Rwandans should take time to give themselves a hearty pat on the back. Then, after that, they can go back to their favourite preoccupation. The preoccupation of driving the processes of placing their country and society among those that take hard and smart work, and its resultant good standard of living, for granted.
Whatever the verdict of the usual negative public opinion that never fails to find fault may be in the end, the hosting of this AU Summit was a brilliant success.
The showers of praises from leader after leader who had the opportunity to talk, and other commentators wherever they expressed themselves, were not simple platitudes of a modest guest.
All guests were happy and the sentiment was evidently felt deep in their hearts.
That this can happen in this country, and happen so impressively at that, is nothing short of a miracle to some of us.
There was a time, not long ago, when Rwandans could hardly host their own internal meetings of any ample measure. It was not because the will was not there – even if that was not abundantly in evidence – but rather that finding a venue to host them was a monumental task and so was organising them.
To take some of you who were there back, as I am wont to always do, you’ll recall a place that was known as Centre Iwacu Kabusunzu, in Kimisagara towards Nyamirambo, here in Kigali.
Whenever there was any sizeable meeting of the leaders of our land, that was the place to host it. Unfortunately (!), today you won’t find it in its state of then, to refresh your mind.
Then it was a dusty hillock peppered with iron-and-brick classrooms around it that hosted side meetings. On the knoll that was the dusty compound was usually erected a shaky, large tent that served as the plenary hall!
Dusty as it was, though, the venue was not necessarily the biggest problem.
When it came to the manpower that organised the meetings and prepared the venues, that ‘man’ in manpower was perhaps the trouble. It was a soldiery of mostly men, aging ones moreover, who, when they moved, shambled around in confused circles that only managed to embarrass their country’s leaders.
And now that I recall, I shudder to imagine the humiliation (no less!) we subjected our leaders to. “We”, yes, because I was probably the arch protagonist in that tragicomedy of errors!
Moving the meetings, when they were small, to either of the only two hotels of the time never helped matters. One could do without water or electricity in open spaces but in multi-storeyed hotels, that was something else. This, especially when water tanks and generators reserved for emergencies also got exhausted.
That “something else”, however, was nothing when it came to most of the leaders. Excepting a limited few, the rest were generally in a permanent shambles!
When any of their bosses convened a meeting, they could only make it in time to listen to them (the bosses) if they were lucky and the boss was equally disrespectful of time.
If the boss was the then Vice-President and Minister for Defence, who was always at any function he was leading dot on the scheduled time, by the time some of them sauntered in he was done and gone.
It took months of training in retreats by a variety of firms, mostly foreign, to create in these leaders a sense of direction and a way of putting some seriousness in their work.
In fact, that may have been the birth of today’s famous retreats that have become incubations for good practices.
From the core of leadership, infused with the rightful place of women and youth, good methods of work spread out to all areas of the management of this society, especially through a multiplicity of now functional institutions, commissions, et al.
Then it was all systems go and the dream of becoming a model of good governance became a realisable quest.
Those were the gripes of growing. But you can be sure that this country is nowhere near the end.
“We still have a long way to go,” says President Paul Kagame, the Vice-President and Minister for Defence of then, “but we have not been doing nothing, only it’s not enough.”
So, hopefully, our visitors who have been here for the AU Summit are not yet done, crooning praises. In the top-notch organisation, punctuality, efficiency, hospitality, transportation, accommodation, care for all and courtesy to all and unshakable security they are crooning about, they “ain’t seen nothing yet”.
I am also intrigued to imagine what hosting a major summit in ten, twenty years from now will look like! Will traffic congestions for Kigali motorists have become a headache of the past, too?
Kudos to all involved for being where you are, today!