The measure of a people is defined by the stature of their leaders, their reverence to their monuments, their origins and human agency. Put simply: if you do not respect yourselves, no one will respect you. One should be able to tell, from how another speaks or writes, whether that person is Rwandan or not; African or not; especially in this globalised era. When a Rwandan journalist writes, they should, at the very least, treat Rwandans and Africans with basic decency. On any subject being canvassed, their message should seek to share a little bit of our humanity, uphold our monuments and icons.
Being a true global citizen isn’t only being a well travelled fellow; it is also being from a specific place, bringing the best from that place onto the global marketplace.
Some societies in Africa enjoy self-derision; not Rwandans! We believe we ought to clean our house before we invite guests; vet our champions before we unveil them to the world. Accordingly, we do not expect anyone else to do it on our behalf.
Last month there was a Ugandan lady with a reputation of undressing in public and an amateur of unsavory language on social media. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch ran full dossiers on her, while foreign media portrayed her as Uganda’s Human Rights champion. As a Human Rights Lawyer myself I found that utterly insulting; I wouldn’t wish to be amalgamated with the said lady.
But Ugandans should also be outraged; it is demeaning to them as a people that the least sophisticated of all citizens are whom western media and powers present as their hope.
No wonder we are rated by the worse; It is remarkable that Reporters Without Borders, the organization that, without being invited to, frequently rates freedoms in our countries, was founded and led by one Robert Menard, an outspoken French fascist. To give you a flavor into the character, Menard’s recent campaign is called: ‘Beware, they are coming’, currently mayor of a small town named Bezier, the man has placed photos of Black and Arab migrants at every corner of his town, with the message: ‘This is it, they are coming!’. He is also filmed harassing a migrant family from Syria – apparently that is who determines whether Rwanda, Mozambique or Senegal are free, or not free. One more thing: the man is a member of the Le Pens’ far right party: Le Front National. For an African to be rated by Reporters Without Boarders, it is no different from a Black American being approved by the Ku Klux Klan: An heresy!
Gatekeepers of neo-colonialism such as Reporters Without Boarders draw their relevance through the state of weakened African establishments, to which they allocate the derogatory term of ‘regime’ – implying ‘change’. Aiming to weaken the African social structure, so they can easily advance their interests, they breed and nurture a malaise within the African elite, until it matures into an insurgency, which they harbour, fund, arm, romanticise into an uprising, weakening the state, toppling the establishment [Kamal Sedra (2013) ‘Social Media & Social Network in Post-Conflict setting]
Such change, as experienced in Libya isn’t salutary as all claim; it is toxic! For it has not emanated from the people, has not taught the people any lesson, and indeed the people are not capable to sustain it.
In the last fifteen years that I have practiced activism in Rwanda, every human rights campaign we have been involved in has been successful, caused no physical casualty and raised no international attention whatsoever. Rwandan authorities think of us as allies, why? Because we do not do it to be seen, to get a visa or be prized; but to improve conditions of our people; and indeed in that sense: we are allies to the state.
But we also do it within the ambit of the Rwandan culture; we were raised by Rwandan parents, who instilled African values in us: to respect ourselves and respect others. I have spoken to Ugandan politicians; they too appreciate decency; they too appreciate sophistication. What they have in common with Rwandans, is that they both hold in contempt vulgarity and indecency. No Rwandan official has ever abused me even when I disagreed with them, because I do not abuse them; not because I do not know abusive words and vocabulary, but because it is not of our standard; that’s right: you set your standards yourself by your attitude and your utterance and people hold you up to it. The main enemies of freedom in Africa are people whom have not received proper upbringing by their parents and grandparents, and were exposed to foreign education with no foundation.
African leaders are very respectable Gentlemen and Ladies. On any value scale they are at least as respectable as leaders on any continent. They are not to be rated by fascists like Menard, or amalgamated with indecent people.
Every young Rwandan may have a great future ahead of them and may eventually earn a feature in the same story as Mr. Kagame, or Mr. Mandela, or Mr. Lee Kwan Yew, or Mr. Obama. For now though, it is insulting to us Rwandans, and the people of Africa as a whole, that every person who claims to agitate for rights, to run for office in our countries, is immediately featured at the same Pedestal with our leaders, regardless of their methods, their moral standards, their track-record or their comportment.