Talking to ‘The East African’ weekly, a Rwandan based in Kenya says: “Kenyans are go-getters and great entrepreneurs, Ugandans are hospitable, Burundians are colourful, Rwandans have discipline and focus.”
The statement is a summary of the opinion that answers to his quest for work-related needs, of course. And I guess he’d say “courteous” about Tanzanians, if he’d worked in their country.
Otherwise, we all know that our different nationals have a lot more positive attributes that they can harness for a richer region and continent, if only they can cultivate one thing: unity.
God knows I, as a Rwandan, wouldn’t place myself anywhere near “discipline and focus”. And I know many birds of a feather we flock together and others that are outright rotten eggs.
But generally, many compatriots can amaze with their hard work, self-sacrifice, courage, solidarity, tenacity, generosity and other qualities that accompany the “discipline and focus”.
No doubt you’ll see contradictions in these qualities. How, for instance, can you talk courage or heroism when in your history you gave in to foreigners who scattered you around their farms wherein to put that hard work to effect, in spite of yourself?
Because, as said here before, during the colonial days, Rwandans, for being hard-working, were the favoured labour force for Belgians in their copper mines and coffee and tea estates, in the then Belgian Congo.
In Uganda and Kenya, the British shipped them in to labour on their tea, coffee and sugarcane plantations.
And the glaring shame! More recently, the world was gripped in a horror from hell as it watched live devilish barbarity in action, when some Rwandans turned on their compatriots for total elimination.
A people who as one had stood firm to successfully fend off the powerful slavery wave that had all but consumed the entire continent, what had so forcefully ripped them this much apart?
Where had their courage, solidarity, selflessness gone?
However, a near-century of a colonial division-drive and the subsequent native leaderships’ scorch-earth obliteration effort aimed at part of their citizens had gnawed at this society’s fabric so mercilessly that it was by sheer luck that it still existed.
That a nucleus of braves rose to stop the fall and stich back this shredded cord, and that the whole society quickly rose to the occasion to work hard on reunion, demonstrated that Rwandans had unity as their very DNA. Thus, it defied destruction.
It’s for that that whatever opportunistic ill will those rotten eggs and myriad other self-seekers may seek to effect, for whatever length of time, cannot break this society’s spirit, ever again.
There is no other way of explaining what happened on March 18, 1997. That day saw a wondrous incident that was commemorated last week and was reported in this daily.
Teenagers standing together in the face of definite death to reject being categorised into ethnic constructs that had been woven around this society for close to a century. Said they: “We are not this or that ethnic group. We are Rwandans”.
Sadly, six of them were immediately hewn down in a hail of the bullets of those demonic infiltrator kinsmen. 40 others were left with permanent injuries.
Those youngsters will forever be our heroes.
For, barely three years previously, at fourteen or fifteen years, some had watched as their parents butchered what they called foreign pests, cockroaches or snakes in an apocalyptic orgy of unprecedented proportions. And some, yes, at this tender age, had been drafted into that band of maniacal mass génocidaires.
Who knows, maybe the catechism of that apocalypse was still being preached to these kids in the secrecy of their homes by parents still nursing consummation intentions of that heinous act. Or preaching that there was no trusting ‘cockroaches’ that may harbour revenge intentions.
Those three years previously, their classmates-to-be, formerly on the victim side, had been resigned to death, convinced they had to live every minute as it came, at the mercy of kinsmen/women in power; ‘true owners of the land’.
Imagine the strength of the bond that this single moment of show of solidarity built.
For, daring division, youngsters stood together in unity, ready to fall together as one. If that doesn’t boggle the mind, I don’t know what does!
It was by sacrificing to fight all evil and promote common good that Rwanda is in this good place today.
That, fellow Africans, is one elaborate but little example – considering the huge mass of pain that gave birth to a similarly huge mass of miracles on this land – that is an exhibit of what is possible when people stand together for a good cause.
Rotten eggs of East Africa; rotten eggs of all regional blocs; rotten eggs of Africa: lay down your short-sightedness, selfishness and greed.
Let’s all together in solidarity embrace the gigantesque leap made in Kigali on this 21stday of our Lord in the month of March 2018, with the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, towards the long envisioned United States of Africa.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.