After agonizing over what the most important social issue in Rwanda is, I have finally settled on friendship.
Take it from me that true friendship is rare nowadays. However, fair-weather acquaintances are flourishing. In my social roving, I am amazed by the ease with which apparently cheerful buddies start back-biting each other without a shred of shame or modesty.
“He is not all that; he is just another fool!” a member of a pair of friends may say when the other has gone, say, to the loo.
I dread meeting and socializing with individual members of seemingly close-knit friendships, for I am tired of listening to their gibberish and petty jealousies.
Typically, individual A will tell you about person B, and in turn, C will tell you about both A and B.
The combination of new “revelations” and character “assassinations” will certainly change when you meet persons A and C together as they jointly demonise, B!
But when you meet all the masquerades together they will all socialize decently without a hint of their mutual hatred for each other. This, my friends, is the Rwandan brand of friendship.
In my social roving, I meet many pretenders of camaraderie who sing glowing praise of their acquaintances when things are alright. But at the first whiff of trouble they often forsake these friends faster than Peter betrayed Jesus.
If, for example, a friend is hospitalised, his or her clubbing chums may be at their most talkative, offering theories as to what their mate could be ailing from.
“I think she has finally got Aids!” If it is not Aids, then fantastic innuendoes about their pal’s unhealthy weight, drinking and smoking are weaved in social places.
Such sunshine friends are reluctant to visit their chums in hospital, but will always have a ready explanation when their associates are discharged.
It is quite embarrassing when a person dies and his closest friends have no idea where he hails from. The same people might become members of the burial committee, but shun taking on any leadership roles. And then at the funeral, they give such glowing eulogies one would think they and the deceased were joined at the hip. This is friendship, Rwandan style.
You may have some fair weather friends who are never there at your hour of great need. Suspecting that you may be in a crisis, they conveniently travel outside Kigali or work late that particular evening that you need them most.
Their phone batteries suddenly go down.
Intriguingly, this friendship made in Rwanda runs in families. Parents and their children practise various degrees of deceit and back stabbing.
In some homes, a family get-together could turn dangerous when conflicting allegations are cross-examined. Some parents routinely pile up false accusations on a chosen child, mainly one who has not visited for some time.
“Imagine all the neglect we live in despite the fact that we sold everything to put him through school,” they mourn.
But the tide turns when such vilified children show up, especially during the festive season, and with gifts to boot. Now it is their turn to listen to the drinking escapades of their slacker rural siblings.
I am often surprised to see brothers and sisters spend the shortest time together before each takes off with his or her family.
And often this is to the relief of all, including their parents. I am sure that the dramatic allegations against each sibling would overshadow the hilarity of a typical Mexican soap opera were they to play themselves out in public.
As I sign off to gather more holiday dossiers, please strive to make and keep real friendships in 2010.