Two opposing actions involving young Rwandans occurred late last month, both of which seem to have shocked many. First, a policeman attached to Kigali International Airport proved that some Rwandan youths cherish integrity and reliability even in the face of some of the most irresistible temptations.
Frank Bizimungu found a waist purse containing a staggering US$40,000 (about Rwf24 million) stuck inside an airport scanner, and having ascertained the contents of the bag, he looked for the owner in vain, and decided to hand it to his superiors, intact.
The management of the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) hurriedly went on with the search to locate the owner of the money, who was later traced in a Brussels-bound flight, ready for takeoff. It turned out that the owner of the money was a British national who had no clue about the missing dollars.
Later, CAA rightly organised a small event to recognise police constable Bizimungu for his noble action, awarding him Rwf 300,000, plus a certificate of appreciation.
Surprisingly, this exemplary young Rwandan, in his 20s, looked shocked and overwhelmed by CAA’s gesture, insisting he had done nothing out of the ordinary because “I was only executing my duties.” He confessed both the reward and public recognition he had received had, by far, surpassed his “imagination”.
Perhaps he had no idea his honesty had surpassed the imagination of many who heard about his action. For a young man to willingly return $24 million when he could have chosen to take it without anyone suspecting him, it was always going to confound anyone, even the most demanding employers.
It’s a shame that some youths think that Frank Bizimungu should have kept the money. It didn’t matter how much it was, the money was someone else’s, and what Bizimungu did is what every individual is expected to do. He did the right thing.
Many in his generation who gladly welcomed the police constable’s level of honesty. Others say it was a sign that the Rwandan youth are living true to their cultural values. “Maybe it would have been less significant if the person involved was elderly,” said a man in his mid 50s.
The other action from young Rwandans came on the night of the finals of Primus Guma Guma Superstar (PGGSS), a three-month music competition organised by the main local brewery, Bralirwa, a fortnight ago. Until then, all had been well with the competition, having attracted the cream of local artistes, with only four making it to the final, thanks to their superior votes from the general public.
However, this reputation was tarnished when some spectators turned violent at the climax, pelting stones at Tom Close as soon as he was announced the winner. The Medical student was not even allowed a chance to thank his fans as he was rescued from insanity by security personnel.
What a sad ending to a noble, uplifting initiative designed to help boost the country’s emerging entertainment industry! In every contest, there’s always going to be a loser.
It was, therefore, stupid and childish of those who sought to violently express their disapproval of the declared winner, even when there have been suspicions of foul play. I know of no similar behaviour from local music fans before, and I hope we will not see the same in the future.
Rwanda is a country is transition. And the ultimate outcome of this process will, by far, depend on the youth. Over the past few years, so much have been invested in efforts designed to inculcate Rwandan values among the young people, following decades of consistent erosion of our traditions as a nation.
Thanks to such civic programmes as Itorero, young Rwandans are increasingly starting to uphold and cherish Rwanda’s rich culture, which demand high levels of integrity, truthfulness and respect.
In Bizimungu’s actions we see a possible emergency of a generation that will seek to draw inspiration from their country’s decent cultural practices to build a stronger nation.
There are thousands of similar deeds by young Rwandans across the country. Just three weeks ago, a visiting Ugandan friend forgot her mobile phone at The Grill, a hang-out joint in Kacyiru, and when I suggested that we make a U-turn and pick it, she laughed at me saying no waiter/waitress can be honest enough to return clients’ missing possessions.
When we got there, she could not believe her eyes, as this waitress, seemingly sighing relief, excitedly handed her the phone.
Sometimes we take such actions for granted. They need recognition, not ridicule, as some people did with regard to Bizimungu’s honesty. Throwing stones, whether on people or their houses should be frowned upon by everyone.
On Twitter @JMunyaneza