As we marked the National Heroes Day, on Friday, I was grimly upset by an old 2004 cover-story of ‘New African,’ a London-based monthly magazine founded in 1966; the article under the title ‘100 greatest Africans of all time’ was compiled by the publication’s editor, Baffour Ankomah.
First, what is a 14-year old Magazine doing in my house in 2019? That won’t be the case anymore as I plan to donate my book and magazine collections to a local school library. But that is beside the point.
What really upset me was the lazy approach the Magazine took, on an otherwise important headline; failing to define ‘African’ and the term ‘greatest’ hence ending up with a laughable list that included good people but not necessarily African or great enough to be considered ‘greatest of all time.’
For instance, it had people like Eddy Murphy, an American actor and Thierry Henry, a French footballer. It’s a tragedy when we in the press, sometimes fail to handle important topics with the seriousness they deserve; the result has often been distortion of facts and watering down important conversations.
Indeed, Africa has heroes and it is important that we illuminate their contribution to the motherland, especially considering that many of them made their mark in pre-internet days where documentation was hard. The media can play a central role in this aspect, but only when they are serious enough to do so.
At 53, the New Africa Magazine would be providing global editorial leadership on African affairs, setting or shaping the agenda on subjects such as the continent’s greatest daughters and sons who are doing or have done things that have improved communities and uplifted the lives of Africans.
Every country has its own heroes and heroines. And sometimes these issues have been politicized, generating debate on whether one country’s hero is worth the honour. It’s even more chaotic when the media throws the subject to social media users to decide, as the New African Magazine did for its list.
So, the result was a list that was too short to include any Rwandan liberation personality, but long enough to include Jamaican Percussionist Bunny Wailer. This is not a Sunday Lamentation…
The moral here is really simple; that the responsibility to immortalise Rwanda’s national heroes and heroines belongs to Rwandans after all, they know, firsthand the significance of what they did, 25-years ago. Every life lost, every scar and limp sustained, carries meaning.
In the information age, the most potent weapon is misinformation; distorting historic facts through sponsored propaganda.
Rwandans must keep in mind that even after liberation and the high cost that had to be paid, the country is still not short of enemies whose wider goal is to destabilize national security.
To that cause, there are a number of sponsored groups currently operating outside Rwandan geographical territory, with a sinister agenda of destabilizing the gains that liberation heroes fought so hard to set on the right course. These are real challenges that pose danger to gains in the last 25-years.
They say, you only know the value of what you have after you lose it. There was a time when a section of Rwandans didn’t have a country to belong or call home and for decades had to live in refugee camps.
What the liberation heroes/heroines did was to secure a country not only for them, but a country for all, including those that had declared others persona non grata.
A new Rwanda, that, no matter how small geographically, became large enough to accommodate every person of Rwandan nationality.
A country for all is what our liberators handed us. Many died in the process. Many survived with permanent physical disabilities and scars, serving as a daily reminder of their sacrifice. But they got the job done. Setting the country on the right course to renaissance.
There was probably a time when as a country, we had little to lose. Now we have so much to lose; a country in which we all have invested, and therefore have a significant stake, a country for all, not just Rwandans but Africans who have found hope here, thanks to the solid foundation laid by its liberators.
What then, is our responsibility as beneficiaries of the fruits of liberation?
The liberation heroes gave us a country we call home today and a new slate to rebuild. As beneficiaries, it is our responsibility to protect that country from any threat of destruction and consolidate every achievement registered over the last 25-years; it is an opportunity for new heroes/heroines to arise.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.