Tasmanian Devil or wronged elephant, none can wreak havoc like the Interahamwe did

Wari uzi ko?”, a Kinyarwanda programme by Ismail Mwanafunzi, has definitely been lifted from its interesting but sometimes shallow and repetitive nature and placed into a niche of Radio Rwanda’s researched presentations. And with a befitting voice to it, too.

Last week it was on lifestyles, conducts and the delicate situation of elephants. Generally, on how they live in families, how they care for one another but also how in some countries they are being poached into extinction for their ivory. Of course, to feed the avarice of man.

Because the folly of man is such that we forget that without living harmoniously together in our earth’s biodiversity, like animals and plants, we shall perish together.

The folly of man aside, though, the programme reminded me of our own late Mutware (Chief), a retired grand old elephant patriarch that seemed to be the face of the Akagera National Park elephant population. That was before his sad demise at the tender age of 48, last year.

Unfortunately, having been considered too old by family, these latter, like Western advanced societies, had sent him into an old peoples’ (?) home!

Where rejecting a hermitic life, he chose humans as his new family. You’d often find him surrounded by young ones who cherished a ride on his trunk. “Mutware, mpa umunyenga (Mutware, give me a ride)!” was a common cry from the children at the edge of the park, where he’d pitched camp. He’d lower his trunk, lift them and swing them around a while, one after the other. A children’s park, you wouldn’t have found better!

He found comfort in socializing with older people too. And could even imbibe a Primus beer or two when offered. But woe betide thee if you offered him one too many because, in his drunken show of gratitude, he could whip the daylights out of you with his trunk!

Which was not as bad as if you’d ever wronged him; he could hold a lifelong grudge. Matters were compounded by the fact that, like all elephants, his memory and recognition capacities were unequaled.

The story is told of how he exacted revenge on a bosom buddy-man who’d for long given him company but then mysteriously melted away without a word, only to return after a lengthy period, showing a lot of familiarities. Mutware was not amused, having considered that as a betrayal of friendship. Alas, the consequences of his rage were fatal.

Still, blame not Mutware for at least he had a reason, misguided as it may have been.

There is a species whose grudge knows no cause nor bounds and fury, no appeasing nor end.

The tiny Tasmanian Devil is facing extinction, too, but primarily of its own making.

The moment the imps (as the young ones are aptly named) are born, they set upon one another as soon as they can walk.  When they are lucky to survive this stage, in maturity their teeth are said to be “so strong that they grind large bones and cartilage like a mill”. Their frightening roar and murderous fury earned them that moniker “Devil”.

In its youth, Devil will have been saved by its ability to climb trees because its mother and father, by their age, cannot climb. Otherwise, when hungry, parents will not think twice about turning their children into appetising minced meat.

So, for the imps, suckling their mother is a game of survival of the fittest!

Devils are extremely voracious and, when not at one another’s throat, they’ll be foraging for frogs, reptiles, fish, insects and even large animals like sheep. They are nocturnal, so their prey, including relatives, can only take a breather during the day.

In all my long and roaming life as a refugee, I’d never heard of a more deadly species.

Then where I was in exile, I heard stories of a Rwandan species whose extermination ferocity must’ve sent shivers down the spine of God the Almighty Himself!

To make matters worse, the species did not have to rely on teeth alone. In addition to these, hoes, farm knives (pangas), stones, sharpened sticks, hardened walls, nailed knobkerries, spears, arrows, guns, any such deadly weapon thoroughly served their macabre mission.

The Rwandan Interahamwus Diabolus, simply known in Kinyarwanda as “Interahamwe”, was a genus out of this world. Its kind had only been heard of in distant eras in northern America, southern Africa, Germany, parts of Eastern Europe and the Far East, wherein the latter there are sparks of its satanic handiwork to-date.

In comparison, the fury of the Tasmanian Devil or a wronged elephant is a kindergarten variety.

Interahamwe and their associated FAR (now ex-FAR) ravaged this land from the 1950s till 1994, when a group of courageous Rwandans put a halt to their (and their backers’) anarchy.

If there was any “disruption to build”, in the words of a friend, this was classic it!

That’s how, from the precipice of an abyss, Rwanda is shooting for the stars – or maybe higher.

“Higher” in the sense that, with drones and satellites, the sky may not necessarily be the limit.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.