Americans, friends of Rwanda all, how about having a go at Gacaca?

Today, the Supreme Guide has become a dilemma to us. Bullying and bamboozling, dividing and dispersing, fumbling and faltering, groping and goofing.

What ails thee, our redeemer?

 

No, not THE Supreme Eternal Guide that was neighbour to our south. He (RIP) for whom we mourn and pray that his country may see better fortunes, bigger exposure and more alliances.

 

I talk of the grand professor of democracy to us all coolies of the third world. Our educator on visionary leadership, security, unity, wealth-creation, diplomacy, happiness, all.

 

These great United States of America, what’s it with their overall top administration that it lets itself act like a third-world strongman to freely toss its people hither and thither?

Surely, whom shall we turn to for democratic practice guidance now?

That administration with its many non-governmental-organisation messengers have always come to our rescue, to awaken us, poor Africans, to our plight.

Do not allow dictators in your midst, they’ve advised, parent-like, seize the power to force elections. The moment you notice strongman rulers, even if they may have led you into survival of impending annihilation, they’ve kind-heartedly offered, immediately kick them out, no matter that you’ve just voted them into power.

Strong-man dictatorships, they’ve counselled, do not allow their word to be your command. Do not take their tweets to be wise titbits doled out to you, as if from on high.

Well, looks like today the top administration of these great United States of America would use such wise pieces of advice! Who would have imagined it? Wonders will never cease!

Let’s take one recent case, ignoring the one after and sundry others before: that of George Floyd that has rocked the entire world. Can you imagine anything remotely similar to it playing out in Rwanda on any national or resident, whatever features, colour or hue?

A policeman, guardian of the law, handcuffs a man and shoves him, thus helpless, down and plants his knee on the wretched man’s neck till the man’s last breath?

“I can’t breathe…..I can’t brrrr…..I cann…..” and full-stop?

The equally bulky colleagues of the policeman are looking on, shooing away passers-by amid cries of “He is dying!” Never mind that, as I saw it, those cries looked half-hearted.

Luckily, the half-hearted cries were to later be vindicated by the collective outrage of all races. Only, an umpteenth innocent life had been senselessly blown out as the world watched.

Suppose such an abhorrence took place on any street in Rwanda, unimaginable as it is today. One, the policeman’s colleagues would definitely not let him have his way. Two, the passers-by would stop the policemen by force, if it came to that, and take them to police!

Only, none’d have had the chance. The whole government would already have come down hard on the policemen, with the full force of the law, as the victim went down.

Justice must be seen to be done – and swiftly, too.

If you know this country’s history, you know why my emphasis is on “unimaginable ……today”. There is a time, not so long ago, that repugnance was the order of the day.

How did it come to be so, that it’s now forgotten.

Good Americans as you almost all are, you’ll remember something you encountered called “Gacaca”. That was after you were shocked out of your comfort by the bloodletting.

Those who persisted and saw what followed may have seen that Gacaca was a community court system that brought together perpetrator and victim to generate repentance and forgiveness.

In a word, that coming together, the repentance and the forgiveness at the Gacaca delivered not only justice but also reconciliation.

Moreover, the exercise went beyond that to swiftly make perpetrator see punishment as deserved and ask for forgiveness. Meanwhile, victim tried, difficult as it was, to reconcile with what had happened and to find the strength, for the sake of unity, to get a forgiving heart.

That, so to say, was the baptism of fire for Rwandans. Massive cases of atrocious perpetration tried and restorative justice dispensed where retributive justice could be avoided. If retribution was inevitable, due compensation was paid.

Compensation which could be in form of any perpetrator’s forfeited property, including land.

From there, initiatives like Umuganda and many others took up the baton to restore unity in a totally torn society. Today Rwandans live as one but they have travelled a long, lethal road.

Americans, good friends of Rwanda, it’s not too late for Gacaca. In your case, it need not be a community court system. It could be a coming together of communities to create the kind of conversation that builds a feeling of togetherness; equality; impartiality and suchlike.

A conversation that shapes a feeling of equals forging a common destiny.

Two hundred and fifty-six years of working the land and no freed slave was left with any land, for instance? In today’s multi-ethnic USA, of course, there are many ways of righting such and other wrongs. Then racism can be a thing of the past.

What’s crucial is creating an atmosphere that allows for that conversation of equals.

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