Rwanda Day is a well executed concept worth emulating

This past week has had my head in a tailspin especially regarding the global news mill. What a week it has been. United Kingdom’s Prime Minister got bruised by an election she called hoping to strengthen her party and ended up losing more seats and giving the headline writers a field day.

This past week has had my head in a tailspin especially regarding the global news mill. What a week it has been. United Kingdom’s Prime Minister got bruised by an election she called hoping to strengthen her party and ended up losing more seats and giving the headline writers a field day.

The UK election story came up at a time when I was nursing constant headaches from trying to understand why Arab countries had woken up to bully one of their own. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt woke up and closed their air space and borders with Qatar over accusations that Doha is sympathetic to terrorist groups.

 

I know sometimes people ignore these stories on grounds that they do not affect us down here but I try not to fall in that trap. Just yesterday I learnt that Saudi Arabia is pushing Somalia to denounce Qatar or forget about aid from the rich Saudis. Imagine a country troubled as Somalia is being used as a pawn in a Gulf crisis. Is this not how Africans were taken to fight in the world wars without knowing what had even angered the other countries they were fight for?  

 

Regionally I tried to stay away from the budget reading and all its statistics. Numbers have never been my piece of cake unless they are hitting much closer like when I found out that a five kilogramme bag of Maganjo maize flour is now costing me Rwf4500 and up from Rwf3500 it was going for in Kigali. Now I know that the maize crisis in Kenya must be forcing the millers in Uganda to send some of their products to Kenya.

 

It is such things that remind me of how increasingly connected our countries are. The folks in Arusha may spend days talking air about integration but the traders are forcing someone in Kigali to feel the pinch caused by scarcity of maize flour in Nairobi, through a product  manufactured in Kampala. Ugandans often see food prices going up when traders decide to move a lot of stuff to South Sudan when the place is more peaceful.

As I was writing this there was an air of excitement doing the rounds in Kampala and far off in Ghent, Belgium. In Kampala it was the first leg of the Elgon Cup. A two leg rugby duel often dubbed the “Migingo Derby” between Kenya and Uganda. With the Kenyans facing a maize flour scarcity, maybe the well fed Ugandans will get one over them. On a serious note, I love the spirit behind this tournament and other East African countries would use the same template for more games.

I am thinking of a Kilimanjaro cup between Kenya and Tanzania or a Kivu cup between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We can even have something crafted around Lake Victoria or Lake Tanganyika. Such small efforts can go a long way in giving our players practice time and building relationships between countries.

The excitement in Ghent comes from the fact that after seven years, Belgium got to host the Rwanda Day event once again. At this event, the Rwandans in Disapora gather and engage with friends of Rwanda, Rwandan leaders both in the private and public sectors on opportunities back home and the progress being made by Rwanda not forgetting any challenges being faced or anticipated. The climax of Rwanda Day is when those in attendance get to hear from President Paul Kagame and also ask him questions during the interactive session.

What makes this day worth some space in my column is that it is a deliberate effort by Rwandans to acknowledge that the future of their country is vested in those at home and those away from home. Many countries now use remittances from Diaspora populations to beef up their economies but few make the effort to engage with those in the Diaspora at such a level.

In other words the day seeks to cement the nation that the development and future of a country is not limited by borders. Of course, I know other leaders in the region sometimes engage with Diaspora citizens when they find themselves in a foreign capital and with some time on their schedules. I just wish that such efforts can be more deliberate and scheduled ahead of time like how Rwanda Day is. I also dream of a time when we can have EAC days for EAC Diaspora people to also know about opportunities and challenge we have or face as a region.

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