The curse of being an independent-minded African

When someone pointed out that my quote last week indicated a bent to kill, I realised I’d created a misconception. In asking “Why kill the messenger?” in reference to Gitera, Rudahigwa (Rwandan king, 1931- 1959) was not referring to any killing but asking his people to go deeper and understand the message in the man’s new ‘Aprosoma’ political party.

When someone pointed out that my quote last week indicated a bent to kill, I realised I’d created a misconception. In asking “Why kill the messenger?” in reference to Gitera, Rudahigwa (Rwandan king, 1931- 1959) was not referring to any killing but asking his people to go deeper and understand the message in the man’s new ‘Aprosoma’ political party.

And it is exactly this delving deep to understand the character of Rwanda that seems to be the problem with some outsiders interested in Rwanda. For instance, where is the interest in the incident that took place in Huye last Sunday (12.09.10)?

Huye was again the scene of a freak murder, perpetrated by an Omar Ramadhan  in  broad daylight, according to police. The story was reported by ‘The New Times’ on Tuesday, September 14th. I’m yet to see the story picked up by the many news outlets that usually pour out such reports on Rwanda.

Yet, the same area was the scene of a similar murder last July, which can nonetheless be viewed as more likely because it took place late at night and involved a rich man. It was also reported by ‘The New times’ but was grabbed by all the media houses and blogs of the world. Josh Kron, inseparable pair to Jeffrey Gettleman, both of who frequently misreport on Rwanda, was the first to rush out a screaming headline: “Missing Rwandan…Beheaded in Grizzly Attack”!

Kron continued: “Mr. Rwisereka had gone missing earlier this week and his car was found abandoned on Tuesday” and described exactly what happened, even if he was nowhere near the scene. Even after police caught the suspect who confessed to the murder, the whole world has been stuck with that image of a politically motivated assassination.

Anyway, with that report, chatter rose of “deputy editor of an opposition newspaper…killed; prominent politician…arrested; opposition parties…excluded; and a former head of the army…shot”. By the time of election, the din had risen to a crescendo that was enough to burst the ear-drums of the world. Details of all the incidents were given by police but nobody cared to look at them.

It is not surprising, therefore, to see an American gentleman tying himself in knots writing about Rwanda, when he belongs to the ‘Council on Foreign Relations’ and is supposed to be a trusted advisor to his leaders. In an article entitled ‘The Kagame Dilemma’, Mr. Charles Landow writes: “The United States and others must continue supporting Rwandans without directly boosting Kagame.” Pray, what is the meaning of this?

How would President Kagame, who has dedicated his life to working with fellow Rwandans (hoping Mr. Landow admits the president is Rwandan!) to uplift their lives, not be boosted if anybody managed to uplift Rwandan lives (which necessarily include his!)? As if the donors are the ones who plucked Rwandans out of the grip of a genocide, for instance!

Mr. Landow is amazing! Who, but one unfamiliar with this country, can confidently claim that “the minority Tutsi (some 15 per cent of the population) govern the majority Hutu”? Leave alone the fact that Rwandans know that they are Rwandan and don’t care about those other labels, can he say he is accurate on that? And where does he get that 15% from, in the first place, if it’s not in colonialists’ records?

Even if no Rwandan cares one way or the other, it is not a secret, for instance, that a man similarly enamoured in those ethnic labels, late Habyarimana, quashed the statistics when they revealed that percentage to be 30. This, when more than half of the people he preferred to baptize ‘cockroaches’ were languishing in statelessness, which he strove to make permanent.

But if Mr. Landow can astonish with his percentage-quote fascination, he literally scales the heights to finally settle in the horns of his “dilemma” when he attempts to describe the state of President Kagame today.

“Kagame,” opines our foreign relations expert, “is scared less of renewed conflict than of plots against him by military officers in his circle.”

Who are the military officers in Mr. Kagame’s circle? As the Commander-in-Chief of the Rwanda armed forces, President Kagame has all Rwandan military officers in his circle, I suppose. In stating this, then, has Mr. Landow seen any signs of a revolt by these officers that we here in Rwanda haven’t seen?

“If they give any support to the government….,” advises our foreign relations guru, “donors should...ensure that it builds institutional capacity”. So, the government of Rwanda should leave her efforts in that area to the donors, whom he seems to mistakenly think are in charge of the country. And he continues advising on how everybody should stop visiting President Kagame, how he should not visit them and on how they should stop giving him honours.

I was confused and sent Mr. Landow an e-mail seeking to know if he has ever visited Rwanda and talked to any of its villagers. He sent back a line thanking me and promising to continue his research. Problem is, the research is already premised on a phantom, not Rwanda.

I was redeemed by Amb. Dayan Jayatilleke, a Sri Lankan, and Mr. Liang Wang of Virginia, USA, who seems to concur with Amb. Jayatilleke that “There is a clear trend of the displeasure of the opinion-making elite in the West…against strong, independent-minded…leaders who strive to build…strong sovereign states.”

Phew! I was blind but now I see!

pbutam@yahoo.com

 

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