Rwanda and Burundi are today celebrating 58 years of independence from Belgium. But what is there to celebrate?
Back in the 1950s when many African countries were agitating for independence, there was an atmosphere of excitement. Most pro-independence leaders were harassed or jailed by the colonial masters who were reluctant to let go of their dominions.
Many of the African elite had been trained and educated in Europe, depending on who their colonial master was. The Belgians were different; they took very few of their subjects to be educated in their country but opted to create elite schools in their colonies.
That is how Groupe Scolaire de Butare (Indatwa), as well as College St. Esprit in Bujumbura, came about. Most of the elite in Burundi and Rwanda passed through those doors or in Catholic seminaries. It was a new class that had gotten a taste of the European way of life and the good things in life.
It was the same in most African countries. Most pre-independence leaders peddled nice-sounding slogans and very few had the welfare of their countries at heart. Today most African countries are worse off than 60 years ago and the hole they have sunk in is not becoming any shallower.
Many have no shame in blaming colonialism for their failures and are usually quick to play the colonialist card in a sense of misplaced patriotism.
Rwanda had to wait 32 years to get a taste of what true independence means, where a parent had the choice of where to send their child to school, where to set up a home and decide their destiny. That is independence. Happy 26th Independence Anniversary this week.