When Helen Thomas, all of 90 years old, woke up last Monday morning (7th June 2010), the least thing on her mind was an end to her illustrious career.
After all, she was as sprightly and sturdy as she was when she flung her first barb of a question at the occupant of White House. At the time, that was Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States of America.
Helen Thomas covered every president of the United States of America after that until last Monday, in the second year of the Obama administration. Considering that Barack Obama is 44th president, that puts a whole twelve US presidents under her belt.
And, apart from being author of five books, Thomas was the first female officer of the National Press Club, the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents Association and the first female member of the Gridiron Club.
(The Gridiron Club is the oldest and most prestigious journalistic organization in Washington, D.C.)
Yet, all the respect that Thomas had garnered in a career spanning more than five decades was given short shrift when her comment was captured on videotape and widely disseminated on the Internet.
Her call for Israel to “get the hell out of Palestine” drew harsh rebukes from all American leaders and citizens. Even after apologising, Thomas could not coax her speakers agency into retaining her as their client.
A high school cancelled her upcoming appearance at graduation. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the comments were “offensive and reprehensible.” Generally, the whole of USA was ready to lynch her.
Yes, you got it right. That is the same country that is home to one Peter Carl Erlinder and plays host to Paul Rusesabagina and a coterie of génocidaires.
And that PCE is the same shaggy-haired, bushy-bearded, gangly gentleman currently cooling his seat in remand prison in Rwanda for genocide denial and spreading malicious rumours.
For minimising the holocaust of the Jews, Helen Thomas is denounced by Americans in unison.
For denying that the genocide against Batutsi ever took place and defending remnants of génocidaires, what does Erlinder get? Calls from the US government to Rwanda to release him!
It adds up then. Peter Erlinder knew very well that by denying that the 1994 genocide occurred, in his letters, write-ups, law-defences and speeches, he was contravening Rwandan laws.
Yet he had the effrontery to come and abuse Rwandans even to their faces, here in their country!
To him, Rwanda is an insignificant, tiny country in Central Africa, where “life is cheap”, according to an American newspaper.
Can anybody in that bloodied country dare question a citizen of the most powerful country in the universe, like USA?
It is fresh in the mind. When an American marine soldier killed an innocent East African woman at a certain Indian Ocean coast, all he needed was to tender a mere 400 American dollars to walk off scot free.
Abuse a smaller country and you’ll walk into the movie studios of Hollywood.
It conjures up memories of soldiers of fortune. You know, the days when mercenaries from the West used to play around in African countries as if in their backyard gardens.
A band of mercenaries used to descend from Europe and, in a short overnight tussle, present a new government to awakening citizens of an African country in the wee hours of the morning.
A single CIA agent from USA used to amble into the precincts of a presidential residence and, a few promises of American favours and dollars after, install a new president after a coup d’état.
We can all remember individuals who earned their living by juggling African governments around for anybody who paid. There was Bob Denard in the Comoros, Schram in the Congo (D.R. Congo, today) and Colonel Baril in Rwanda.
In fact, only recently it was alleged that a business man, son of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, wanted to claim ownership of a West African country, oil wells and all!
It may be subtle, then, but it is there. The feeling in the West that African countries will never be equal to their developed counterparts. Africans are expected to act only according to the guidance of their superior masters.
Maybe Rwandans know this best. Those in the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) can remember when France summoned the leader of its armed wing, RPA, to Paris. That leader was Paul Kagame, current president of the country.
The order was curt: Stop your war of liberation or Batutsi inside Rwanda will be eliminated. To boot, they detained him for hours to give him the taste of what they meant.
For persevering to put Rwanda on the road to sanity, Rwandans were punished with the confirmation of that macabre French threat, by the loss of around 1.25 million of their compatriots.
Note that the number of those lost is not 500, not slightly over 800, not under 1 million but about 1.25 as statistics has shown. The true number, of course, is too embarrassing for the international community and so it will stick to the more comfortable “over 500”.
Whatever the case, Rwandans have learnt their lesson. You may be France, USA or even the whole of the developed world, that’s your business. The important thing everyone should know is that the laws of Rwanda are sacrosanct.
From the top of Muhabura Volcano, let the message be heard loud and clear: The dignity of Rwandans will never be trampled again.
Not by anybody, ever!