I arrived in Rwanda on a one way ticket over four years ago after living 35 years abroad. I just wanted to step off the bus. I even recorded a song within a few months of my arrival called “One Ticket Way To Paradise” that was inspired by the event. I have always wanted to be here and it finally happened.
I had no previous ties to Rwanda except for geographical familiarity and its history. Shortly upon arrival, I was faced with a personal crisis that fundamentally challenged my decision to live here. I was determined and survived.
Rwanda and I went through what I call a mutual adoption process and many of those who know me well would quickly agree that I am comfortable, contented and happy to be here. So comfortable, there are places, people and things that I am more familiar with than many of those who have always lived here.
I simply integrated in all aspects of daily life and did it with a quiet determination. When I saunter down my street and see my neighbours I do so with a happy disposition and connect with my surroundings. Of course, my visibility is obvious but it matters not anymore.
Recently, my job responsibilities required me to leave Rwanda temporarily with my family for a neighbouring East African country. This lasted 10 months and I wished to return to Rwanda. I really missed home.
This short absence has taught me a few things and even revealed a special connection that I did not realise existed between us.
This land has a love-hate relationship with others in the region and possibly beyond. Herein lies the dilemma. Rwanda’s successes and accomplishments continue to underscore the failures and shortcomings of the neighbouring countries, regardless of their unique challenges, opportunities and resources.
It has disappointed the political pundits of doom, sceptics and enemies. Some neighbours grudgingly desire to have many things - not necessarily material - that Rwandans now consider routine; we must note that many Rwandans also endured life in many of these same countries not so long ago. It has succeeded against considerable odds.
Things happen here out of a sense of national duty that is considered the obligation of the state and its agents to its citizens and without having to ask favours or provide fat bribes.
Bribery and corruption have permeated every pore of all or most levels of government in neighbouring countries and is considered a normal practice in private, public and even external sectors. Unfortunately, the population accepts it and thus legitimises this system.
My numerous visits to the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration provide excellent examples of good and proper public service and civic duty by those who deliver services.
Booking a flight on RwandAir and receiving courteous and efficient service also speaks to our core service values. There is no arrogance from government employees or condescending behaviour as I have personally witnessed elsewhere.
I am always greeted with the cooperation and, of course, a welcome absence of what I refer to as “financial incentives”, also commonly known as bribes or giti in blunt parlance.
Public infrastructure projects are implemented as planned and, if or when they do not happen, then there is public accountability. The sense of national pride is envied and probably confusing or deliberately misunderstood by our neighbours.
One individual explained that such behaviour is based on cultural docility or the result of brainwashing by the state.
I have not experienced comparable efficiency since leaving my former home that was in an advanced society. This is something that comes from within a nation that is confident and proud of its achievements and its willingness to ensure its longevity. Let us not take any of this for granted.
Homecoming was emotional for me and caught me by complete surprise; I am still privately dealing with it after four weeks, but an experience that cannot be forgotten.
It has reaffirmed my bonds with this land of Mille Collines and redefined the meaning of “One Way Ticket to Paradise”.Incidentally, I returned on a one way ticket as I did four years ago.
The writer is a Project and Compliance Manager at MobiCash (Rwanda) Limited. He is also Writer and Musician.
The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.