As usual, I found Ochieng’s article in this week’s ‘East African’ very fascinating. My fascination was not so much about his unfailingly sharp knowledge of the origin of peoples and their languages, as it was about the revelations the article exposed.
Philip Ocheing, as I’ve said in this column before, is a perennial Kenyan scribe, who seems to have been writing since the birth of Son-of-God, Jesus Christ himself!
In the said article, Ochieng is musing over the implications of Muammar Gaddafi’s (or Qadhaffy, or….?) utterances, when the Libyan leader called for the disbandment of the Helvetic Republic…..
Pardon the diversion, but it was interesting to learn from Ochieng that the Libyan Jamahiriya, typical of the complication of ‘trans-literating’ Arabic into English, is otherwise spelt ‘Gomhouriya’.
And that, it is from whence that springs the Kiswahili word ‘Jamhuri’, which is translated as ‘Republic’ in English. So, like ‘Libyan Gomhouriya’, we can say ‘Rwanda Gomhouriya’….
But I was talking about the Helvetic Gomhouriya. O, rather; the Helvetic Republic. The “Helvetic Republic”, I am told, refers to the ‘tiny’ central European state of Switzerland.
In short, the upshot of Al-Qadafi’s assertion is that the Swiss nation is not a nation – and Philip agrees and gives a long-winded but exhaustive answer.
Which answer revealed to me the enormous size of this nation, Rwanda, whose ‘tinniness’ has been drummed into our heads for so long that we’ve taken it for a fact.
It is true; most of us don’t bother to take time to understand the difference between ‘state’ and ‘nation’. Interestingly, though, the difference is vast.
As I understand it, whereas a state is created by man, a nation can only be created by God and man has no control over its coming into being.
My Wikipedia encyclopaedia, tells me a state is a political association with effective internal and external sovereignty over a geographical area and population.
In our case, then, it means that the colonialist was the ‘creator’ of the state of Rwanda.
The colonialist sat around a table in Berlin and looked at a map and carved out this portion of land and gave it borders and said: “Henceforth, thou shalt be called Rwanda, the land of Banyarwanda. Go ye and feed thy people, for thou art independent of others’ influence, Amen.”
Yet, alas, that was not so. The land of Banyarwanda stretched much further to the north, east, south and the west. In fact, the land of Banyarwanda had no discernible limits and was only bounded by the heavens!
In the north it stretched into Bufumbira, Bwisha and beyond; in the east into Karagwe and beyond; in the south into Burundi and beyond and in the west, into South Kivu and beyond.
And in these lands, the Banyarwanda still live, whatever appellations these same lands may have been assigned.
Again, my trusted Wikipedia encyclopaedia tells me that a nation is a people, a breed, a stock, a kind or a species.
I understand that to mean a people who speak the same language, share the same culture, etc., as, indeed, the Banyarwanda do.
That, then, means that the nation of Rwanda is spread over the state of Rwanda, and not only over the states neighbouring Rwanda, but further into the distant Diaspora.
In fact, there are portions of the nation of Rwanda in states as equidistant as Japan and Canada, Finland and Fiji land. In Africa, few nations can rival the magnitude of the nation of Rwanda.
The Oromo in the area of Ethiopia are quoted as the biggest nation at 29 million, but actually speak varied languages and have different cultures and are, therefore, not a nation.
The Hausa and the Yoruba of West Africa at 28 and 27 million respectively may be the only ones likely to surpass the Banyarwanda in number as true nations.
Our neighbouring states are formed by stitched-together nations that would make the tower of Babel green with envy. In fact, sometimes the states are amalgamations of so diverse nations, that some are called immigrants in their own states!
Some nations in these states have even threatened to ‘ring-fence’ their areas so as to be impervious to members of other nations.
As for Rwanda, we welcome members of our nation with open arms. Of course, we’d be even happier if these members were sent back to us with their land!
Whatever the case, the Banyarwanda are happy to live with any nation, and all the nations of the world, in our state or theirs. The important thing is that we live in harmony, and work together to harness all our energies for the progress of all.
Unleash the energy of the people and there will be nothing tiny about them. Switzerland, nation-less as it is, is not tinier than D.R. Congo, nay, sub-Saharan Africa.
Who calls nation-state Rwanda tiny, errs.