citizens, a few of these disowned citizens decided to face up with the small elite in power.
For close to forty years, many had lived as second-class citizens; others’ fate as a seasonally cropped (read “killed”) class had been sealed; yet others had been condemned to roam the jungles of foreign lands, there to hopefully wither and finally give up the ghost.
Talk about being pushed against the wall. This was something else; thus, October 1st 1990.
How, after suffering an initial devastating shock, the RPF/A got a new captain at the helm who initiated them into the calculus of guerrilla warfare is known.
It’s known, too, how, when the guerrillas swung into action with their surgical-phantom-attack operations, the lackey of a president hightailed it to France for rescue, emphatically claiming an invasion by a foreign force.
It’s reliably reported that his master-puppeteer, President François Mitterrand, wondered aloud: “Mais, fils, legend has it that Rwandans used to be reputed warriors. How so, then, that you are wetting your pants over a feeble force’s attack?”
The lackey is said to have mumbled: “Pardon, papa, but if truth be told, those are the very same warriors gunning for their land, the very home that we erstwhile all shared.”
But a slave-son is a son and so, the superpower leader assembled all the forces from his Francophone dominions, an Anglophone one, too – now happily turned chummy – and together with his forces they set off, ready to blow the fledgling guerrillas to smithereens.
The humiliation the superpower and its surrogate forces suffered, though satanically leaving horrendous atrocities in their wake, has to this day the entire African Francophone fraternity crooning “Eureka!”
None of them could have imagined seeing a tiny African country take on and overpower what to them was no less than an ‘Almighty’!
And that was only then, when Rwandans had not yet consolidated into a united herculean force.
When you stand firm for your dignity and fight for what’s right, nda ndambara yagutera ubwoba (no fight can scare you), as Rwandans say. Remember, as a song recently it rang out loud and clear in Kasarani Stadium, Nairobi.
In other words, with a united community of East Africans, we can vanquish any enemy: poverty, ignorance, terrorism, all. So, it can’t be true that there is a mind that can be so myopic as to bully a Community member and see that as more beneficial to our citizens than rallying together for common progress.
This, especially with the knowledge that there are some citizens still ravaged by jiggers in certain backyards. Not even the urge to massage a massively hubristic ego and get superpower financial crumbs in the process can drive anyone to that point.
Or can it?
Still, sabre-rattling or none, again as the saying goes, u Rwanda ruratera, ntiruterwa (a united Rwanda can attack, she cannot be attacked). Coined in the 18th century totally sans arrogance, the saying called on Rwandans to always be ready to pre-empt any imminent armed attack.
So far, they’ve not fallen short on the pledge. And I don’t see them beginning to, any time soon.
The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.