I always trudge the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) streets in walking exercises, for their convenience. Those breezy streets can lure the worst loather of exercise. That is, the streets that are free of the busy construction machines.
Early evening last Saturday was different, though. On my way to visit family, I breezed through the streets, without a thought for the lure, up to the summit overlooking AZAM Rwanda, the grain-milling factory nestling on the hillside.
On taking a breather at the summit, I turned around and…..lo and behold!
A Kigali I’d never seen. This despite my pompous boasts as a know-all, describing every nook and cranny of this land, leave alone this city, to you, hapless reader!
In the gathering dusk, lying below me was a panoramic sweep of lights that stretched to the high points that fused with the fading-scarlet sky. It formed a compass arc stretching from Bumbogo all the way round to part of Mt Kigali. Where I stood was the compass needle point.
This spectacular view, who could ever have imagined seeing it?
It must have been 1993 when those of us exiled in Kenya dared think of the possibility of regaining our home. We received regular briefing dispatches of the progress at the frontline of the liberation struggle but couldn’t be cock sure that something wouldn’t go horribly wrong.
In our clandestine RPF cell and branch meetings, we learnt and discussed ways of righting the wrongs in the governance of our country, yes. Still, that lingering feeling of ‘our RPA boys and girls’ being overwhelmed by the powerful forces ranged against them never went away.
For info, the meetings were clandestine because we’d have been in trouble if any country of exile got the whiff of our plotting to self-repatriate. All countries seemed to be in a conspiracy to confine us to eternal rejection.
And, indeed, remember the pressure that was piled on the RPF/A to pull back when, in February 1993, they seemed set to capture Kigali. And how the same community seemed to have lost its tongue in the heat of the 1994 carnage. You can’t help but wonder at the nature and oddity of this international community.
Anyway, maybe it was as well. If we are to go by the community’s intervention footprints in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and sundry other seemingly unredeemable ruins, verily, it was.
But I digress.
Back to 1993, I remember one day a friend and I speculating about where we’d be meeting ‘for one’, once back in Rwanda. Finally, we settled for a popular social hangout in Kigali, according to a “Rwanda Today” tourist-guide booklet we’d perused: “Chez Lando”.
He’d come from “mu Gisaka” and I from “i Murera”, our respective places of native origin, for our regular rendezvous.
Today, in our rare rendezvous as Kigali residents both, we laugh ourselves to bits on recalling this absurdity. Despite those RPF learning sessions, we were still encased in that bizarrely insular mindset.
We were hardly any different from the genocidal government that was averse to the idea of a common identity. None of us had exactly imbibed the idea of us all being one as Rwandans.
We all believed in our identity lying in our village of birth, country of exile, foreign language of acquisition, et al.
In a word, we were little, uncoordinated and unconnected islands.
And you’d be surprised at how many compatriots are still held captive to this mind-set.
Exactly the reason President Kagame never tires in hammering on the point.
We had not been awakened to the profundity of what living together as one has taught us, today. That all humans are equal and none was created or evolved as superior to another. That we are stronger together; weaker, divided.
We were raucous empty vessels without direction. We lacked the solidity of the single-minded purpose to push a common cause; identity; values; our self-worth. And we did not appreciate the merit in inviting, and connecting with, others.
Our superficial differences defined our raison d’être.
The beauty of that panoramic expanse beyond SEZ is that it’s a fusion of many things. And it’s a fusion that explodes many myths. The biggest of which was the génocidaires-held myth that Rwanda was too small to accommodate all of her offspring.
The said expanse alone, if developed skyward, can comfortably be green home to a population of more than twelve million.
The inanity of incompatibility of diversities is exposed by the SEZ harmonious humming of busy companies of diverse national and international backgrounds. Beyond which, that ocean of lights represents homes to a fusion of individuals of national and international diversities.
It’s with this fusion of diversities and the right environment that Rwanda has packed a punch of progress that Rwandans, anywhere on this globe, could not have dreamt of in 1993. And she is not done yet; she drudges on, in exercise for a stronger punch.
It’s true, then, what French writer, Anais Nin, said: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Pray, in this land and other lands, let’s see what is; not what’s in the head.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.