I still cannot come over the pain of having listened to Rwandan refugees who opt for continued exile over obscure reasons like ‘lack of democracy’ in their abandoned country. I still have in mind the stories I heard on the BBC ‘Imvo n’Imvano’ programme of 26th June 2011.
If she is not parroting what a Politician put in her ear, can the illiterate old woman in the programme articulate what that ‘lack of democracy’ is? Because, sincerely, I personally cannot aver that I understand the notion of democracy.
Like that old lady, I’m sure, what I know is the kind of life I want to lead in the society that I live in. I want to live in a society that allows me to be fully human.
To be fully human, I want to be able to fulfil my social, economic, cultural and any other aspirations. In fulfilling my aspirations, however, I know that I have no right to infringe on the rights of others.
In the context of a government, therefore, I want one that I participate in forming and that enables me to explore my aspirations and to protect my rights.
Now, suppose Mukecuru (that old lady) changes her mind and decides to return home. Considering the history of Rwanda as a country, let’s suppose that she is innocent of any crime.
Most likely, the government of Rwanda will put a bus – or even plane – at her disposal, or collaborate with any concerned NGO (like UNHCR) if it is unable on its own. Once in a reception centre, the returning refugees will be asked to name their places of origin and be assisted to settle there after confirmation.
Mukecuru and her similarly rehabilitated refugees will be assisted to settle in. This, for her, will mean being assisted to secure all her property that may have been appropriated by others during her absence.
However, in her case, it’ll mean more. Instead of being placed back in the ‘nyakatsi’ (grass-thatched) house that she left, she’ll be placed in a house that has a brick/iron roof.
And she’ll not only be put back on the same land-holding she left – she’ll be given a ‘girinka’ cow that will give her milk to improve her diet and fertilisers to improve her land.
After harvesting the first crop, Mukecuru will be able to join the ‘mutuelles de santé’ insurance scheme and practically pay a song to access any health service.
Moreover, she’ll not trek the kilometres-on-kilometres that she used to sweat over to reach the nearest health centre, one having been built nearer.
Maybe she’ll have bought herself a mobile phone with the first harvest, in which case she’ll even be able to ‘beep’ a health officer who’ll bring an ambulance to whisk her to an appropriate health facility.
Now in top form, Mukecuru will decide to try out this changed ‘muganda’ on the last Saturday of the month. There, she’ll join others in cleaning and environment-conservation activities.
After that, she’ll stand or sit with others to discuss the problems of the community and the benefits of belonging to the many programmes, like Umurenge SACCO co-operatives.
Hearing criticisms of Government from community members, she’ll point out the negative points and how they can be rectified.
Knowing what she missed while in exile, she’ll work extra hard and save literally every penny. Within a few years, she’ll be able to buy a number of chickens, goats or any animal she may fancy.
With income from these, she’ll be able to build herself a spacious stone-house and have electricity and running water installed. She’ll then buy another parcel of land to increase her acreage.
Now desiring someone to inherit her property, she’ll resolve to go to the jungles of D.R. Congo for her son. After all, she’ll have seen many hardcore génocidaires who confessed their crimes and were freed after only a few years of community service, ‘Tig’.
She’ll have seen many FDLR members who renounced the terrorist organisation and came home and were re-integrated into the national army or the Rwandan society, whatever they chose
In fact, knowing that in 1994 her son was only in primary school, Mukecuru will advise him to drop everything and go back to school, and similarly advise his fellow returnees.
She’ll know that without knowledge from any of the mushrooming technical colleges and universities, these fellows will have no way of fitting in this fast-changing world.
Of course, she’ll first have flaunted her maturely-acquired smattering-knowledge of English to them to whet their hunger for knowledge! “Bana banjye,” she’ll have explained to them, “biri ‘important’ kwiga.”
That will be emphasising the importance of education to ‘her’ young generation, but she’ll have peppered her utterance with a triumphant exhibition of her knowledge of the English word, “important”.
Democracy is such conditions that enable your free and equal practice of political determination. It is when the weight of your vote is equal to that of anybody else’s and no restrictions can be exerted against you if you seek to serve your people.
Democracy is when your freedom is secured by legitimised rights and liberties that are protected by the constitution.
The above are guaranteed, of course, as long as you do not violate anybody’s rights in any way.
Mukecu, seek democracy from nowhere else.