For some of us who are non-Rwandans but working in Rwanda, some things are taken very lightly here in Kigali. But to the outside world, some of the things taken for granted in Rwanda, can constitute big news.
A case in point being that it is perfectly normal in Rwanda to tweet President Paul Kagame. However, to those not well conversant with what goes on in this country, that can be very big news.
The only point of note here, is that, outside the boundaries of Rwanda, since the average citizens, are not used to having an East African Community (EAC) Head of State staying on top of his game, by being closely in touch with modern forms of communication, that in itself is taken as something strange.
Not so in Rwanda.
I will not talk about how, fellow journalist Ian Birrell shot to “fame” just by engaging President Kagame through tweeter.
Rather, I will try to let the world to know that it is not the first time and it is not very likely to be the last time. It has happened several times and it cannot be taken as something new.
Notwithstanding the misguided opinion doing rounds within certain quarters that, in Rwanda, there is limited space for expressing one’s opinion.
Sample this: In January this year a well known Kenyan radio personality, Eve D’ Souza engages President Paul Kagame on tweeter. Eve gets into the emotions attached to communicating with an EAC president for the very first time.
After some tweets flying between a radio station person and a president, Eve collects herself but an immediate thought strikes her.
Is it possible that President Kagame does his own tweets? Or it is that his handlers tweet for him?
The immediate reply that struck Eve from Kagame went on like: “I update on my own. I love it. No handlers on this and few others, though certainly, I have handlers for different things”.
Eve went a step further to try to verify whether, indeed, President Kagame does his own tweets. It was too good to be true for Eve. And the conversation went viral on the web, where some of us Kenyans working in Rwanda were caught up in the heated debate that ensued.
When I told my fellow Kenyans that it is perfectly normal for President Kagame to tweet, as is the rest of his team members, most of my countrymen thought that I was high on drugs.
I was only saved when another Kenyan working in rural Rwanda got President Kagame on tweet and the interaction between another Kenyan and Kagame confirmed to the doubting Thomases from Kenya, how easily accessible President Kagame is.
And so the debate raged on within the web about EAC leaders and tweeting. Leaders, who are willing to use tweeter to share their thoughts are, as Eve said, to be saluted. In that line, Kenyans debating on this item linking leaders with tweeter went on to add another important dimension.
In Kenya very few leaders can actually tweet, unlike in Rwanda.
Notable tweeters in Kenya include politician Martha Karua, who bloggers say does it in a way that implies that she is really interested in engaging other tweeter users in serious discussions facing Kenya just the same way President Kagame uses tweeter to rally the Rwandan course.
One blogger said that such leaders who tweet are actually sending a much bigger message to the citizens of the EAC.
That, such leaders have an authenticity to truly connect with their people as tweeter is known to cut off the channels of officialdom that is linked to such high offices.
Leaders such as President Kagame can be said to be well ahead of their of peers in as far as preparing for future responsibilities within the EAC.
It is said that by the year 2012, as the EAC federation gathers steam, there is serious thinking going on that the virtual community of the worldwide web becomes a serious alternative to the traditional channels for articulating issues that are well known to old school politicians.
People aged below 40 form over 60 per cent of the EAC population. This is the demographic that is most active on the Internet, least tribalised and most likely to fall for ideas over other narrow dimensions in life, according to popular opinion within media.
You can see how a leader like President Kagame will be able to sell his ideas easily over and above the other leaders when the issue of federating the EAC comes to pass.
The author is an editor with The New Times