The next seven days are dedicated to remembrance. For those who lived through the horrors of April 1994, the courage it takes to endure the commemoratory events across the country is beyond belief.
And yet it must be done. As painful as they are, the memories of our dark past need to be preserved for posterity. Not least because the devious forces that conjured up the ‘final solution’ are keen to re-write history.
Evil does not sleep; vigilance is the only recourse for those that treasure the incumbent peace.
As devastating and extensive as a wild forest fire can be, the events of April to June 1994 razed a nation to the ground. When the dust settled, close to a million people were dead and about two million were displaced. In a country of just over seven million people, 40% of the population was randomly disconnected from the socio-economic cycle of life that defines statehood.
By all measures, Rwanda could not constructively be defined as a functional state or nation at the time.
The country was existent in name and for legal purposes, a situation akin to the ‘shell companies’ of the rich and powerful recently exposed in the leaked ‘Panama papers’. Like those shell companies, Rwanda’s economic activities were limited and day-to-day survival was based on the RPF’s resourcefulness, sheer human ingenuity and goodwill from the Rwandan Diaspora and friends from across the world.
22 years later, Rwanda’s existence is so assured as though it was never in doubt. For those of us who have been fortunate enough to live through the transformation of the nation to the pride of Africa and beyond, this is what dreams are made of. The next generations can only be limited by their imagination.
The next frontier is of the self versus the general good. It is true that synergy is borne out of every individual giving their very best. In trying to maximize individual ambitions, the younger generations (ages 15 - 45) are faced with a dilemma; to hunt en masse for the ‘buffalo’ or catch an individual ‘rabbit’.
To those familiar with ‘game theory’ this dilemma is not new. Choices abound daily as to whether to pursue short term gains or hold out for more significant rewards at a later date. The same logic applies to the time value of money; a dollar not spent today should be worth more in the future. The decision is further complicated by whether the gains accrue to the individual or a larger group. To put this in more visual terms, the choice is between sharing a large cake and enjoying a whole but smaller cake!
This dilemma was first figuratively advanced by the Swiss-born philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his 1755 paper titled “A Discourse on Inequality”. In addressing a society’s mutual goals, two issues are decisive; Trust and Assurance. How much can an individual in a given society trust that his peers will act rationally (do the right thing) and as an alternative, what bare minimum can be guaranteed for the individual.
The recent stories from 2015 of local leaders misappropriating funds meant for the national health insurance scheme known as “Mutuelle de santé” is one demonstration of individuals putting their short term needs ahead of the greater good. In betraying the public trust bestowed upon them, leaders are like children playing with matches in the bush; the size of fire they could potentially cause is unbeknownst to them.
Rwanda has been there before. That is what “Kwibuka” is all about. Citizens did not wake up and suddenly run amok from the blue. Corrupt and unaccountable leaders used divisionary tactics of constantly indoctrinating the population with hate and provided incentives for butchering neighbors and in some cases relatives. The lessons are there for all to see. History should serve its rightful purpose of deterring us from foolishly repeating past mistakes.
The RPF achieved the unimaginable; recalibrating the balance of power between the leaders and the general populace thanks to deliberate efforts of the chairman who constantly reminds errant colleagues of their responsibility to the citizenry. It is this balance of power that has been the foundation of the rebirth of the nation.
Rwandans ooze the fervor of patriotism that drives them to surmount long odds in pursuit of individual and collective progress.
While opportunities abound for self-aggrandizement, it is incumbent on the younger generations (ages 15-45) to bear the burden of history and work for the common good. The over 50’s have done their part by creating an even platform upon which any hardworking Rwandan can achieve their wildest dreams.
It all begins by constructive engagement in the political economy. What you can do, you must do; be it social mobilization, charity, mentorship or entrepreneurship. To quote a popular saying, “be the change that you want to see in others!”
Capitalism or a market economy as we know it in school texts while useful in maximizing utility and resource allocation ultimately creates losers and winners; that is why the world’s richest 1% are richer than the remaining 99%. If that does not startle you then how about this; 62 richest individuals in the world have their total wealth as equal to that of a combined 3.5 billion people. That is how bad inequality is across the world. Before you get too down on yourself, remember if you earn over Frw 100,000 per month you are already in the top 25% of the world’s richest people!
Perhaps this revelation will make you appreciate your potential role in making a difference in other people’s lives. Beyond money, there are several avenues of contributing to society with our time, skills and labor. The world has been made what it is today by peopling who sacrificed their comfort for the general good of humanity. Think of Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jnr and others.
For the curious, please go to www.globalrichlist.com to find out exactly where you stand in terms of income and wealth as compared to the rest of the world.
The writer is a consultant and trainer specializing in Finance and Strategy. He lives in Kigali.Follow https://twitter.com/eddiebmuga