Most weeks, our news scene is not very exciting. There is little controversy or scandal to liven debate and spice conversation.
We do not have celebrities around whom people hover over like flies on a rotting carcase and whose indescretions they jump at with so much glee.
This does not mean that there are no juicy titbits about the personal lives of some of our leading personalities to tell. You can be sure there are lots of them to fill the pages of The New Times.
But it is not in our national character to talk about them in public. Of course, conversations in our living rooms and other social meeting places would be dull without these juicy bits. But these are not public places, you know.
Occasionally we get the odd politician who says some outrageous things and basks in the limelight for a while. But soon, the light fades, he is ignored and his pronouncements dismissed as the ranting of a man caught in a time warp.
With time he is forgotten all together. Our placid, unruffled nature reclaims its place. The only time we get any excitement out of our politics is during election time.
The past week has, however, provided some excitement, at least on the political and diplomatic front.
There was the mini- cabinet reshuffle of last Wednesday. Usually cabinet reshuffles are predicted long before they happen.
There is a great deal of speculation and conjecture about who will be dropped, who will be moved to which ministry and who will come in. We are bombarded with “expert” analyses.
Everyone suddenly becomes very knowldgeable about how government functions. This long period of speculation is good for everyone.
For most ordinary people, it gives them something to talk about, feeds their imagination, lifts them out of their uneventful lives and makes them feel they are party to important decisions. For some ministers, this is a period of preparation for life out of cabinet.
For others it is a time of great unease and uncertainty. For all of them, however, it is time to clear their drawers of personal things especially those they would not like others to see. During this time they become ordinary mortals.
They are civil and kind and remember their long lost friends.
Last Wednesday’s reshuffle was different. It was sudden. It took everyone by surprise. There was no time for preparation for retirement.
The public was not given the chance to fire and hire, at least in their wishes and imagination. Still the suddenness had its own dramatic effect. Now the speculation and analysis are after the fact.
“Experts” are still analysing the reasons for the president’s surprise move, never mind that it is his prerogative. On one thing all the experts are agreed: the reshuffle will have a big impact, competent people have been put in the right places.
That will remain the verdict until the next reshuffle.
Earlier in the week there was the announcement that Rwanda had restored diplomatic relations with France.
Although normalisation of diplomatic ties was always expected, it came upon us suddenly and earlier than expected. Admittedly the news of the restoration was not as exciting and dramatic as that of the severance of relations – with its David and Goliath attraction. Still there was something to cheer.
Rwanda had shown a level of independence and boldness rarely seen among the smaller countries. Such daring was only possible in the days of the cold war when one could always rely on one of the super powers coming to their aid in the event of a showdown.
But this happening in the unipolar world! That was bold. It had shown that the little guys also had something called the national interest and dignity for which they were prepared to make enormous sacrifices.
The little guys could stare down the big fellows and make them blink first. That was a big boost to national pride.
Ordinary Rwandans may never know what negotiations may have taken place before the restorations of relations. But one thing is sure.
They have not seen the country succumb to the usual arm-twisting and intimidation to which smaller countries are routinely subjected. As a result Rwandans have earned the right to be taken seriously and to be respected.
All this was preceded by the news of Rwanda’s admision to the Commonwealth. This against all manner of opposition that came from the usual suspects – the so-called champions of human rights, self-declared experts and a biased media.
It was a good thing, too, they voiced their opposition because they were exposed in all their shallowness, pettiness and ignorance, and in the process shone the light on Rwanda’s achievements.
Without knowing it, opponents of Rwanda’s admission were actually the country’s strongest advocates. It was like the story of the beautiful girl and her spiteful stepmother. Despite all attempts to make her look ugly and to make her own ugly daughters look beautiful in comparison, the girl’s beauty still shone through.
Admission to the commonwealth brings challenges, however. Many people are going to have to learn new attitudes.
They will learn that the commonwealth, unlike the other grouping to which Rwanda belongs, is not exactly a paternalistic organisation.
Some people will therefore have to learn to live without a big brother who is not particularly useful but who enjoys playing the role.
And so when member states meet, it is not for lectures or for receiving instructions, or paying homage to the emperor, uncrowned though he may be.
To crown the week’s good news was the announcement that Rwanda is totally cleared of all landmines. The land reclaimed will be used for farming – another version of turning swords into ploughshares.
A good week for Rwanda. Plenty to cheer, a lot to talk about, little to gripe about.Follow https://twitter.com/jrwagatare