This Christmas morning, Rwandans and residents of Rwanda should pledge to uphold the Rwandan honour of orderliness and no littering, in their jubilation.Like many people here, I have never given much thought to the cleanliness of this country. In fact, when I read reports praising the country for its cleanliness, I feel rather slighted. It tends to look as if the reports are trivialising the efforts of Rwandans. Considering the many landmark transformations that Rwandans have achieved this far, why should outsiders only see the minuscule achievement of cleanliness?
However, informal opinions have a different effect on me. That is why I am always drawn to personal blogs where people seem to be thinking aloud on internet and to express themselves without inhibition.
Where the media and other organisations have many interests to consider while reporting, not least the leanings of their organisations, even if they profess to be objective, individuals just rattle off their thoughts without considering whether or not they offend. One such blog that I read yesterday is ‘The Odyssey’ by Mr. Graham Hughes. Mr. Hughes says he is attempting to be the first person in the world to set foot in all 194 countries of the world in one continuous surface journey.According to him, the rules set by the ‘Guiness World Records’ stipulate that for him to make it in the ‘Guiness Book of World Records’, he must not fly or drive. He is only allowed to use public transport. That, therefore, means that Hughes’ sights are set on breaking his record and nothing but. Whatever observations he makes during the execution of his mission are secondary. If you ask me, nothing can beat that for impartiality. So, from Tanzania, Hughes arrives in a ‘Daladala’ (the name that his erstwhile Tanzanian hosts give to their minibus taxis) at the Rusumo border post in the morning. His reaction, as he looks at the road across in Rwanda, may be more easily understood by our younger generation: “Wow! Rwanda! Like, really, wow! I know what I like and I like what I see.”
To confirm that the cleanliness he sees is not ‘only skin deep’, immigration process on the Rwandan side takes less than ten minutes. Yet, wherever he has travelled, “the process has on average taken six hours” (his words). After that, he immediately learns that that Rwandan cleanliness is not only the face of efficiency but also of how government takes seriously the protection of the environment: no one is allowed to enter with any plastics.
And, in fact, the beautiful rolling hills and trees, efficiency, cleanliness and nil-pothole roads are the face of something else: “my Vodaphone mobile internet …..started working as soon as I crossed the border.” This is a country on a fast-paced march to ICT-led progress. Hughes again: “Like seriously, no litter AT ALL! It’s incredible! After slogging it through 40 countries worth of filth and garbage for the last seven months……saying Rwanda is a breath of fresh air is somewhat of an understatement.”
The towns “are splendid, with well built brick buildings (which are – shockhorror! – FINISHED and PAINTED), manicured lawns, flowers, trees and playing fields. Christ, I could be in the friggin’ Cotswolds. The roads are all sealed, signposted and painted …what the hell is going on here?”
To understand, I had to look up that name, Cotswolds. The Cotswolds is a range of hills in England. The area has been designated as the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. (‘Wikipedia’) Anyway, Hughes goes on: “….the minibuses are brand new (incredible!). Makes a change from being trucked around in vans that were old when the Darma Initiative came to the island.” Here, again, to understand him I had to contact Google. The Dharma Initiative is a fictional research project featured in the television series “Lost”, which is set on an island. A character in the series explains that the project began in 1970. In short, then, Rwandan general cleanliness, orderliness, efficiency and others all speak to the overall achievements that the country continues to register in her concerted effort to improve the lives of her people.
In fact, I wonder what Hughes would have said if he had waited a while to witness another “shockhorror”! Only a few days ago, Rwanda brought in 68 ambulances in a drive to provide at least two ambulances to every district.And those ambulances are not ‘Don de l’OMS’/‘Gift of WHO’! They are bought by the government of Rwanda. Would Hughes have repeated: “AWSOME! Finally, a country where people look after their country”? If I seem to quote Hughes too extensively, it’s not because he is the only one to notice that Rwanda is unique in Africa. It’s that I was impressed by the honest innocence of his reaction.
However, there is no denying that the man is an authority, having covered a total of 125 countries. That’s a far cry from the reporters and organisations who come with pre-conceived yardsticks of their developed countries.
Rwandans should learn not to take their country’s innovations for granted.