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Life Reflections

This country is coming from a distant, difficult place

By December 21, 2020June 6th, 2023No Comments

December 18, 2020

Knowing the treacherous side-paths I was going to negotiate, I got a young, strong man to accompany me. I knew that when I branched off from the main, rugged dust street, I’d need the support of strong arms to safely snake my way to my destination.

A slight slip and I’d break my neck in a ditch, leg in a trench, back in a mini-gulley or choke, sprawled in a pool of muddy water. Risks unheard of elsewhere in clean Kigali. And, lo and behold, the area is next to clean and upscale, though rather disorderly, Nyarutarama Estate!

My destination was the mud shack of a family who’d had one of their rooms cave in due to floodwater from a light downpour. Muddy water had soaked children’s ‘bed’ – some thin foam spread out on the ground, covered by old clothing – while part of the wall remained hanging dangerously overhead.

The family had asked for whatever little assistance I could render. What good the assistance could do, search me. As I saw it, what was called for was divine intervention.

If the whole slum area is so hazardous that a light downpour is enough to wreak havoc on it, didn’t it need a whole overhaul, which’d mean new construction of permanent houses? Wouldn’t that be a tall order for even any of our multimillion-RFrs-telecom companies?

Anyway, the object of my reference is the sprawling slum, home to a jumble of uncountable mud shacks, whose nickname wouldn’t be a definite rebuttal to the unflattering name that the kicking-and-screaming outgoing US president, Donald Trump, assigned to these honest-to-goodness countries of our continent, Africa.

Pardon me for the laboriously winding sentence but the crudity of the slum’s nickname cannot be directly uttered here. It’d be an offence to this family newspaper. If there is any decent term that’d go for its approximate meaning, perhaps it is: “Where-do-they-go-for-washrooms?”

“Where-do-they-go…?”, perhaps the only surviving slum in the whole of Rwanda, though now seeing its demise coming on fast and furious, has tenaciously kept to its capricious self.

I talk at length about the slum as it has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

“The wrong reasons” because what should have been a miracle and, in a manner of speaking, “divine intervention”, did happen here, courtesy of government. But, believe it or not, a Western radio cried “Foul!”

As if it’d prefer the dwellers sticking to this perilous precipice of a shanty ‘home’!

And so, megaphone manipulator that it is, the troll radio seized upon the government intention as news and went to town with it. “People being forced out of their residences”, my foot!

For some puzzling reason, when an African government works with its people to improve livelihoods, the radio and its ilk feel insulted.

Of course, there is always an area resident to confirm its story and, thus, to put a “stamp of objectivity” authority on it. There are ‘landlords’ ready to milk these poor souls by renting those death-traps to them. Those are always ready to make that “Foul!” their refrain.

But why soil our tongues with trolls who’ve been at it since this country rose from the dead?

Let’s visit the new estate that’s already home to some residents of “Where-do-they-go-….?”

The modern-in-all-senses estate in Busanza Sector comprises 23 3-storey blocks of flats lined along soon-to-be-completed tarmacked streets. Recreational areas are also almost complete.

The flats are provided with all amenities and are in different sizes: single-room flats (studios) for singles, double and triple-room flats according to sizes of families.

On taking a tour of one incomplete flat, I found myself chuckling.

I remembered the story of an employer who got a new domestic help and, before initiation, sent him for water to drink. When the employer asked to be shown the source of the water, he was taken to the washroom and shown the bowl! (Get my drift?)

Wouldn’t a new occupant of this estate use “the bowl” for the least of its intended purposes?

But why engage in imaginations? I paid a visit to one of the already settled families. Every family member, in their excitement, struggled to be the one to explain to me how every floor has a government employee to instruct families on how to take care of their flats.

The bedrooms, wardrobes, sinks in kitchens, cooking gas, flushers, shanks, everything. How government gave them provisions for the time they are settling in their new environment, all.

Yes, it’s no wonder! The government must’ve learnt its lesson in the first days of this campaign. When it was rolling out cosy and permanent habitation countrywide for vulnerable families and those in risky settlements like those on steep hillsides and in masrshlands.

Remember one model village in the northern part of Rwanda? For not being familiar with beds and bedsheets, some families decided they’d sleep on the floor, under the beds!

Don’t laugh, unless you don’t know that, before 1994, some Rwandans lived in forests as hunters and gatherers. To the point that in this goverment’s Girinka programme (one cow per family) for self-empowerment, some individuals decided to sell or butcher and eat the cows.

Who said the “Dignity for all Rwandans” advocacy was only being paid lip service?

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