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Life Reflections

A surprise visit that spurred a song of poetic literature on liberation

By September 2, 2022June 6th, 2023No Comments

September 2, 2022

The enchanting camaraderie in the warmth of a welcoming home captured the hearts of many and it’s no wonder it went viral on social media. This was when Paul paid a surprise visit to the home of 110-year-old Rachel.

Yes, President Paul Kagame. No fussy protocols here; they are on first-name terms. They’d met before, though in the impersonal atmosphere of citizen outreach/campaign rallies. Now it was in the bosom environment of a home. And Rachel touched and hugged her host to make sure he was safe and sound, like all grandmothers have always been wont to, since the birth of the Rwandan culture.

Then she broke into song; a retinue of poetic literature stories that delved into the history of this country from colonialism to-date. That song said more than was in the lines of its stanzas. It expressed more than it uttered.

The hippo-whip of colonial days; its intended effect. How the colonialist whacked the bottoms of chiefs out of others’ sight as an example to replicate to those they oversaw, for some undone work. Since chiefs were picked from one of what they’d called “ethnic groups”, this appeared as if a favoured group was the actual colonialist, not the white man lording it over them all. Thus, divisionism.

Subsequent post-colonial regimes, having taken this lesson to heart, went even further to deepen division. They implanted exclusion of those they didn’t want along ‘ethnic’ but also regional, religious and other lines. They set up a patronage system that entrenched favouritism for ‘their own’. For others, it was bigotry, hate, fascism, constant death and, finally, the Genocide against the Tutsi.

This was the hippo-whip in all its intended ramifications.

The above were all expressed in Grandma Rachel’s song, though not exactly uttered. 

“Today, we are being whipped with milk”, said she as she raised her arms in cows’ long-horn shape. Those in this culture-know will understand this as a loaded line.

It goes beyond mentioning the Girinka programme that has offered a cow to every vulnerable family for nutritional enhancement. It recalls the Gacaca traditional communal court system that, more than resolving loads more cases than any classic court system could ever hope to, engendered unity and reconciliation, thus erasing evils of the colonial and post-colonial regimes to restore oneness.

Again, those familiar with this culture will know that by “Intore izirusha intambwe”, Rachel had in mind one meaning of the double entente of, rather than the quickest-footed individual, a leadership with a superior ideological focus.

Which meant a leadership that marshals common effort, advances correct policies, ensures all-round universal education and healthcare and kindles commitment in every citizen. And much more, unlike past eradicator regimes.

All to point to the way the lowly have been lifted from abject poverty and “Nyakatsi” unhygienic habitation to better living quarters, now advancing to model villages that comprise blocks of city-standard flats, fast dotting the country’s landscape. This necessarily goes with furniture, lighting, running water and cooking gas – the latter to soon cost less as it’ll be extracted from Lake Kivu’s hazardous methane gas.

All this inferred from Grandma Rachel’s short song? Well, yes, and, in fact, more.

Because the aforesaid evoke this nation’s state today. The multiplication of schools, hospitals, roads, industries in their industrial parks (a novelty), we can go on. There is the rehabilitation, protection and preservation of the ecosystem and its environment, with the Kigali Nyandungu Eco-Park the first model of more to come.

Then there is Kwita Izina (baby-naming ceremony) for Rwanda’s mountain gorillas (formerly poached to near-extermination) that’s today graced by la crème de la crème of this world’s population.

But let’s not allow our imagination, if not Grandma Rachel’s poetic ululation, run away with us!

We were talking about surprise visits by President Kgame. I remember the first of them pleasantly exciting a family whose head was ailing, around 1995/6. President Kagame was then Vice-President and Minister for Defence. At the time there was nothing good to sing about and the populace didn’t know what to make of this change in their management. In their eyes, it was a leap of faith, flight into the unknown.

After many similarly positive interactions, however, Rwandans realised they had registered a paradigm shift and the crude rule of yore had yielded to leadership of the people, by the people, for the people.

And those people were them – who’d have guessed!

This was not a fait accompli, as independence was taken to be that long ago in the 1960s. This was the beginning of a process, the process of liberation.

 And so to a man/woman, Rwandans committed to working as one for eventual total liberation when their country will be counted among the respected nations of the world. It may take generations but with said common effort, right policies and commitment, Rwandans are confident they’ll attain the apex of this liberation.

And someone says democracy is giving destructive voices free rein? Give me another!

So, rata Grandma Rachel, sing your poetic song, for there are many crooning along and many more will take up the tune, till the end of time. 

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