8th July 2010
For a change, maybe this week we should assume a lighter note.
Let me tell you about my friend, David, a man who never ceases to spring surprises. Still, I wasn’t prepared for what he sprang this time. I was practically musing to myself when he heard me ask: “But why does the international community hate Rwanda so?” Without thinking twice, he quipped in askance: “But how is a camel different from a horse?”
Well, I didn’t know if he wanted an answer but I hazarded explanations like the camel carries an unstructured hump and has an ungainly gait while a horse is nimble and elegant. “Exactly!” exclaimed David. And then he went on to explain how a camel must have been made by a committee while a horse was made by a single creator!
When he continued to explain, I thought I could get the thread of his argument. Like a committee, the international community believes it has the best solutions for countries out of anarchy. And for that matter, no country should show it the lip of solving its own problems and exposing the community’s incompetence to the world. Especially, not a pea-sized African country that is torn by what is perceived to be inscrutable ethnic strife.
Indeed, in trying to stand on its own feet, Rwanda has invited the wrath of the United Nations (UN) and the rest of the international community. The humanitarian community, rights advocacy groups and a menagerie of other activists are up in arms and must prove that “there is something rotten in Rwanda”.
Yet the rot seems to stick on these bodies like a bad smell, wherever they go. We know our neighbour, where our sisters are being raped by the minute, under their noses. We know the mess in the horn of Africa, where the organisations once had their presence. We know countries further afield that have never found their feet despite the ‘assistance’ of these hecklers. Where is Haiti and where, Serbia, Bosnia?
Come to think of it, Rwanda is right to shun these activists. There is no doubt that if they had had their way, the country would be burdened with the heavy load of a presidency of three ethnic groups. I am not sure that they know that what they call ethnic groups are actually three and not two, but just imagine Rwanda with a Twa president, a Tutsi president and a Hutu president at the same time.
For, confound the imagination, this was the wise prescription for the federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina! According to Article V of the constitution of this unfortunate country, authored by our know-alls, the presidency consists of three members: one Bosniak, one Croat and one Serb. Together, they serve one four-year term.
There is no doubt that such an arrangement would forever have torn Rwanda apart, with every president appropriating ‘his/her people’ to him/herself. However well-intentioned these organisations would have been, they would not have understood that they were playing in the hands of colonialists whose effort was to build Rwanda around the little that separated its people and break the abundance that united them.
That is why, in rebuilding their nation, Rwandans went back to the drawing board to re-examine the positive points they shared. In sharing Kinyarwanda as their language, in having one tradition, one history and in living on a territory that was not compartmentalised into separate ‘ethnic homelands’, Rwandans understood the wisdom of their ancestors’ ‘gusenyera ku mugozi umwe’ (pooling resources).
A government that is premised on the bedrock of unity and inclusiveness cannot turn around to kill and oppress its people as a survival kit, a narrative that the international community is advancing to explain away the order, peace and growth that Rwandans are beginning to enjoy. And it is not only explaining away a lie, it is a fight to demonstrate that they are still relevant and legitimate.
However, a nation built by do-gooders is like one built on repression and exclusiveness and cannot realise peace and cannot prosper. Rwandans have learnt that lesson through bitter experience and will be the last to espouse that divide-and-rule notion. They know that their future lies in promoting peace, security, national unity, reconciliation, healing, justice, development, hard work, innovation and business.
The West is not prepared to deal with organised African states, even if it knows that external benevolence has never lifted anybody out of misery. To Rwandans, that is a truism that no amount of government-bashing by the international community will erase. Help from outside can only be of use if it supplements local effort.
As President Paul Kagame has said countless times, “a nation that cannot find home-grown and innovative solutions from within itself to the numerous challenges of survival and growth is doomed to failure, no matter how much support it gets from external sources.”
If you believe otherwise, UN and the rest of the international community, know that you are a committee and cannot recreate yourselves anew. For, as David told me, quoting a Mr. Richard Harkness, a committee is a “group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary.”
With the earnings of today, you may be “willing”. But, poor you, “unfit” too!