Two worlds for Europe’s Rwandans

You might have guessed what the buzz word is, in this distant Diaspora world. It’s perhaps the same wherever you are, but it has two dimensions here. Many Rwandans in the Diaspora are visibly outraged by the recent "Spanish indictment".

You might have guessed what the buzz word is, in this distant Diaspora world. It’s perhaps the same wherever you are, but it has two dimensions here. Many Rwandans in the Diaspora are visibly outraged by the recent "Spanish indictment".

I traveled out of town on Saturday, spending a night in another city where Rwandan Diaspora meets in a scene reminiscent of the Atlantic meeting the Indian Ocean at the erstwhile Cape of Good Hope. The currents are so violent that you can only watch from the top of a high cliff to get a semblance of safety. Well, that is what you have to contend with when standing between one side so passionate about their country and those who are so hell bent on destroying it.

The two groups are as different as day and night; one group is entrenched, with money pouring in; presumably from the inexhaustible "zero network kitty." While the other are a bunch of young people eking out a modest living and having to share their not so big paycheck with their families in the home country.

But as the old adage goes, even the worst night has a little semblance of day, so these groups too, have some thing in common. They both know how and which cords to touch in the European society, albeit in very different ways and for different purposes. Although these seem to be common survival skills Africans develop in Europe, the two groups have used them to the maximum, stretching them to their optimal limit.

The moneyed group of course, has an advantage over the other, in that they can finance their activities, set up complex communication infrastructure and even buy their way in what we had been led to believe was corruption free Europe. Their resource base is so enormous and is still growing. They are perhaps the best beneficiaries of the "war on terror." This time when the noose tightens on the terrorism logistics, they find themselves with the money and the connection to build a secure network for a terrorist world that has increasingly found itself boxed up in a tight corner.

So, the network has all that a terrorist organization needs, the money, influence, knowledge, infrastructure and logistics. Its no wonder that they are swimming in money, they are into everything, blood diamonds, drugs, gun running, name it. The little fellows on the other hand live from hand to mouth. The only thing they can do is pick up their flag, a placard and be patriotic when their country needs them on the street. They have little to offer in terms of infrastructure or influence, but when they hit the streets in protest everyone agrees "they have a legitimate cause"

When you get to observe both groups, you begin to understand the proverbial good versus evil. You may ask yourself, why the good side is always at a disadvantage. Honestly I have no clue! But I can tell you one thing the good always triumphs against evil.

Consider a group of affluent Africans seated in an affluent restaurant, in a big European city. When a few other not so affluent compatriots enter; the so affluent fellows with all their expensive Pierre Cardin suits and flashy cars parked outside stand up to leave in a hurry, exchanging unpleasant words with the new entrants, who can hardly afford a plate of food in this affluent restaurant.

Obviously the affluent, though moneyed, with influence and perhaps very influential, do not think theirs is a good cause, otherwise they would be staying. On the other hand, the young fellows believe so much in their country that they are willing to take the highest risk possible. It may not be the first time, neither would they be the first.

So much for that; if you ask me why I am not outraged at Judge Fernando Andreu Merelles’s indictments, it’s because I saw it coming. I saw it coming and we should expect more of that. The learned judge doesn’t perhaps know where Rwanda is. I don’t believe he has even read the names often enough to be able to pronounce them. I am not even sure he can comfortably discuss the case with a colleague over a glass of wine (I don’t think he takes coffee) because he really has no clue of what it is that he is doing or what really happened.

The poor fellow does not really know what is going on. When he realises he has been conned into a dangerous game by dangerous criminals, he will be one of them by then and unable to get out of their shackles. Unfortunately, that is the Europe we do not see, which only a few are privy too. But it is the real Europe, the Europe of Angels and villains.

So what is going on in Madrid is correlated with what has been going on in Eastern DRC in the past few months. The war mandarins are willing to loose one front, but they are launching an offensive on the other. Like in the DRC, they have seen a gap, this time in the legal systems of a number of European countries and we can brace ourselves for more of these from every canton court in the most obscure corner of Europe.

They have their NGOs, they fund many others with their enormous and ill gotten wealth. They are hungry lawyers on the street every where who would do anything to write their next cheques for their mortgage or make the pages of a tabloid. They will stop at nothing, knowing that an African in Europe will always be presumed guilty until proven innocent, especially if they cannot buy their innocence.

They have a big leverage in doing what they are doing; they took off with the national treasury. They don’t have to pay taxes on their offshore investments and their illegal businesses. They don’t have to build schools, roads and hospitals, they only need guns to keep steeling diamonds and dealing in drugs.

On the other hand, the country has to service its debts, a big part of which is a result of money stolen by those taking it court. Build schools, hospitals and roads, make sure that people go to sleep sure that they will wakeup alive the next morning. So hoping that these people will one day come to their senses and start believing that the country they are so hell-bent on destroying belongs not just to us but to them as well, is like trying to find honor in a robber. Welcome to the two worlds of Europe!

The Writer is an Economics of Development Fellow at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) at The Hague, Netherlands

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