Hopefully, now we can breathe easy. Rwandans were beginning to wonder if their government was not finally throwing in the towel.
Only a few days ago, the region’s cacophonous chest-thumpers were up in arms, threatening fire and brimstone, and it looked as if this land was going to be trampled to a dust peck. And the government was watching in stony, seemingly resigned, silence.
Just across the north-western border, everybody and everything with anything Rwandophone about them were being bombarded and pushed into Rwanda. From across the eastern border, columns of whoever may have had the remotest link to anything Rwandan and the little they managed to salvage were being hustled and kicked across the border and into Rwanda.
As we know, all these are victims of a history they know nothing about. They are victims of having belonged to a land that was whole and knew no borders. Victims of when, in their ancestry, they all lived as brothers and sisters and the land was there for all to harness and feed of and it sufficed for all.
It would seem that the government had fallen into the reverie of this history of having lived as one and had forgotten that things had changed. It had been lulled into believing that everybody wanted to relive that history.
Then a bomb popped from across the north-western border and killed an innocent lady and wounded her two month-old baby. That’s when the government was rattled out of the reverie. Indeed, that history was no more; things had changed. Change or no change, however, it must not come to this. Now a red line had been crossed.
Suddenly, Rwandan hilltops came alive and columns of tanks with men and women in tactical hoods atop them shook the land, as they came rolling down towards the Western Province town of Rubavu. One dead Rwandan is one too many. So, if this region wanted to know what fire and brimstone were, it was going to see them.
This country exists by dint of its force and no one will be allowed to forget that in a hurry. No one.
The bustle and hustle apart, however, no one should be deceived. Among all the neighbours in this region, none is an enemy to another. There is no single Congolese who hates a Rwandan and there is no single Rwandan who hates a Congolese. And as there is no single Tanzanian who hates a Rwandan, there is no single Rwandan who hates a Tanzanian. In the Great Lakes Region, we are all brothers and sisters as we are, on the continent of Africa.
This eternal truth should never be lost on any African: every African is his brother’s keeper.
Things may have changed but that brotherly and sisterly bond should not change with them. Instead of tearing at each other, we should harness the border confinements assigned to us by colonialism to advance together. Whoever flexes muscles, they should flex them to contribute in building themselves and their neighbour. Every part of Africa is home to every African.
Our muscles should build regionalism and continental unity, not destroy them (this, though, does not exclude punishing any wrong among us). Either that or we shall forever remain cast into damnation.
This seems to have been the message of the 7th Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) on the Security Situation in Eastern DRC that took place in Kampala last Thursday 5th September, 2013. By the look of things, all leaders came out smiling. Let’s hope the smiles were not a cosmetic sheen strictly for the cameras.
Let’s hope that leaders of our neighbouring countries got the message that we are all better off pulling together than apart. The message that’s contained in the Rwandan adage: ubugabo si ubutumbi. Otherwise said, size is not everything. The strength of a country is not measured in the expanse of its surface area; the vocal pitch of its politicians; the number of its military hardware items or troops; the contingency of its external backers; et al.
The strength of a country is measured in the determination, confidence and will of its citizenry. As they say – tongue in cheek! – it’s not the size of the country that matters in a fight, it’s the size of the fight in the country.
All in all, however, belligerence has never paid and it will never pay. We as African brothers and sisters should have no reason to talk war. Our energies should be consumed in working and developing together.
Let’s hope that this ICGLR message sank in, as its 7th summit came to a close, in Kampala, and that, indeed, we shall be left alone to breathe easy.
The writer is an independent socio-political commentator