Twenty years after 1994, Rwanda is in a good place

IN MY hibernation, at first I thought I’d go visiting foreign climes, compare their places and peoples with ours and see a doctor or two. But then before I went, I visited Nyabugogo market and my idea was dealt a death blow.
Pan Butamire
Pan Butamire

IN MY hibernation, at first I thought I’d go visiting foreign climes, compare their places and peoples with ours and see a doctor or two. But then before I went, I visited Nyabugogo market and my idea was dealt a death blow.

I realised I no longer knew neither my people nor country. So, why talk about comparisons?

Kigali residents know the short, narrow street adjoining the market that connects the Kigali-Gitarama road with ‘Poids Lourds’ Road.

On that street, when I saw that a motorist had blocked vehicles going up, I walked to him and politely asked him to reverse his car and park on the side while others passed and decongested the street, so he could proceed.

But, to my consternation, leaning out of his car window, the man ‘sneered’ (as I took it): “Have you ever seen a Muhutu reverse?”

Now, “gusubira inyuma” is Kinyarwanda for “reverse”, “move back” but also, enigmatically, “retreat”. So, I opted for the latter meaning and shot back: “Many times! For example, from Kagitumba and not only back to Kigali but right out of Rwanda and into the DR Congo jungles!”

“Very true!” he immediately conceded, knocking me completely off my guard. Then he proceeded: “And a Mututsi retreated even further south and north: South Africa, North America, Europe!” I started warming up to the man. So I found myself joining in and together we chorused: “And a Mutwa retreated from the forests, the only positive!”

The man immediately got out of his car and seized me in a bear hug that almost knocked both of us down! Around, a rupture of applause broke out, followed by the chant of “Ndi Umunyarwanda!” Even the impatient honking from motorists ceased and they joined in, fist-punching the air. The whole valley echoed with: “Ndi Umunyarwanda! Agaciro!”.

What was happening? Such spontaneity of “Ndi Umunyarwanda” on a street was alien to me.

I know this scene is hard to believe. Every time I tell it, people take it for a figment of my imagination. To be frank, the man’s first gibe of a question had also led me to take him for a daring FDLR agent. It turned out he was pulling my leg, with his opening ‘sneer’!

I have his contact and he and all who were around can attest to the veracity of it all.

For info, “Ndi Umunyarwanda” is this exercise of soul-searching that Rwandans are currently involved in. Its aim is to thoroughly, openly and frankly examine what led them into the ethnic cleavages that almost deleted them from this earth. 

Just after 1994, a case like this was unimaginable; so torn was the Rwandan fabric. Now, a mere 20 years hence, the levels of reconciliation in this country are unfathomable.

For many, ethnic labels were their very DNA, DNA in defence of which some were ready to obliterate their kindred. Now, people can poke fun at these labels. Today, what consumes the Rwandan society is a burning desire to cultivate a national identity.

The sage who coined the phrase “Wonders will never end!” hadn’t seen a thing!

But if Nyabugogo opened my eyes, enemies of Rwanda have been having theirs open for none-too-short a time. And so we are witness to people running in circles like headless chickens; to musical chairs, revolving doors – anything that can halt this relentless unity-march.

The other day a Ugandan online paper, Chimp Reports, reported a Mr Twagiramungu, from wintry climes, arriving at an ‘Ikiulu’ in the region for a VIP hosting. Hot on Twagiramungu’s heels, it confided, was a ragtag collection of toothless terrorists and equally faded characters: a “Col” Hamadi, a “Lt Col” Irategeka of FDLR and the like.

When papers here mentioned it, searing diplomatic denials ensued from our ‘jilani’ to the east. But where there is a dignified, self-respecting person anywhere, there Rwanda has ears and eyes. No one – black, white, yellow, any – can identify with sell-outs, leave alone keep their secrets.

So, an FDLR “General” Nzeyimana had been showered with equally lavish reception and left with lofty promises. How on his way back to his jungles he is said to have vanished is a tale for the birds!

 Senior citizens will remember Communist China’s red glossy magazines that used to talk of “imperialists and their running dogs”. In Rwanda, though, we don’t talk about dogs in reference to humans. Still, it makes one wonder: what offer of trinkets can make a “Mheshimiwa” throw an empowering project to his region and peoples, like the EAC, under the bus? 

Again, to quote the sage of yesteryears: “Wonders.........!”

In the kitchen of the UN, at the Peace-Keeping Operations where French chef Hervé Ladsous is busy preparing his recipes as ordered by his government, they know better than to meddle with Rwanda. If the chef has forgotten Opération Turquoise, he hasn’t, Goma.

Recall how, when MONUSCO, FIB and FARDC were tussling it out with M23, three bombs were lobbied onto the Rwandan territory? Meanwhile, accusations of Rwanda’s complicity in the DRC problem were flying in all directions, killing the sound of Rwanda’s protestations.  

Rwanda summoned Commander Martin Kobler, head of MONUSCO, and sat him down. Then our officials put one request to him: “Cmdr Kobler, you are in charge of the situation in DRC. Please, can you make sure no other bomb from DRC kills a Rwandan citizen again?” 

Cmdr Kobler: “I can’t. You see, our mandates don’t include policing the border. Moreover, it has been reported that the bombs are from M23.”

Curtly, the officials: “That’s it then. Cmdr Kobler, good bye and thank you very much!”

A few kilometres past Nyabugogo, Cmdr Kobler stopped in his tracks when he saw the tail-end of a long line of tanks, armed to the teeth, headed for the border. His burning ear didn’t leave the phone until the UN SG assured him the coast was clear, as promised by Rwanda. No bomb dropped here again. 

A united Rwanda is unassailable as she is unfathomable. And this, no doubt, is a good place.

Twitter: @butamire

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