Changing lifestyle is not always easy especially when it demands total disbandment of original core values.
It is incredibly true that a person’s determination shapes him into another individual whatever the circumstances.
Some Rwandans who returned to Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi have had to change their lifestyles to accustom themselves to the new environment.
And in some cases it has been a do or die situation-adapt or die.
The countries from which they originated had vast land to graze on, and those who lived a pastoralist’s kind of life enjoyed it maximally.
They viewed their cows as the only source of income and pleasure that satisfied their social economic needs. That is why the bigger the number of cows one owned determined one’s status in a community.
The Rwandans of such background however, had to change to another kind of life when they returned to their motherland where land is not big enough to accommodate their past pastoralist lifestyle.
The Sunday Times encountered a man with such background, who amazingly managed to adapt to another lifestyle in Rwamagana. Moses Byakatonda was born and bred in some part of Uganda where life was all about cattle keeping, but surprisingly he has joined the class of Rwanda elite business community.
The charming man had a long chat with this paper and here is the story:
I had to begin life afresh when I arrived in Rwanda. My first impression of the country where there were no cows was absolutely negative. I thought about going back to Uganda where after all I had cows to look after. But at the end of the day, I realized it was my country and I gave it a second thought.
The fact that I was still a young man, too, gave me the courage to try to do what others were doing in Rwanda. Most of my age mates including my brothers were doing business…you know, selling different items in shops.
I had never engaged in any such things that involved buying and selling to get profits. We used to rebuke those who did such work as jobless vagabonds in our areas.
The first days were so boring; imagine staying in one place for the whole day waiting for customers, no jokes, no playing and no sight of a cow. This is when I realized that I had entered in another world where I have to work so hard. I hate failing in life so I realised I had to work hard too.
Slowly, I picked up momentum and in two years I had doubled my original capital. This gave me the confidence that I can go a step further.
In subsequent years, I grew real big in the business world and I started seeing some businessmen and women who never cared about me, coming to share with me some ideas. I said what! So and so now know that I can also speak some sense. You know money talks great in this material world.
Back then they had not restricted beer wholesaling to a few individuals, so I became a BRARIRWA agent as far as the capital I had allowed me. Unfortunately they later picked a few of their long time dealers as their agents. I quickly had to go for other alternative business.
My wholesale shop dealt with so many things and because my price has always been affordable, I get many clients. I was also boosted by becoming INYANGE argent in this part of the region.
All this time, I remained a bachelor and renting a very small house in which I could rest at night. All these developments notwithstanding, I always longed to go back to Uganda. I nursed the nostalgia for so long and decided to visit my former village in Uganda. But on reaching I discovered that I was already out of touch, the things my friends were doing were quite different from the new life.
One thing I learnt from my great friend Richard Kiwanuka, was that business is done properly when handled strictly by the owner. He had also advised me never to give credit, for very few pay back in time a thing that really affects business. He also told me to keep in my shop all days of the week from sunrise to sunset or beyond. I have adhered to those principles and it is working.
But living without sight of a cow kept haunting me all the time until I bought a Friesian cow.
When all were set I started travelling to Kampala, Nairobi, etc to get business contacts. While on one such trip, a colleague of mine challenged me to build my own house when I admired a beautiful house in Kampala.
“Come up with your own and stop admiring other people’s houses,” he said. This touched me and I immediately started building mine in Rwanda. It is now a well furnished house and whenever I am sitting in it, I reflect on my ancient life as a cow herd sleeping with cows all around you in an all grass made shelter.
After the house I got married and I have one kid. I recently bought a car to help me with transport in my business. So that is me in transition.