Decades ago in the midst of the cold war, there was an anti Soviet Russia joke going like this: Three unfortunate guys found themselves sharing a prison or gulag detention cell.
The 1st was accused of laziness, unpatriotic mindset, being usually late for work. He was sentenced to 10 years for sabotaging the socialist vision and its collective undertakings.
The 2nd was handed 15 years, suspected for highly treasonable spying activities. always coming before the guards manning the gates and or his own comrade boss.
The 3rd who checked on time every single day, was sentenced for 20 years after being reported by the workers’ committee for bourgeois mindset and dangerous conformism.
Either way it was no good and, worse of all, criminal and counter-revolutionary!.
That is what Rwanda has to endure with accusers milking on her challenges and woes. Her people and leaders finding out powerful enemies after each of her move, strategic or tactical, executed unexpectedly without anybody’s permission!
Constantly harassed and accused of all sorts of heinous crimes, quickly turned into an easy scapegoat for all the liabilities carried over from a rather complicated history. It accelerated since 1994 after the RPF managed to stop the Genocide against the Tutsi and defeated the former regime, openly and well supported by the French apparatus.
Let us illustrate the most recurrent accusations, in no particular order or weight.
Back in 1996, Rwanda’s leadership decided to send its army westward into Zaire to suppress a real existential threat from armed Hutus, to dismantle bordering refugee camps and repatriate millions of them held hostage and used to draw funds for the war!
The armed thugs and their backers never thought Rwandans would cross the borders. The rest is history but bitterness or losses are still counted by whoever had bet on them.
Today recycled funny claims that the attack was pre-planned sometime in the late 1980s aiming at Congo’s mineral riches, as if the RPF would have had that much foresight capacity and colluded with their French nemesis or Mobutu regime to host these future refugees!
No serious mind can develop such a scenario, just meant or spread and sow confusion and justify some destabilization overt/covert operations against the RPF.
You know these biased mapping reports, UnGoE opinions or media shows (BBC or Rfifr4om which the repeated allegations of plundering resources and statistically computed on potential millions of deaths are given some stamp of credibility.
While ignoring that the current DRC set-up as a whole is an unattended consequence of that influx. It was engineered by the French at a cost of unbearable human suffering.
At another level of people protection, Rwanda outlawed polyethylene plastics in the early 2000s, banking on a better environment to improve the health for her citizens. It was well ahead of these environment or climate change treaties mainstreamed today as COP or Montreal Protocol; today hyped in the media all over and seen as tomorrow’s frontier of business, industrial and geopolitical confrontation!
Yet Rwanda is accused of jailing the trespassers or those against it when enforcing normally the said regulations according to the law. Which is really unserious or insulting for a people determined to achieve its well-being.
Any traveler going through Kigali airport has seen how plastic bags are impounded without exception, the visitors seem not to bother at all and many are coming back!
Similarly, Rwandan authorities after banning all grass thatched houses, are now planning to regroup scattered families in consolidated rural communities for accessible and affordable social services; education and health to fulfill its obligations at the best within the limits of available resources.
Some professional human rights activists jumped in, very vocal, citing the lack of freedom, preferring the poverty statusquo and spreading lies that the population is vehemently against that policy, almost close to a collective suicide!.
Probably some smart people seeking or forcing consultancy or employment via NGOs! But they missed the point and the economics behind the new demand and jobs created! The accusations died somehow as many of the rural resettlement programs got funded by known donors and development financial institutions like the World Bank or AfDB.
Before that when Rwanda decided to join EAC or Commonwealth or adopted the English medium, it triggered memorable drama and barrage of accusations, -still floated around today. Even when leading world institutions, think tanks gurus and unsuspected scholars were advocating for regional integration and Pan-African intra trade as the ultimate strategy to spur the economic growth and jobs creation!
Needless to mention that the very accusers are also using the English medium to market themselves globally or advocating for powerful blocs to counter Russia or China!
Equally, Rwanda government encourages small holder farmers to join them into bigger farms to attract better and structured support or higher incentives as to increase productivity, income and off-farm jobs.
Foreseeing the impasse with the land fragmentation when the next generation kicks in when surviving kids (average 4 per family) would divide it into even much more smaller plots. Symptoms already felt on the ground with thousands of civil and penal cases over land!
The critics made up stories from hearsay about forced labor, hunger stories and or loss of productivity that mislead foreign opinion about the shortcomings of policy implementation, aimed in good faith at defusing the time bomb awaiting otherwise.
Inspired by panafricanist ideals, Rwanda had removed all barriers and visa application obligations for Africans coming to visit her people and cities. It sent a powerful signal that freedom of movement over the Africa continent was not only possible or desirable but enjoyable and beneficial. Now many counties have adopted similar policy: Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Seychelles, etc
The policy has just been extended to all the countries since the benefits surpassed the perceived risks without the challenges and cost to process applications for entry visas.
This time around, the security issue or usual concerns for a country supposedly densely populated were not raised but rather some bizarre suspicions that Rwanda aims to grab the neighbors lands and minerals. What a curious reasoning jump and dirty mind?
Imaginary stories nourishing such fantasies relayed by sections of pseudo elite (DRC & Burundi) or lost intellectuals (eg. Reytjens) who see threats at every Rwandan move!
Do they prefer the above mentioned Hutu refugees influx that inflicted permanent damages and endangered the physical environment in eastern DRC, put off balance all the local communities up to deadly ethnic cleansing and plunder mineral until today?
In the name of some obscure bantu solidarity against a Tutsi domination myth that allowed criminal organisations behind the so-called refugees umbrella to export mass killings or experiment new mass rape schemes at unprecedented scale.
They are thus justifying all these mutating and roaming rebellions and or militias taking the Congolese people hostage back in stone age, harassed, exploited and ransomed at will.
Or Monusco permanent tutorship and presence coincidentally in mineral rich areas?
Only an immature cry-baby mindset can come up with such childish reasoning as if reciprocity can be forced on them or Rwanda will be waiting until they get organised.
Meanwhile tourism in Rwanda is picking up, visitors are flocking , many conferences are hosted in Kigali and the path toward a Dubai/Singapore model is getting more clear!.
Off recent, Rwanda announced and offered to welcome the enslaved and or stranded immigrants in Libya; some of them have already brought in Kigali (many in bad shape).
Rwanda’s reaction to the CNN story supported by shocking video on slaves auctioning, was applauded in many power circles as a courageous and bold move. Yet the usual suspects were quick to dampen it, citing some financial gains Rwanda might get out of it and linked to Israel repatriation program of African immigrants.
The bashing, mainly from the French media, suggests that the move was perceived as an attempt to steal President Macron’s show who came with a “killer” proposal for the AU-EU Summit that just concluded in Abidjan when humility should be the best attitude given the role of France in the Ghadafi demise and the vacuum that followed the collapse of the Libya state;
Check the UNSC resolution #1973 on Libya initiated by France supported by UK and Lebanon, voted by some African states (South-Africa & Nigeria). You will be amazed by the intent behind the wording used for assets freezing, no fly-zone and remote attacks
What about the criminal and hypocritical passivity over these networks carrying their activities in most Sahel countries and passing immigrants up North in broad day light?
Even if there were some linkage with Israel, would it be wrong then for Rwanda to be creative on how to cover some costs associated with such new humanitarian operation? Would MSF had moved in Indonesia after the Tsunami or Haiti after the earth quake without the necessary means?
At the end and notwithstanding the astute negative reporting from those who missed the point, Rwanda has actually achieved the deserved visibility and new solid partnerships. The Israel PM has just announced the opening of its Embassy in Kigali, seen as strategic. And the proposal remains the strongest signal ever, ideologically and morally- to confront the suicidal immigration trend: a call for collective, coordinated and immediate actions, thus helping Europe solve this steady illegal immigration via Libya and Sudan
It is about time Africans (their leaders) acted decisively, instead of the usual rhetoric and with focus on issues at hand, towards the quest for dignity, emancipation and self-respect
President Kagame will Chair the AU (2018) to steer critical and long overdue reforms for an effective continental body; that is where precisely these accusations are meant to hit.
You will see critics coming in various forms, soon recycled over dictatorship or some mythic domination, hiding behind some bruised ego or disrespectful colonial attitude.
If you want to know your enemies, do something new or right. Rwanda knows this well.
But these activists turned prosecutors, don’t see Rwandans ability to sustain long term strategic choices and to tailor homegrown solutions from centuries old history of nation building for today complex challenges. Missing the point, and still focusing on the player but not on the very changing game!
Rwanda leaders are simply doing better than expected, completely out of the colonial thinking box, often pragmatic and prospective and well above the country geopolitical weight and despite being endowed with limited natural resources.
Everybody can see undeniable socio-economic progress, popular participation and better governance, feel the security and the contagious optimism and or confidence.
Rwanda have overcome its own fears, eager to move forward and ready to share it!
As to concur with Steve Covey that the best way to predict the future is to create it.
At last, let us face these futile accusations meant to harm or create negative perception with the deserved contempt or else, let it be and call it for self-fulfillment prophecy!
Eng. Roger Munyampenda is a Management & Marketing Consultant.
The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.