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Life Reflections

The Rwanda Day that was

By September 28, 2012June 6th, 2023No Comments

It’s a long way from the simple spontaneity of the slopes of Mt. Muhabura in Rwanda to the complicated calculations of ordered rivers and bays, streets and skyscrapers, cars and trams and suchlike of Boston, Massachusetts, in the USA. A very long way – geographically, historically, economically, scientifically, technologically, et al. In practically all ways, USA is eons ahead of Rwanda. So, expect a Mt. Muhabura man to be dazed blind in the land of Uncle Sam. That’s how I went, I saw and I was conquered. Conquered and gripped, yes but, interestingly, not by Boston.

By the time I reached Boston Logan International Airport, I’d gone through a number of equally complex airports and was not particularly cowed. But, what with the sleepless nights on the way and the confusing changes in time zones, my mind and eyes were understandably a little hazy. I was therefore gratified when a caring young person came to my rescue as I struggled, without success, to identify my luggage on the conveyor belt. And immediately after, when another considerate one asked if he could call a car for me. Both were ready to cater for my every need.

Hardly had they expressed that readiness, however, than I saw my name emblazoned on a placard. As he led the three of us to a waiting car, the gentleman with the placard handed me his phone and an adorable voice on the other end (which used to be said of corded phones!) asked if I’d arrived well and if everything was fine. Of course, everything wouldn’t have been better, with all this pampering. Indeed, I was in good hands.

And that’s how, from this point, I was conquered. Not by Boston but by Rwanda! Boston itself was in the grip of the Rwanda Day fever. All those hands taking care of me were Rwandan and the very Boston air I was breathing seemed to be Rwandan!

Everywhere you looked, you could see people gesturing in that unique way of Rwandans when they are in conversation. In Westin Copley Hotel where Rwanda Day would take place, in the lobby, in lifts, in corridors and in exhibit rooms of Rwandan goods, it was hugs and shouts of excitement as Rwandans from Rwanda and different countries in the Diaspora greeted one another and the latter caught on with the developments in their country. It was almost impossible to tear oneself away and go to the room to freshen up for later talk shows and soirées of Rwandan dances. Only in the wee hours of the morning did people begin to thin out as, one by one, they lumbered their way to their rooms.

On the second day, as people continued to pour in from different parts of USA and from different countries of the world, you could see that the whole atmosphere was building up for a climax that would bring down the imposing hotel. This time it was difficult to tell Rwandans from non-Rwandans. Practically all ladies were decked in mishanana (traditional Rwandan wear) and included all colours. As for men, also in all colours, you could tell Rwandans by their ability to hum along, as Rwandan singers from Rwanda and the Diaspora belted out a familiar song. In the hall where we sat, the air was thick and heavy with anticipation.

Then there was a roll of drums and we all rose for the national anthem and to deafening shouts of “Agaciro!” as President Kagame walked into the hall. When the hall finally settled down, representatives of the Rwandan communities in USA and Canada gave their messages of welcome, of pledges to contribute in building their motherland and of solidarity with their compatriots in the country. After them, the Honorary Consul in Boston expressed his people’s happiness to be associated with Rwandans and his pleasure that the two peoples had developed a common bond.

It was now time for President Kagame to rise. If the roof had come down on entering, now the whole sky over Boston came tumbling down! With literally his every sentence punctuated by shouts of “Agaciro!”, even from Bostonian brothers and sisters, he went through the progress that has been registered in the country of these Diaspora dwelling compatriots, closing his remarks with explanation of the false accusations of complicity in the D.R. Congo problem. Then he invited questions. But they did not seem to be there, as those who stood to speak all tried to outdo themselves in praising the reception they received on visiting Rwanda.

Where I sat, I was wondering: what is it about Rwanda that pulls people so? One can understand it for Rwandans but the Ugandan, the Senegalese or the Singaporean gentlemen, all who swore they’d come to this Rwanda Day because they wanted to invest and settle in the country, what’s it about Rwanda and her leadership that attracts them? When you think of all the energies and materials some rights and media groups have invested in rubbishing the name of this country and in denouncing ts leadership as a dictatorship, you begin to pity them for their wasted effort.

Thinking of which groups, I quickly went outside and onto the street to look for “him”. And bingo! There, past the homeless and begging lot of Boston, but not far, stood the forlorn figure of our former “chief of staff”. Still in suit, though now frayed beyond recognition. Dr. Rudasingwa, it’s a long way from the ‘suited-chief-of-staff-glory’ days. And, Rwandans, your pity list is long!

The simple spontaneity of Rwanda, who wouldn’t want to be identified with it? Rwanda is not bounded by geography, history, economics, science, technology, anything. She is sans-frontières and wherever a united group of Rwandans are, that’s Rwanda. Discordant voices in the wilderness, come join the party! “Rwanda is the universe” and welcomingly hugs one and all.

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