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Life Reflections

The messing and messed-up “international community”

By July 27, 2012June 6th, 2023No Comments

I remember attending “agacaca” during the colonial days. “Agacaca” then was a traditional arbitration process colonialists allowed Rwandans to continue practicing in resolving their differences. It’s the same “agacaca” that’s precursor to the Gacaca court system adopted and modernised by the RPF government to try Genocide cases, recently brought to a close.

In that “agacaca” of… must’ve been 1958….., the dispute was between our two neighbours. Neighbour one (names evade me, though!), with large land and lush pasture, accused Neighbour two (N2) of letting his cow cross into his (N1’s) land. Asked to spell out the precise accusation, N1 said N2’s cow had joined his cows and together they’d destroyed his crops.

N2 laughed out derisively but, from across the ridge, you could hear faint voices of “guilty”. Then a pot-bellied man from many ridges away stomped onto the court turf and bellowed: “N2, I’m your friend but I can’t accept this! For letting your cow push N1’s cows into ruining his land, knowing he was incapable of managing his cattle and land, I cut the one litre (inkongoro) of milk I’ve been sending you to supplement your own milk.”

Where N2 had laughed alone, now all the judges (even then called ‘Inyangamugayo’) and all present burst out laughing. However, one man, where he sat on a round stool in the middle, with five judges flanking him on each side, was quiet and shaking his head. He was the head judge and, when others saw this, they also fell silent. When order was restored, he rose to speak.

He cleared his throat, then began: “Elders, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons: I greet you all. I stand not to deliver judgement, as we are yet to resolve the dispute, but to express sadness at the lack of decorum exhibited by some here in attendance. Our Rwandan culture desires us – nay, commands us – to always conduct ourselves with dignity.

“Our ancestors said it a long time ago. When brothers have their feet in ash, you remove yours. Iyo abavandimwe…… In other words, when neighbours quarrel, don’t stir trouble, deluding yourself that you can ‘fall from the sky’ and understand why, or settle the quarrel. Seek to be educated on the reason – by both parties. Only they understand their reason best. Only they know what drives them to quarrel, who initiated the quarrel and why……

“But here, there is even worse. When you’ve lent a man a shirt because he is yet to buy his, do you tell him not to make it dirty, in public? To boast that you gave me this or that, does it bespeak of your honour? Today, country folk, our land’s politesse has been turned on its head…….” Inyangamugayo said more, but no need to recount it. He sat down, followed by others. Then the case resumed.

The weight of Inyangamugayo’s delivery was not lost on Fatso (‘Pot-belly’ from distant ridges), of course, as a Rwandan. He realised he was interfering in neighbours’ quarrels, without understanding, for instance, who could be crying wolf. He walked off, knowing neither neighbour was going to pay him attention. To them, he was now a foreigner.

The above anecdote is not a creature of my imagination. It happened. But if it looks like the events unfolding in this part of the Great Lakes region today, it’s because the events are equally pathetic. Even then, to throw your weight around on the strength of some tourists’ “expertise” is more than pathetic. Powerful “international community” or august “superpower”, you only succeed in making a sorry spectacle of yourself – and your touted crumbs.

Tell me, whoever cares. These “experts” who compiled a report implicating Rwanda in the problems of DRC, what can they know about Kivu? Even after a lifetime, can they tell one tribe from another? FDLR member from Mai Mai member? A Rwandan Munyarwanda from a Congolese Munyarwanda?

What does it say of them, for instance, when they cannot see a simple physical realty? The Rwandan army sends soldiers and supplies from Kinigi, northern Rwanda, to areas controlled by M23, they say. From Kinigi, through volcano passes, you reach Rugari as your first point of call. To reach M23 in Bunagana, you’d need to go through Rumangabo (not in M23 hands), Rutchuru (then not in M23 hands), Rwankuba to Jomba. Even a Congolese born around Kinshasa knows not this. What can a touring mixed bag of so-called “experts” know?

Some of these “experts”, in academia, media, ‘humanitariania’, ‘rights-protectionia’, say it, have talked of “Rwandan migrants in the Congo.” And they were not talking about FDLR elements or any recent émigré. They were talking about Banyarwanda who woke up in 1885, after the Berlin Conference, and found they’d turned Congolese. By the stroke of a pen of the ancestors of this “international community”, this “international ogre” condemned a whole community to eternal persecution.

The land on which Congolese Banyarwanda live – or lived before eviction, for many of them – has been theirs since Nature turned earth solid. Or God turned gases into a ball, breathed life into it and gave it light. All other tribes that have come to settle on their land are the real émigrés. Whoever knows this simple truth knows that Congolese tribulations are a creation of others.

Now instead of this ‘ogre-load’ righting what those who sired them messed up, they are mouthing hot-air noises: “Rwanda for the Hague!” For minding her business? To us, sober kind, what a ‘pot-belly’ laugh!

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