There are days when you are simply minding your own business and then you are suddenly hit by what I would call random East Africanness. Random East Africanness according to this writer is that phenomenon that reminds you of how interlinked our lives are as East Africans.
It happens a lot when you are crossing an East African border and there is that relentless stalker who wants you to change currencies with him (for some reason they are always men) and the more you ignore him the more he switches from one language to another hoping to strike a chord with you in a language you understand.
A month ago while sitting with some friends at Nyabugogo Taxi Park talking about everything and nothing, a gentleman walked towards us to inquire about bus fares to Nairobi. It was easy to tell he was Maasai by his dressing (their footwear always catches my eye and tickle my heart).
Later when we got comfortable with him the conversation switched to the coming election in Tanzania and our new Maasai friend told us he was certainly planning to cross to Tanzania to vote for his brother Maasai, Edward Lowassa. So here was a Kenyan in Rwanda but with intentions to go and vote (certainly illegal) in Tanzania just because he doesn’t recognise the lines drawn to mark borders while splitting communities like the Maasai. Ok!
And during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta proved that he would not waste an opportunity to show off his ‘Kenyanness’. For a president known to wear a bracelet with the Kenyan colours, it was not so surprising when he carried his own bottled water (Keringet) from Nairobi to New York.
After the summit where the UN adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, President Kenyatta met other presidents and bottles of Keringet water could be seen on the table as they discussed. I think this was a good advert not just for Kenya but also for Keringet water. Maybe his colleagues should borrow a leaf and start moving with a few bottles of Inyange, Rwenzori or Kilimanjaro drinking water just to show off some home products each time they travel around the world.
Speaking of which, I think it would be great to see bottles of Inyange water during the Rwanda Day deliberations going on in Netherlands. I am sure the folks in the Diaspora would feel like they are imbibing holy water from the land of a thousand hills.
By the time of writing this, Rwandans in the Diaspora, friends of Rwanda and Rwandans from Rwanda were meeting in Amsterdam, Netherlands for the seventh edition of Rwanda Day. The event is aimed at cultivating core national values and updating Rwandans in the Diaspora on the progress back home and how they can be a part of it.
This event is gradually emerging as one of those remarkable solutions that Rwanda has in place to foster its reconciliation and development process. The more prominent ones are the Gacaca judicial system, Umuganda community cleaning and in tourism you have the Kwita Izina Gorilla naming ceremony.
As if not to be left behind on the naming business, Rwandair has also decided that a Rwandan name is important for branding purposes and has now called on Rwandans to submit names for its two A330 Airbus airplanes. The names should reflect cultural values and landmarks of Rwanda. SO I guess eventually one will not just be saying he flew RwandAir but also being specific by adding the Rwandan name on the particular aircraft they used.
When it comes to naming of transport vessels the people of Nyamirambo may claim to have initiated this when they had those branded commuter taxis something that they clearly borrowed from the more exuberantly branded Matatus in Nairobi Kenya.
It is rather sad that those branded Nyamirambo taxis have slowly died out and been replaced by the plain coloured bigger buses that have no personality at all. Those days someone could easily say they left Nyamirambo aboard AirForce One, Bob Marley or Goodlyfe in reference to the branding of the actual car they used. Some will say it doesn’t matter as long as you get to your destination as if echoing William Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet – “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."