Today is the day after the 4-day weekend. Time to switch from weekend mode to work week mode and perhaps for an hour or two today, the transition may be a challenging one.
Coming after such a long weekend, anyone seeking a service, public or private, is well-advised to postpone that trip, unless absolutely necessary, to the Bank or Government Office by at least a day until the huge crowd that will surely be there has dispersed a little.
Having just celebrated independence and liberation someone forgot to tell us all that we’re now living in a workers’ paradise, the socialist state.
Of course I write this in jest, Rwanda does not really have a command economy neither is it a single party state but it does have one thing that plagued countries that put their faith in Karl Marx – queues. Getting anything done in this country, right from the moment that you leave your home and try to get a bus, requires patience by the bucketful as you will very likely get held up in a queue. Ours is a nation where too many have to be served by too few.
The silver lining to this is that it has done wonders for my reading habits as I can never go anywhere without a book to while away the time and I suppose the fact that people are queuing rather than mobbing – remember the unholy scrum at Rubangura for buses? - shows that Rwandans have become more orderly as the years have gone by. For all this, queuing is a time-consuming and frustrating experience and as a suggestion some of the ICT genius coming out of our schools should be dedicated to inventing cheap software that could help our service providers remove the necessity to queue. Who knows maybe this software could even be used to solve more capitalist issues like traffic jams [the police try their best but they are often overwhelmed].
In Rwanda, any place of dining, entertainment or recreation is likely to jump through several regulatory hoops relating to sanitation, noise or effect on environment and will be subject to inspections from local officials at least once a year. Oddly enough Churches seem to get a pass on compliance with many of the requirements that are de rigeur for any other public place. They are often not soundproofed and I cannot recall seeing a restroom in any of the places of worship that I’ve visited. Whether the leniency results from the fact that they do not exist for profit [ostensibly at least] or a certain reverence to the Almighty from regulators who ascribe holiness to these places, we can never be sure.
Which is why the story of local authorities in the district of Gicumbi barring people from worshipping on the banks of Rusumo River came as a bit of a shock. Residents claimed that the bank was sacred and that those who prayed at the banks received blessings from God. Tell that to the worshipper who fell into the river and drowned during night time prayers inspiring the ban of worship on the river. Unlike the churches that I mentioned earlier, this was just a public space used by believers so it would not be subject to the same rules as a built-up church. That said, from the point of view of public safety, the local authorities did the correct thing but when it was mentioned that they were thinking of sending patrols to ensure that none of the worshippers went to the river on the sly, it all started to slide into the realm of religious persecution. It is one thing to bar people from a place for their own safety, it is quite another to use valuable law enforcement resources in seeking out the stubborn. This co
untry still has a constitution that guarantees freedom of movement, assembly and worship.