“There I was, standing in the rain, getting soaked while waiting for a cab……[when he] removed himself from his security detail……to walk over and ……share his umbrella with me,” said Tom Murro.
Murro was talking about Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who had just officiated over the launching ceremony of the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan, New York.
The president was walking out after watching the screening of “Earth Made of Glass”, a documentary on Rwanda. As it was raining outside, President Kagame walked over to where Murro was soaking in the rain.
Writes Andrew Lagomarsino: “Paul Kagame ……has seen a lifetime of pain and suffering……and his gentle act of kindness made an impression……[Can you imagine] helping a total stranger in public?”
Flash back to another scene in Rwanda. “‘Please call my father’, he whispered. ‘He has no idea where I am,’” wrote Jefferey Gettleman.
Gettleman is American, and he is the East Africa Bureau Chief of ‘The New York Times’. He was recounting the story of his visit to Iwawa, a Rwandan island in Lake Kivu.
He talks about a request made to him by a young Rwandan man whose names, he says, are Gasigwa Gakunzi.
The young Gakunzi is one of a number of young Rwandans who “are learning skills like bricklaying, hairdressing and motorcycle maintenance,” Mr. Gettleman assures us.
All very well, except that Mr. Gettleman reveals to us that the people on that island “describe it as an Alcatraz”. So, it is not an ordinary island.
Thanks to my privileged access to the Internet’s Google, now I can tell that Alcatraz Island is in the San Francisco Bay and was the seat of an impregnable prison until 1963.
But no, the people of Iwawa, who’d need to know English even if computers, leave alone the Internet, were to be available there, have beaten me to it. They know what an “Alcatraz” is!
That aside, anyway Mr. Gettleman continues to reveal their identities without the least care, in a country whose leadership he qualifies as “repressive and Orwellian”!
“‘We call it the island of no return,’ said Esperance Uwizeyimana, a homeless mother,” confirms Mr. Gettleman. And he quotes officials of the institution, too. “‘This isn’t a good place for children,’ one employee said in hushed tones because the minister was nearby. ‘They could get abused.’”
An “Orwellian state” and yet Gettleman mingles freely with people who’ve been banished to “the Alcatraz” of Africa, after which he exposes their names to a “repressive government” and then leaves them high and dry.
Moreover, the “Orwellian state” does not notice and stop him, despite his being the lone White man, dome covered in conspicuously bushy curls, amidst an ocean of maroon uniforms.
Suppose, anyway, that he was able to listen to them. It would mean that the young man, the lady and the “prison official”, on top of knowing what an “Alcatraz” is, speak English. Buggers belief!
In fact, Gettleman says the young man in the “prison camp”, Gakunzi, had all the time to tell him his names and the long story of how he (Gakunzi) was watching a paying TV when he was “abducted”.
Surely, a man who travels all the way to Rwanda to expose the plight of the oppressed souls of that country would care to contact the father of that poor boy. But then, a scoop is what we want and, haven’t we got it?
And while we are at it, wouldn’t any one wonder why his camera does not capture any of the “children” in that “camp” that he talks about? Among the glossy pictures that he splashes around showing uniformed young men and their mattresses, not a single one of those “children”?
However, first things first: the two scenes mentioned in the opening paragraphs. Two individuals: one a Rwandan in USA, the other an American in Rwanda.
The Rwandan tears himself away from his security minders to go to the assistance of someone in the rain. Always mindful of the other, whatever their colour or station. That is today’s Rwanda for you.
The American gladly accepts a lift from a Rwandan minister but his mission is to serve the order from his editor. I can imagine it: “There must be something rotten in Rwanda. Get behind the façade and give me something I can chew into. Get me a scoop!”
And off goes Genttleman, always mindful of his job, whatever its accompanying damage or the inaccuracy of his story.
But the lies peddled are downright dirt. Yet, even later when the truth comes out, his editor will be more mindful of his newspaper’s reputation and will never want to reveal to its paying readership and advertising community that it erred.
It might earn Gettleman a reprimand and that will be it. But, surely, the most gullible world cannot believe that Rwanda has abducted and taken its youths into concentration camps in the name of showing a clean, orderly face.
Are members of the diplomatic corps based in Rwanda, or visiting dignitaries, so gullible that they can visit these young Rwandans without noticing that they are in a concentration camp? Or maybe all the uniformed pupils of Rwanda are in concentration camps!
How come whoever visits this rehabilitation and skills-acquisition centre always lauds the genuine efforts of the Rwandan government? Which is why Minister Mitali didn’t mind taking Gettleman along, in the first place.
It may take long, but Mr. Gettelman must realise that the world will in the end shed its gullibility and know that all this hype about a crisis in Rwanda before elections is a creature of the foreign media and job-and-name-seeking activists.
Even as a liberation movement, The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) always advanced its objective as bringing justice to Rwanda, where no Rwandan ever exerted undue influence over any other Rwandan or anybody else.
To-date, RPF’s raison d’être is the eradication of injustice to any Rwandan, young and old. That is how Rwanda has become a country where everyone is accorded their dignity and impunity has been uprooted.
Instead of exposing a crisis, Gettleman only succeeds in showing us why he has a “t” where he should an “n”!