This week I am supposed to attend a very special event. Peter Kigame, a security director at MTN, as well as a free-lance movie producer is showcasing his newest piece, a 3-hour movie depicting the story of the Rwandan refugees in Uganda.
Only that I had to send him a text message asking for directions and he never wrote back. In fact, upon checking the phone, I found that it never even sent my message. I try again, nothing. I have enough airtime but the airtime stays the same. The message never sent. I try again and again, nothing.
So I never got to the movie premier. Instead, I am sitting at home, writing this column. I here-by officially request the presence of MTN Rwanda President Themba Khumalo at the High Courts of Nyarugenge, where the affairs of my girlfriend and I may soon be playing out. I call upon him not as witness, but as conspirator in a plan to sabotage my love life.
Furthermore, I, Josh Kron, here-by call upon MTN Rwanda President Themba Khumalo to stand before me and my web designer, as well as me and my commercial lawyer, me and my band-mates, and anyone else I have ever had to speak with over a cell phone. All of them have been riddled and ridiculed by the bullets of dropped connections, inconsistent coverage, and worst of all, failed text messages.
It is the text messages, the ones that say they got sent but never got sent, that have had the most lasting effect on my life in Rwanda, especially with my girl-friend. Either they never get sent, or they miraculously appear, like bottles thrown into an ocean, days later on the other end of the network on her phone.
But it’s too late, the fight has already commenced. The mis-understandings, the mis-communications, the missed text messages. It has never caused a fight, but many, many times MTN has helped escalate them. What happens when you are trying to make up over the phone and the connection drops out like the bottom of a bucket?
You call back and call back, but it doesn’t go through. Try then sending a text message, telling her sweetly, gently, oh darling I love you so. Please baby, I will say, let’s try to work things out.
But that message will never arrive, in fact, as I have found out so recently, sometimes my messages don’t even get sent, and sometimes even MTN is kind enough to still take my Frw55.
Or what about last night, when I had an appointment to meet with my web designer at 8 p.m., at his flat in town. I was a couple of minutes late and when I got there his lights were on, but his door was locked and no one was inside.
I sent him three text messages last night, telling him that I am outside. Of course, when I tried to call, it didn’t work either. Well, he never got those text messages, only God and MTN know why, and he thought I never showed up.
So it is the lifestyle of the rich and famous in Rwanda; the companies which have made it to the top, and the gloating, smiling, slow and fat business suits heading these companies who just can’t help but love the feel of being ‘the big man.’
Unfortunately, being a ‘big man’ in Rwanda, be it an individual or an entire company such as MTN or Kenya Airways, means disregarding the ‘little man.’
“Oh why must I pay attention to your petty complaints,” will say the big man behind the desk, “I am busy with many things.”
Or, will say MTN, “why must I be bothered with your silly dropped calls and text messages which were never sent, you will give us your money anyways, because we are the best available.”
There is a fine line in Rwanda between “best” and “only.” And I’ll say it right here and right now, the minute a worthy competitor arrives in Rwanda, as soon as this ghostly, mythical 3rd telecom operator arrives, I will be jumping ship. I mean the first day they arrive, I will be switching services.
I don’t mean to speak for everyone, I can only speak for myself and people that have had similar experiences. So really I am speaking for everyone.