Whenever I visit my watering hole in evenings, I like to take a shortcut near my home as exercise while I’m at it. It’s ill-advised because the steep path can be perilous in the gathering dusk but I relish the challenge of seeing school kids effortlessly run through it while I’ll be panting my way up, breathless.
If you know Kigali’s Kiyovu area, then you know a path that cuts through an unlit thick brush that’s interspersed with eucalyptus and mango trees between what was once Republika Restaurant and Kiyovu Street. I like going up and down the slope a few times before proceeding to Rugunga.
It’s along that bushy shortcut that you’ll always find kids from the many primary schools in Rugunga late in the evening, playing hide and seek or streaming home, in groups or singles, without a care in the world.
Apart from enjoying their laughter and feeling a tinge of shame at the way they make me conscious of my fear of breaking my bones, I like that they can so freely play in this thicket and no one, parent or other adult (here everyone cares about a child as their own), thinks twice about it.
Knowing such feeling of security here, I was eager to see how we fair in comparison with the rest of the world.
But, on seeing this 2015 Gallup Law and Order Index report that’s just out, I was disappointed.
It’s a worldwide measure of people’s sense of personal security and their experiences with law enforcement and Rwanda ranks fourth alongside Spain, after Norway, Hong Kong and Singapore.
So, those rankers, apart from considering answers from respondents, did they have their own opinion, considering the conditions of those countries?
Because if you look at the areas ranked with or above Rwanda, they are all countries or city-states with lots of resources at their disposal and they have had a long time to consolidate their security, where Rwanda has had only a few years.
Still, for instance, if those countries had some dark spots like my ‘exercise spot’ that their kids have to walk through and play in, a dime a dozen in Rwanda, especially in the countryside, I doubt the respondents would have expressed such confidence in their security.
You have probably been to ‘Tarinyota’, that area in Biryogo where you’ll always find groups of loafing youths waiting for an offer of a mechanic’s job from passing motorists, and seen equally big groups of European and American back-packers freely thronging past them.
The back-packers are here as tourists or interns, mostly skimpily dressed youthful females, and live in such dingy areas, knowing they are safe and easy on their pockets.
In areas ranked with or above Rwanda, wouldn’t these females be attracting catcalls, if nothing much worse maybe with a racial hue, even when their unemployed youth are not many?
However, if all these are not considered, it’s probably as well. Maybe ranking top would go to Rwandans’ heads and render them complacent.
Of course no one gives a hoot about making impressions but let’s acknowledge appreciation where it’s due, nonetheless. It does wonders for motivation, when your aim is the apex.
Anyway, all that apart, do we pause to remember how we came to take this security for granted?
The Genocide against the Tutsi that haemorrhaged life out of this land, the mine bombs immediately after and the insurgency attacks after them all, I remember being witness to a small indicator of how they’d all soon be a thing of the past.
It was year-end, 1994, and we were in a then-popular hangout near ‘Payage’, ‘sipping the old year away’. At exactly midnight, gunfire erupted but before we could run for it, someone explained that it was only celebration by RPA soldiers, as was expected every end of year.
Surprisingly, though, that celebration itself ended in no time. Only the following morning did we learn that the celebration was abruptly stopped “Because PC anapanga”!
That “PC anapanga” (Political Commissar is in charge, strategising) would come to define the struggle by this government and the people to provide for themselves and all on this land total peace of mind.
It was an idealistic call but none can deny that it has meant some measure of freedom from harm, want, ignorance, disease, ethnic or racial bigotry, say it – in a word, the pursuit of freedom for all from all ill or abuse of any sort, with physical security as the launch-pad for everything.
While the “PC anapanga” of 1994 meant that Vice-President and Minister for Defence Paul Kagame of then was personally involved in leading a contingent of soldiers in halting those disruptions, he as President today leads a contingent of all Rwandans in climbing out of all forms of backwardness.
That’s why Rwandans scoff at accusations of autocracy and dictatorship by a self-proclaimed world-pacifier Uncle Tom, USA, and its ilk and their effrontery to give Rwanda lessons on democracy.
Consider this: according to a recent BBC report, in some parts of the city of Chicago, USA, never a night passes without a shooting. In fact, on average, there are 12 shootings every day.
But for their high-tech ambulances that whisk victims to hospital as they are being treated, the death toll would have hit the 2,949 mark, the number of shootings this year alone.
Where Rwanda counts one death allegedly at the hands of a doctor gone berserk and one attempted baby-snatch by a childless nurse so far this year, USA counts 500 deaths at the hands of criminal (and police?) gangs.
The count of the West’s cities’ muggings, robberies, shootings, rapes, homicides, etc, Chicago being only the worst case, let’s not rub it in!
So, what’s democracy where life is not assured?
No, Rwanda’s steep slope of swift rise from death to tranquility need be acknowledged.