A last weekend read of the ‘life-history’ of the Tusker brand of beers transported me back to my teaching days in exile in Kenya. After teaching hours used to find us making a beeline for the haunts of our ‘fellow humans’. Not that others were not – far from it! It was our refugee lingo which is a common jargon for minority groups in foreign lands. Unfortunately, there are foreign nationals who also use the same jargon in their own countries – a recipe for disunity. It was not uncommon, then, for you to meet a fellow Rwandan on his way out of a watering hole and, with a straight face, ask: “Is there anybody?” This was despite seeing the bar teeming with rowdy customers around tables or the counter! A few “Naombas” would also be in attendance. Tanzanians were so-called because once one ordered a beer in their polite Kiswahili thus: “Tafadhari, naomba unipatie Tusker moja!” (Please, can you give me a Tusker!) The barmaid gave him a look she’d not give to something the cat dragged in and then spat out: “…this is no street for beggars”, in a Kiswahili unprintable in a family paper! Anyway, at the prompt of “Yes, the whole gang!” from your compatriot, you’d greet all the regular bar clients you were acquainted with before heading upstairs to look for a subdued corner table. Sure enough, around it would be huddled a bunch of ‘your people’. You’d interrupt them with “Any ka-rumour?” as you told the nearest bartender: “Tusker moto!” The resourceful one of your people with a “ka-rumour” to recount would interrupt the server with: “Vile tulivyo!” (a round for all, on him!) The server would post-haste get a tray-full of beers and dump it at the table for you to sort yourselves out on your choices, mostly Tuskers. The ‘ka-rumour’ possessor, after generous swallows, would recount the hot news from the RFP liberation struggle frontline, in Rwanda. When the hot-news narrator seemed to warm up too much to his story – and his beer! – and veer into rumourmongering, there was always somebody to admonish us all to call it an evening. There was fundraising for the liberation effort to save for. Meanwhile, you can bet that all of us as customers of all those Kenyan bars knew nil about the life of that popular Tusker brand. Thus, the reason for my fascination with its “life history”. In a nutshell, George Hurst, a Scot soldier, was called to duty to the King’s African Riffles during WWI, 1914, in Kenya. After service, he was joined by his brother, Charles Hurst, out to seek fortunes in a colony. Both finding none, George, who liked his tipple, thought of starting a brewery, non-existent in Kenya then. Having no idea about beer-brewing, they got a friend, H.A. Dowding, who could ask around! Near Nairobi, they got an ideal river, Rui rwa Aka (translatable in Kinyarwanda for adults only!) beside which they constructed a building. It’d be the seed for today’s giant Kenya and East African Breweries. As George liked his tipple, so did he, his adventure and his hunting. It was during his hunting trips in Ngorongoro, Tanzania, that an elephant squashed him against a tree and killed him. Charles called the hitherto nameless beer “Tusker” in memory of his dear brother, George. Today, in Kenya, “Baada ya kazi burudika na Tusker” is an advert that, at 17hrs, sees bars experience something like the Great Migration of East Africa! Which takes us back to that “bunch of ‘your people’ huddled around a corner table”. That subdued group involved disposed Rwandans hunting for the smallest titbit of a rumour about a liberation struggle going on that, if successful, would see them regain their motherland. It was obviously on a much grander scale than George’s adventure for it’d involve the re-engineering of a country. But a vision that was shared and owned by a majority of Rwandans saw the struggle’s success come to pass, in a way too complicated to recount here. Correct strategy, tactics, will, zeal, total commitment, unwavering discipline, readiness to sacrifice life by all for the cause and many more saw the struggle triumph against all unimaginable odds. Today, when erstwhile backwater, hardly known Rwanda talks, the world pricks its ears and listens. She is called Rwanda Inc. for being one where all her people own all of her programmes. Which is how our mind wanders to the East African Community (EAC) with last March 28 admission of D.R. Congo as its 7th member. Will the leaders learn to pull in one direction and imbibe such qualities? Or will its 300-million-strong population be forced to pacify themselves and throw out the self-seeking leaders who do not share or allow them to together own their vision? If the leaders paid attention to the EAC anthem, two stanzas say: “Our unity is our anchor/Long live our community.” Will our leaders commit to that? Please, East Africans are craving to be one. George’s little vision bore something grand. Imagine what the vision of 300 million can bear! If my mind ran too far away with me, I beg your indulgence!