Rwanda: A foreign guest’s insight into its ethos

If thinking is difficult, then writing must be even more challenging. Due to this and the need to read more in depth and consult where possible, this article has been long in coming.

If thinking is difficult, then writing must be even more challenging. Due to this and the need to read more in depth and consult where possible, this article has been long in coming.

An attempt by an outsider to study Rwanda is very difficult for a variety of reasons. Firstly though not exclusively; Rwanda’s past is mired in extreme sorrow, untold anguish, and inexplicable grief.

Secondly, an outsider usually carries the baggage of mere academic and impersonal interest.

Lastly, history as a concept and subject is forever the battleground of truth having to share with myth, allusions, distortions, blatant lies and unnecessary power plays.

My interest in the current debate to put Rwanda’s past, especially the Genocide episode, in the right historical perspective, was first aroused by a broad analysis appearing in Uganda’s Sunday Vision of August 17, 2008.

Here the paper was carrying excerpts from The Guardian and The Economist. Then there has been a series of articles in The New Times of Rwanda.

The thrust was the Mucyo Commission report on France’s role during the Rwanda Genocide. It variously referred to the ensuing French denials as a game of ping pong or blame game.

The said report is itself a reaction to the indictment of Rwandan leaders by a French judge, Bruguire, over alleged complicity in the 1994 Genocide.

The questions that must then naturally follow are: What happened in Rwanda in 1994? Who planned it? How was it planned?

Why were they allowed to get that far? Has the world learnt any lessons from this? Have Rwandans got over this? If so, how have they managed this, and why?

Consequently, we need to ask what we ordinary citizens of the world can do to help Rwanda. Indeed, Rwanda has done more than enough for itself.

One wonders how blacklisting of the current Rwandan leaders will add value to the Rwandese quest to claim its rightful place in the family of nations, economically, socially, politically. The observable pride of the Rwandese must be harnessed and encouraged by any well-meaning persons.

As top Brand Rwanda salesman Francis Gatare aptly puts it in the epic documentary on Rwanda: “the Rwandese were on their knees… but are now confident and determined to make it among the family of nations of the world.”

When the history of modern day Rwanda is finally written, students of marketing will surely marvel as to how it took a short time to craft a winning BRAND RWANDA.

In the marketing process, it takes quite something to achieve brand equity, dominance, and recognition the way Rwanda has in the words of a charming Rwandese, Rosette Rugamba.

“When you make a difference in the lives of Rwandese you are also making a difference in yourself. When in ten years or even nearer when we will be celebrating the success of Rwanda you will feel you were part of it.”

A people so ready to pull themselves by their own bootstraps must not be distracted by whimsical indictment from whatever quarter.

Fortunately this subject of universal justice has been  dealt with at length elsewhere by many people and I can’t  add more to it.

Mine is to celebrate the beauty of Rwanda; its people, its fabled charming women [fortunately it’s not a myth], its breathtaking hills, its scent, its magic. You have to experience its pulse, unique throb and swagger to believe it.

Yet on another plane Rwanda is writing history as a great preserver of the African spirit. It has taken its case against the indictments to the African Union and won.

It is fighting to get custody of the Arusha, (ICTR) archives and in this way stop Africa from being the perpetual ground for ‘collecting only’.

Africa must also hold custody to some of its heritage. Rwanda’s quest to build a brave new future out of the 1994 pogroms is indeed a master-piece of Africa’s social heritage.

The words of Bill Clinton: “Rwanda, without denying where it has been, is looking toward where it can go and what it can become.”

Rwanda with an aggressively proud human resource base is praised to be the Switzerland of Africa. President Kagame has promised “political value systems to create an enabling environment for development.”

This will move it from what Andrew Young, former US ambassador to the UN, once called “valley of dry bones”, to an economic power house. The rest of Africa must share in Rwanda’s renaissance with common pride.

Rwanda has done well by joining the EAC and is poised to join the Commonwealth. This way it may exert positive peer pressure on the rest of us to believe in action and not mere words.

We must go beyond advocacy. We must believe in a meritorious system, and Rwanda is showing us. All of us need to appreciate our deficiencies and see how to bridge them.

I yearn for a time when our countries will be run as corporate entities with our political leaders as managers thereof.

Then they will realise that the citizens are the shareholders who not only deserve quality service but also profits. Let no one be ashamed to learn from Rwanda.

The Rwandans are neither ashamed of themselves nor mesmerised by others. They only welcome you to join them in building their beautiful country.

On this front they deserve the support of any friend who would enable them cut the shackles of cruel colonial legacies.

They need to be joined in warding off petty distraction from those running away from their murky shadows. It  is cruel to subject a country to the painful legacy that the colonial masters left in Rwanda  and then attempt  to  launder yourself at their expense.

The enemies of Rwanda, however powerful, must be named and shamed. Those who connived to bring it to ashes  must be tracked  down  and  punished  in the fullness of time.

The theology of reconstruction is a theme that runs through the Bible from Moses to Nehemiah through the millennial reign of Jesus.

As such Rwanda becomes a case study in historical perspectives as it is in socio-economic and political spheres.

Let us never come to this beautiful country then go back to our lands and recoil to empty talk, cheap propaganda, and perpetual procrastination. Let us deconstruct the lessons so that we can use them for the good of our own lands.

Rwanda has come a long way since the production of the movie Hotel Rwanda. The world should not be stuck where Cheadle left us in this epic film. Indeed Cheadle must come and do a sequel which will read, sound and look very different.

Though heavy with Rwandaphilia, this piece is not an empty apology. There is nothing that I owe Rwandans, except genuine and wholesome recognition of the beauty of their resolve and the majesty of their undying spirit.

The writer is head of special projects, Impact Communications Group, East and Central Africa.


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