We are well into the New Year – four days to be exact. It doesn’t look very different from the old one. Many people are still saying or writing 2010 and making plans for next year (2011).
This should not come as a surprise. The passage of the old year and the coming of the new were almost unnoticeable. Except for the hype, the celebration and fireworks, the transition could have gone unremarked.
Whether the change comes to us stealthily or we mark its arrival with so much fanfare, there are certain things that are now habitual and associated with the passage of time that are always present.
The time is an excuse for partying and other excesses. For some reason human beings are always looking for an occasion for emotional (even material) extravagance.
May be this periodic opening of emotional valves and a bit of recklessness is necessary for the correct balance and survival of the species.
It is also a period for a collective sigh of relief when we are glad that a particularly bad patch is behind us, and we want to quickly forget it.
In the case of Rwanda, we would like to forget the unwanted media attention and onslaught of lies, threats and fabrications of every sort.
We were threatened with submersion under wave after wave of the same rehashed stories appearing in different media to give the impression that they were actually different5.
We remained afloat. The media were inventive but not very creative.
We want to flush from our collective memory the discordant noises made by a coalition of hate mongers of every imaginable stripe.
With this goes the wish that their alliance flounder and break on the rock of their hatred, their hands wither, their mouths clamp shut and brains shrivel. This is not exactly a curse. It is only my new year’s wish.
This is a period, however, when we also want to hold on to and savour the good things that happened to us last year. I am sure many people want to keep the image of the enthusiastic crowds of the presidential election campaigns.
They thronged to the rallies to express their expectations and show their faith in, and support for, a system that would answer their prayers. Then they went to the polls in an orderly and dignified manner.
The manner of ordinary Rwandans gave the lie to the warnings of trouble constantly sounded by those for who raising the alarm (false) has become a profession.
More importantly it was an answer to the repeated call to Rwandans to do what they know is in their best interest. It was confirmation that they are people with dignity which they are proud to uphold.
At the turn of the New Year, it is customary for people to make personal resolutions and promises to friends and colleagues. Some of these are habitually broken as soon as they are made.
They were not meant to be kept in the first place. Most of them were made in the euphoria of celebration and contagion of bother resolutions.
But there are other resolutions and promises which are kept.
For instance, Rwandans were promised a seven-fold increase in what they already have. We were soon corrected that seven was too little. It was going to be seventy times seven.
Which is good enough reason to celebrate this New Year and others that will follow.
This promise is already being kept. We have seen the number of schools grow and students’ enrolment increase several times. Soon the Rwanda National Examinations Council will announce results of last year’s exams.
We can expect to hear that more students than in the previous year passed well enough to go to the next level of education.
The minister of health announced news that cheered senior citizens. He told the National Dialogue that pensioners will continue to enjoy the benefits of health insurance schemes to which they contributed when still in service and that elderly parents would benefit from their children’s health insurance.
And many more are happening. Rwandans are counting and you can be sure they will not stop at seventy times seven.
And who said it was only poets who have the ear for and ability to create the apt image? We can do it equally well.
You cannot beat the barking dogs and moving trains in capturing the futility of the motley crowd of ill wishers who think they can halt our onward march by making noise.
Many of us were transported to our youthful, card-playing days with the reminder that a pack of cards contains some worthless cards - ibigarasha. The word, applied to some individuals, adequately brought out their utter worthlessness.
And the sound of the word – ibigarasha – suggested how despicable those individuals are.
Then at the close of the year we heard a refreshingly apt description of the process of social purification.
Society rids itself of social chaff through a natural process of filtration, like you would filter water to remove impurities and remain with wholesome water. That has been happening almost on its own.
The New Year promises a lot that is bound to remain memorable when we come to its end and begin looking at yet another new one.