You don’t have to put on the red light

THE ‘flat-screen’ traffic lights are finally with us and judging from the preview that Kigali’s commuters witnessed for a day or two last week, they’re a lot smarter than the traffic lights we had in the past that used a simple timer mechanism with no concession to traffic flow patterns. There is something hypnotic about counting down the changing of lights with the flat-screen rather than the usual unflinching stare at the analog traffic lights of the past.
Oscar Kabbatende
Oscar Kabbatende

THE ‘flat-screen’ traffic lights are finally with us and judging from the preview that Kigali’s commuters witnessed for a day or two last week, they’re a lot smarter than the traffic lights we had in the past that used a simple timer mechanism with no concession to traffic flow patterns. There is something hypnotic about counting down the changing of lights with the flat-screen rather than the usual unflinching stare at the analog traffic lights of the past.

In other uplifting news of the tech variety, Rwandair’s new Boeing 737-800 jet with Africa’s only ‘sky interior’ is finally in the country. I have no idea what a ‘sky interior’ is but it sounds very fancy. In my mind, I see I-pad-like touch screens that are fully connected to the net as well as hooked up to in-flight entertainment and massage seats. This description is probably unrealistic but it gives you an idea of the impressions of technological progress that the delivery of the new Boeing planes creates.

Meantime on the football front, the thrashing of the Wasps by the Elephants of Ivory Coast was a return to the dark days of underachievement. I’m also reliably informed by those that know these statistics that last Saturday’s 5-0 loss was the heaviest home defeat Rwanda has ever suffered.

It was a decisive end to any lingering continental aspirations given the Wasps’ dismal campaign. Time to begin plotting for the World Cup and African Cup of Nations in 2014. Maybe, just maybe, the next campaigns will be successful even though I would not hold my breath. If there is anything last week showed, it is that while transportation seems to be on the right path to Vision 2020, national football went back in time to 1998 when Uganda defeated Rwanda 5-0 at Nakivubo stadium in Kampala.

In North Africa, some of the Qaddafi clan crossed to Algeria while the colonel and sons were fighting a rear-guard action and taunting the new masters of Libya, the Transitional National Council [TNC].

Some commentators have compared his desperate resistance to Saddam Hussein’s disappearing act in 2003. But I think there’s something more Bin Laden-ish about Colonel Qaddafi, what with the way he keeps sending audio messages. Qaddafi’s friends in the African Union refused to accept the obvious and voted against recognising the TNC. This means that the TNC cannot participate in any AU meetings and is only recognised by some countries in Africa. Rwanda is the only EAC country to recognise the TNC and, with Ethiopia, the only country in this region to do so.

While there are troubling signs coming out of Tripoli like xenophobic attacks on migrant black workers and the ransacking of the Kenyan Embassy, the refusal to recognise the new leaders of Libya is not based on any of these developments but rather a fear that doing so would legitimise armed struggle backed by wealthy western nations. The Arab Spring seems to have gotten African leaders worried. This year has been eventful in North Africa and the Middle East and there has been some loss of perspective as a result. The Arab spring only brought down the Tunisian and Egyptian leaders out of a possible 20. Yemen doesn’t count because while the President left due to injuries sustained in an attack on his palace, the country is currently ruled by the Vice-President of the very same regime. Egypt and Tunisia may have been repressive but at least they bothered to create some facade of democracy.

The hardliners in the region are still in power, having survived a few wobbles, and with the exception of Syria, things seem to have cooled down. Qaddafi was brought down when the Arab League called for a no-fly zone. It was all downhill for Qaddafi after that. African dictators should not fear the TNC, they should instead learn from Qaddafi’s mistakes and make sure that they maintain friendly relations with countries and organisations in their immediate vicinity, make a few cosmetic concessions at the hint of trouble or make sweeping concessions with no intention of honouring them and quietly crack down on demonstrators [preferably at night without any cameras]. Rather than refusing to recognise the TNC, these actions should give the average dictator a few more years in power.

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