In just two days, 2014 will come to an end and a new year begins. As usual the New Year will be ushered in with a lot of merry-making and a great deal of expectations – usually good ones.
But before we get there, as Rwandans, we still have time to look back on the one just ending and count our blessings and even name them. I think overall, we can be satisfied. We have met most of our targets, missed others, maybe not by much.
Things are certainly looking up and the statistics show it – not just our own, but also of outside observers. Many of these observers are not known for giving credit even where it is clearly due.
In fact, they are famous for negating what is obvious and evident to any right-thinking person
About two weeks ago CNN and the Mail and Guardian reported that life expectancy of Rwandans had increased from 49 years to 66 in the last 23 years, the best performance in sub-Saharan Africa.
A little over ten days ago FIFA, football’s world governing body, released its latest rankings. Rwanda is at number 68 – its highest position ever.
Now, our football has not been particularly impressive lately. One can imagine what position we would have if we were performing as we should.
According to other reports, it turns out that Rwanda is now the world’s largest exporter of coltan. And it is not simply exporting raw minerals, but also adding value to them.
Africa Review reported nearly two weeks ago that a Rwandan mining company had produced its first concentrate of tin from the Musha and Ntunga mines in Rwamagana District.
Now, this news will come as a surprise and even disappointment to quite a few people. There are those who think our fabled hills are only empty protrusions into the sky.
They might have to rethink their attitude. There are others who take us for thieves – that whatever minerals we claim to possess are stolen from a scandalously resource-rich but otherwise impoverished and careless neighbour.
This surely is now impossible, even unthinkable, given that the neighbour is heavily guarded by thousands of foreign troops, some of them hostile to Rwanda and only there to protect the commercial interests of their countries, nay, of their leaders.
Also, armed gangs sworn to the destruction of today’s Rwanda freely roam the country and leave mayhem and destruction in their wake.
The good news in mining was followed by more good news from the Legatum Institute. It started with what we all know – that Rwanda has the lowest perception of corruption in Africa.
Other positive stats follow. Rwanda is the eighth most prosperous country in Africa, and the best improver in this respect.
It lies sixth in regulation and government effectiveness, and eighth in the rule of law.
There are other stats on economic performance and so on.
All these things we know and we should be celebrating them. Ordinarily the mood in the country should be upbeat. And it is in characteristically Rwandan fashion.
That is, you wouldn’t know it unless you are Rwandan. Because, you see, we feel it inside and may be it glows on the outside, but we don’t shout about it. We are not exhibitionist.
I am afraid I am being the exception and going against the national grain and trumpeting our blessings. But I suppose occasionally a justified blast of the trumpet is surely in order.
In the last two weeks, President Paul Kagame has been reminding Rwandans that this year that is ending in two days’ time indeed did bring its own blessings, and that feeling upbeat would not exactly be out of place.
For instance, he reminded us of the previous three years when we were caught in a regional storm whipped up by distant international actors and buffeted from side to side, but still survived.
Daggers were out and held against our collective side, but we kept our poise and went about our business as if everything was normal. A mill of lies was tied around our collective neck, but in the end, at the tug of truth, the rope snapped and the mill fell harmlessly away.
In the President’s words, we were vindicated. And so here we are counting our blessings.
Judging from what we have gone through in the past and the way we have come out of it, there is every indication that we can weather other, more violent storms. That assurance comes from our experience and the choices we have had to make along the way.
Again the words of President Kagame at the twentieth commemoration of the genocide of the Tutsi say it all: We chose to stay together, united, to be accountable to ourselves and to think big.
And so, going into 2015, we should be stronger, resolute and more resilient. No doubt there will be other trials, but there will also be blessings and achievements to celebrate, even in our own, unassuming way.
I wish you a Happy and Prosperous 2015. Happy New Year!