As I watched people fall over themselves as they jostled to be the first to embrace Rwanda last weekend, I couldn’t help feeling a tinge of pity for one ashen, little old man.
Poor wee professor, Yash Pal Ghai, in which corner of this increasingly tiny globe is he cringing? But first, and best, news first!
Last weekend President Paul Kagame didn’t have a winking moment.
Before he could put down the phone after a hot message of congratulations from Kamalesh Sharma, Secretary General of the Commonwealth, it was ringing itself almost off the hook, impatiently waiting to be picked.
However, before the President could pick it up, someone was edgily knocking at the door, as if doomsday itself was at his heels.
At the door was a breathless Claude Guéant, chief of staff of the French presidency, begging President Kagame to pick up the phone: it was President Nicolas Sarkozy on the line.
So, hot on the heels of joining the Commonwealth, Rwanda was being asked to restore ties with France. Which restoration of ties she does not mind accepting, as long as it is on her terms. France has at last seen that light, and it is as it should be.
As equal sovereign states, Rwanda and France will do business.
And Rwanda means exactly that – business. It is good that President Sarkozy has seen that in her actions, search for alliances and dealings with organisations and countries, Rwanda is strictly out for business.
And as long as today’s global language of business is English, Rwanda will speak English. Still, Rwanda takes Francophonie and the Commonwealth as welcome bedfellows in business.
Of course, in her concerted search for global opportunities, she will not stop at looking West and North. No, she will look south and east, and even tomorrow speak Mandarin if it becomes the language of business.
The Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Baldauf puts it aptly when he says: “This pair of diplomatic victories is a major coup for Rwanda’s pro-business President Paul Kagame….[whose wish is to turn the] country into a business and information centre for East Africa”.
It should be clear then that Rwanda is determined to make dependency on the hoe a thing of the past, through whatever path.
Scott Baldauf again: “Rwanda portrays its official shift from French to English as a matter of economic necessity, a needed tool in the business world, rather than a rejection of….French.”
In Rwanda, then, we are in the business of doing business, not entertaining sentimentalities.
The pitiful Yash Ghai may as well eat his heart out, because last Saturday 28th Rwanda became the 54th member of the Commonwealth on the very grounds he had trashed. Rwanda was admitted as a fully fledged democracy.
In fact, on top of its being democratic, as Nicolas Sarkozy says through his envoy, “Rwanda has a big role to play in [the] region in development and security and it is also an example of good governance in the whole of Africa.”
So, who would not scramble to be associated with Rwanda?
There are many cynics, of course, including, surprisingly, Will Ross of BBC. Ross thought Rwanda was struggling to acquire English ways so as to join the Commonwealth and thus snub France.
He gives an example of a game of cricket he saw in Rwanda, as if a Francophone cannot use a bat!
Unfortunately, the careless lecturers of Rwanda also seem to derive pleasure in putting Rwandans to shame and exposing them to enemies’ ridicule.
Ross was given anxiously-awaited reason to regale in the failed efforts of our lecturers when he saw a message on the notice-board of a university.
Surely, if any of our lecturers cannot translate a text, there is always a colleague near who can.
The message on the notice-board: “Your reintegration will be conditioned by a written forgiveness request and the engagement to confirm yourself to the university based on ethic values.”
I just hope Joseph Rwagatare, the New Times Tuesday columnist, does not see this. I fear he might commit suicide! That message to an errant student, for instance, can hardly be understood because of the French interference in the English language.
Yet if the lecturer had given the note to an Anglophone colleague first, the latter would have put it into simple language. Rwandans should learn to cooperate, whatever their acquired languages.
In simple but correct English, that message would have read: “The condition for your re-admission will be a written apology. You must also pledge to uphold ethical values of the university.”
But no, a Francophone will do it in the floppy way they know, just to spite an Anglophone colleague. It is the same with an Anglophone to his Francophone colleague, yet the two know that they are both Rwandophone, and that other acquired ‘phones’ are secondary.
It is incumbent upon Rwandans to learn to reap from the richness of their diversity.
Only then will they be able to reap from this variety of opportunities that is expanding by leaps and bounds.