Day after tomorrow, Sunday July 1, will remind us all of the Sunday fifty years ago when Rwanda got her independence – unfortunately! That’s why it should be a day for reflection, as a trusty voice has observed. That independence placed Rwandans at the crossroads.
They could climb back towards their originally hopeful destination. Or they could descend further towards the definitely tragic destination bequeathed them by colonialism. Interestingly, where you’d think our emerging elite would have been unanimous on their option, they were divided. That, indeed, calls for intense scrutiny and insightful thought.
How did it come about that Rwandans no longer spoke with one voice?
As a colony, Rwanda was not allowed to exist as a full entity. She was governed as an appendage of another colony. As Ruanda-Urundi, Rwanda and Burundi were governed as some kind of Siamese-twin appendages. Apart from the two peoples having colonialists determine their destinies, their destinies were appendage-tied to the destiny of another colony, Belgian Congo (tell you something about today’s accusations?), to serve it and its master.
Rwandans were turned into non-entities and, unfortunately, some saw it as befitting. Belgians in Rwanda, therefore, had no reason to engage the natives (so-called ‘indigènes’). Their concern was to manage them and make sure they obeyed laws passed in Leopoldville (today’s Kinshasa). This they did by using them to implement the laws on themselves.
When some Rwandans saw through this evil intent and put up resistance, those leading the resistance were swiftly banished. King Musinga, at the helm in Rwanda at the time, comes to mind. In the early 1930s, Belgians banished him to Kamembe inside Rwanda but soon realised their folly, as he continued to receive allegiance from his people. They sent him further across the border and into Belgian Congo, there never to return.
To totally cut any following of what he stood for, they devised a strategy to divide Rwanda. Concentrated on their division effort, therefore, they could not develop the country. Not politically, not socially, not economically, not in any way – not that they had the will, in the first place, of course. A semblance of such work was put in the hands of the Catholic Church, which appeased the country’s hungry stomachs and minds with “Blessed are the poor”. Rwandans thus closed their eyes and prayed, only to open them to further the work of colonialists in dividing them.
But sane voices had not been hoodwinked and the colonialists knew it. So, as independence fever gripped Africa, colonial leaders were honing their division machine. A machine that culminated in the killing through poisoning of King Rudahigwa, successor to Musinga, in 1959. To them, he was the head of the independence-agitating beast. All ‘beasts’ thought to be associated with him were branded not only enemies of Rwanda but of the world.
In their wisdom, of course, they did not use the term “beasts”. They used “communists” to capture the threat – the plague – that “the world”’ was faced with. And – you guessed right – “the world” was in capital letters: “The Western World”!
Yes, in 1962, independence for Rwanda came to a divided people. Colonialists were comfortable in the knowledge that their continued influence was assured by their converted lieutenants, even if by proxy. And they had galvanised “world” support for them. The lieutenants could not but opt for the “world-supported” route.
But the sane voices that constituted the majority knew that was a suicidal route to take. And that was truly a crossroads for Rwanda.
The rest, as the cliché goes, is history. History so bad that in 1994 Rwandans sank to “that place that exists at the final limit of destructive human experience. Genocide is that place.”
But game changers had hit the scene and the sane voices in their majority answered the call and all together kicked off the small cozened clique and picked the pieces. Today, out of those pieces of a lost century-plus has been moulded a nation that’s respected among nations of the world.
From that “final limit of destructive human experience”, when they had one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel, Rwandans have risen to reach the summit of the foundation along which travels the level path to real development. Compared to the protracted trek up, this should ride like a smooth downhill glide.
So, Rwandans, “Burya si buno!” (The folly of the past is conquered). The enemy is about and he is strong. For, you know it well, you are pitted against “the world”. From North America to Europe, the enemy is all over your people dividing them. And all over your neighbours setting them against you. So, ‘no-democracy abuses’ and ‘leaks of involvement’ will never cease.
But, sane of Rwanda, take heart. History is on your side. A people united is a people unbreakable.
Or else there wouldn’t have been a Japan, a Vietnam for USA. There wouldn’t have been an Algeria for France. Or, come to think of it, nearer home – no, home! – there wouldn’t have been a Zone Turquoise. When it comes to defending your destiny and your dignity, you are capable of taking a Waterloo to “the world”.
Ignore the noise and diversion and let the beat of development not falter. Push the envelope and burst progress through the stars. All ye, come together. For it’s all hands on deck.
An Independence Day full of thought and a Liberation Day full of joy to you all!