The launch early this month of unmanned aircraft to deliver life-saving medical supplies may not have raised ripples but I think it was remarkable. If the drones can save one life – and word is that the one already launched is giving a good account of itself – where the life would be lost with time-consuming land transport, that alone would be significant.
But if no other country has adopted the use of these drones for such services, it’s not that none needs them. Is it for fear of venturing into the unknown? Did anyone burn their fingers using them? Or have the drones proved to be ineffective?
Of course we know how the US government has used its infamous drones to advantage, blowing the daylights out of its real and perceived enemies of the world, especially the Arab World.
We know they are picking out the Al Qaeda, terrorist by terrorist, even if once a terrorist is liquidated in one place, another solidifies in another, signifying need for another approach.
Which latter, of course, is not the reason for the story that’s told of an American who tried to use a drone in his country.
He was met with an inexplicably prickly wall when his drone espied a sludge emanating from a factory and he tried to publicise the ‘eureka’. The small individual realised, to his grief, that in this democracy that owes its robustness to deep pockets, you don’t go snooping around the source of that wealth, however committed an environmentalist.
But our self-professed democracy had burnt its fingers, nonetheless.
You’ll also remember these see-alls (drones) that were brought to Goma by the UN to help it and the DR Congo government pacify the Kivu provinces but, especially, to scare off a stubborn country that would not look away while they were ‘pacifying’ a rich neighbour, a feat that had eluded them for eons.
The endeavour has continued to elude them as those snoopers mysteriously split into a thousand pieces trying to lift off, leaving the humungous UN mining....sorry, fighting....force to freely demonstrate that if the Congolese people were not willing to be liberated, the stones in their mines were not equally averse to the UN’s kind concern.
But whoever paid for those drones realised, to their embarrassment, that some giants (remember MONUSCO?) do not always necessarily take kindly to unsolicited assistance!
So, when the big boys don’t want these nosy busybodies, where does tiny Rwanda get the audacity from, to navigate uncharted waters? Or, if charted, to open her skies to these modern-day pigeons whose range of uses may be unknown to her?
The answer to that, search me, but I know one thing for a fact. This country’s government as we see it today was conceived and delivered under menacing skies and long ago learnt to thrive and turn such adversity into boon, whatever swords of Damocles hanging over its head.
To take you back, remember when a ragtag force by the name ‘Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army’ (RPF/A) attacked northern Rwanda in now-distant 1990?
Literally from that 1st October, French jet fighters, backing the then-government ‘Force Armée du Rwanda’ and a coalition of African Francophone forces, kept the tiny RPF/A force under a daily hail of bombs for all the four years that it was in the trenches.
When everybody thought it was good and gone, the force momentarily stumbled but rose, thanks to that ingrained conviction that it could manipulate adversity for positive effect.
From there, it turned phantom and coalesced into a formidable force that, after those four years, routed the whole collection of bomb-raining super-power and all its ‘running minions’.
The super-power was left to “cling on the plane”, repetitively crying: “Investigate the Habyarimana crash!” Flogging this dead horse for redemption, however, is like hoping to be pulled out of the cesspool depository of génocidaires the power is in, by clawing at straws.
Even then, expect the tempo of the comedy to rise, what with the erstwhile Francophone ‘minions’ coming to Rwanda in drones (!), for inspiration.
And the rest is not history, even if the super-power may be; nay, it’s only the beginning.
The beginning because “...we chose to stay together...to be accountable...to think big...”
That’s how, when that plane crash became an excuse (not ‘trigger’) to effect the long-planned Genocide against the Tutsi, the RPF put a halt to the genocide and united all Rwandans into a force (no revenge) that would strive to give flesh to the mythical “manna from Heaven”. (Heaven not being up but all around us, as the world is not flat – i.e. the following are not all from up).
So, this government has emboldened Rwanda to be first in the world to jump on the big idea of openly using drones to drop medicine to the masses; to be first in extracting methane gas from water and it comes down from poles as electricity; proffering universal medical insurance; enabling women to claim their rightful place; pulling court system from old tradition to deliver justice, et al.
And so, all ye ‘guys’, shy not away from celebration: these drones will deliver!
The world is taking note, too. Want anything done pronto? Turn to action-man/woman, Rwanda. Want cumbersome AU reformed; the intractable Montreal Protocol amendment signed?
Reminds you of this song: “Ibanga Abanyarwanda tugendana......” Nay, Rwandans, your secret is out!
The writer is a social commentator based in Kigali