Last week was a week of high profile visits with President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo (more commonly known as “Congo-Brazzaville”) and the Permanent Representative of the USA to the UN, Susan Rice, dropping in for a few days.
Local reports spoke of potential business deals involving the export of products from Inyange Industries while the visiting President preferred to stick to wider issues of pan-africanism and the close bilateral relations between the two countries.
Before Rwandair started flying to Brazzaville, the aggregate of these ‘close relations’ was a visit by Congolese maestro Zao [the one who sang “Ancien combattant”, google/bing it if you haven’t heard it] five or six years ago.
We never visited or traded with each other or even showed any particular interest in each other’s affairs until last year.
Now it’s a love-fest with Presidential visits exchanged and direct flights to each other’s capitals.
Relations with the DRC have improved immeasurably within the last 3 years but one gets the feeling that Kigali and Kinshasa have relegated each other to the friend zone. Given the weight of mutual history, this does not come as a shock.
Ambassador Rice is a familiar face on the continent having mediated in the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict, witnessing the heart attack that killed Nigerian President-Elect Mohmood Abiola (he won the Presidential elections in 1993 but was denied power by General Ibrahim Babangida who annulled the results) and controversially wondering what the implications of US inaction would be on November Congressional elections in 1994 if they declared that the genocide in Rwanda was indeed a genocide.
As it turned out the Democrats lost both houses that year despite the caution in deed and word while she, like President Clinton, later apologised for US inaction during Rwanda’s time of need.
When she flew into Kigali this time, a lot of my views on the Ambassador had been formed by an appearance on the Colbert Report in August, which meant that I kept hoping she would repeat her witty performance.
An unrealistic hope of course but it says something about the power of television that my expectations were formed around about 5 minutes in a show that pokes fun at politics. Rwanda Television would do well to emulate.
The rumours doing the rounds on Facebook last week were of an alarming nature. The man who brought us the closure of Papyrus and then introduced us to bikini economics (less is more] had put an 11pm curfew on every bar, club and restaurant in the district of Gasabo.
A later article in The New Times that interviewed the Mayor, Mr. Willy Ndizeye, showed that it was not a wholesale attempt to restrict the hours of revellers but rather a measure targeting specific establishments “that cause insecurity to the neighbourhood!” [his exclamation].
The concept of ‘insecurity’ in this country is an uncomfortably large one, ranging from firefights to an over-speeding motorcycle so maybe on second view the upcoming 11pm curfew is wider ranging than the Mayor’s words would have us believe.
Nyarugenge and Kicukiro districts may soon become the refuge of the sleepless from Gasabo because at 11pm it will be lights-out in a lot of places in that district. The question that is not being asked is whether there will be a proportional reduction in taxes and district dues now that these places are restricted to about 5 working hours per night.