In Rwanda, there is a saying that goes: “Ahatari umwaga, uruhu rw’urukwavu/imbaragasa rwisasira batanu”. This, literally, can translate as “Where there is no rancour or hostility, a rabbit or even flea hide or skin can suffice as a ‘blanket’ to accommodate five adult persons.”
The translation is quite a mouthful, I must say, where its near-equivalent in English that immediately comes to mind would simply be “Where there is a will, there is a way.” But then again, that’s because the latter doesn’t exactly capture the profundity of the magnanimity that the Kinyarwanda saying conveys.
Now, the accuracy of my translation and comparison aside, consider that Rwandans have had this adage for probably as long as they’ve been in existence. An example of the point made, even if hyperbolically expressed, being this: Rwanda rwa Gihanga (as she was created) has never been too small to accommodate anybody; too mean to come to the rescue of anyone in distress; too poor to support whoever is vulnerable; and any equivalent as you may think of.
No doubt, it goes against the grain of the 1994 calamity and the “Rwanda-being-like-a-glassful-of-water” septic catechism of the regimes that begot that monstrosity of a calamity. But need we go into how some blockheads swallowed whole outside influence and set this country on a collision course with self-destruction?
When today Rwandans say they’ve gone back to the basics, it means re-adopting their positive traditional values that include altruism and self-sacrifice for others, as expressed in the adage, which were abused with the advent of that foreign interference.
So, cynics who have turned this country’s volunteering as safe haven to persecuted or unwanted migrants into a smear campaign about attempting to impress or make pecuniary profit there-from and think it’ll stick should perish the thought. Eons ago when that adage of a big heart instead of “umwaga” was coined, no one knew there were rich countries to impress or milk for money.
And see how the gesture galvanised Cameroonian professional footballer Sammuel Eto into rescuing a plane-full of his compatriots. Imagine what it’ll do for governments whose citizens’ conditions trigger this shame.
The cynics’ contemptuous attempt at dampening the strength of the statement Rwanda is making need be ignored. The statement: everybody on this earth, but especially on the African continent, should express outrage at what’s happening to the migrants in Libya.
Individuals, organisations, countries, where is the outrage?
Why should humans be auctioned off like hand-me-down furniture? Furniture which, when auctioned, meets a more honourable fate. It wouldn’t be enslaved; worked to its bones; sodomised; raped. It would not be ‘mined’ for organs.
We’ve heard stories of these migrants’ internal organs like kidneys being forcefully removed for later sale but why are the stories muted? African media, why are you not shouting it out?
Where is a Muhamed Amin, the late famous Kenyan investigative photojournalist who stung the world conscience by exposing the famine scandal of Ethiopia in the 1980s, among others before and after? Why should we rely on CNN you-tube titbits to open our eyes to the embarrassment that’s right under our collective nose?
On top of this, it’s an indictment on some African countries that their people find living conditions so appalling as to use their life savings to buy death on the hot deserts and the high seas. Reports of able-bodied men and women, along with babies, children and pregnant women, paying as much as $3000 to embark on these hazardous journeys are a dime a dozen.
Why, Africa, why?
Why can’t our governments facilitate citizens to invest such an amount of money in improving the lot of their families and in building their country? What does it say about the governance of such a nation? Has it ever heard of citizen-centred governance?
Governments that sit and content themselves with playing blame games or that throw up their arms in despair are not worth the flags fluttering in their compounds. They must pack up and buzz off!
Meanwhile, our news organisations need to get to the bottom of it.
Countries in West Africa where, to this day, nationals reportedly practice slavery on fellow nationals should be exposed. And so should countries in the horn of Africa whose leaders are said to keep their nationals in the bondage of destitution.
And, come to think of it, regional bodies like ECOWAS and the continental body, AU, isn’t their silence deafening? Or, perhaps, are some members burying their heads in the sand to avoid the aforesaid vexing questions?
Those AU proposed reforms, methinks some countries will have them forced down their throats, kicking and screaming!
For the moment, we must all together condemn the outrage playing out in Libya with the vigour it deserves.
But alas! All condemnation will come to nought as long as Africans do not take the said adage to heart. Their countries’ skins, whatever size, must accommodate their peoples equitably. And that, lest we forget, includes every citizen having their fair share of the national cake.
The prerequisite to which is harmony in the citizenry: no discrimination, no hostility all round.
The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.