Allow me to ‘tickle myself and laugh’ (kwikirigita ngaseka)! This, in Kinyarwanda, is usually said of a person who gives him/herself undue credit. I say this because when I was persuaded into stopping to operate under the radar (write under pseudonyms), thanks to my insistent editor, I am more able to urge others to speak out or write.
I was thus happy to hear the ordinary voice of one “inshabwenge” (sage) added to the voices of party and government officials as they countered the assertions of a presidential aspirant in the Diaspora. This was on the BBC ‘Imvo n’Imvano’ programme of last Saturday, 9th January 2010. In the programme, Victoire Ingabire assured Rwandans that she was coming to contest this year’s presidential elections so as to offer them a government that gives them a say. In words that seemed to be falling over themselves in a rush to come out, she said she would introduce respect of human rights and eradicate poverty. Unfortunately, after promising Rwandans that utopia, Ingabire lapsed back into the all-too familiar comfort-zone of all the critics of Rwandan administration: bashing the current government. Political parties cannot operate freely, she harangued, because they are required to be under the umbrella of a consultative forum.
Moreover, she fumed, there is a law against genocide ideology; the gacaca court system condemns genocide criminals even posthumously; the government does not care for the wellbeing of its people; etc. Then the good lady cups it all up: Rwandans should wait to see why she is coming, and the package she is bringing them.I can visualise the picture: a flock of shivering, hapless chicks shrieking, open-beaked, as they eagerly await the package of goodies brought by mother-hen! Problem is, mother-hen Ingabire seems to be losing the warmth of the company of a whole nine father-cocks who were supposed to flank her on this messianic mission! And, the knock-out punch: “Ariko abantu barasetsa!”(Don’t make me laugh). It throws you back to the unfailing refrain of the fire-breathing Rukokoma, Faustin Twagiramungu, during his futile presidential campaign in 2003. Every question to him by journalists seemed to be an effort to make him laugh.
So is it with Ingabire. Does she know that there is a programme called ‘Girinka’ that gives a cow to the poorest family so that the family can get balanced diet? Does she know that there is a health insurance called ‘mutuelles de santé’ that enables the poorest peasant to access any health service? Does she know that health centres have proliferated in the country, and that education is now accessible to all in the many schools that today dot practically every centimetre of the country? Does she know that primary education is free? Does she know that a peasant’s produce now fetches ten times what it did in 1993, when she left? No, “Ariko murasetsa!” How can she know that, when the majority of Rwandans have no voice? By that majority, of course, Rwandans know what she is alluding to. It is clear that she has in mind the era of the quarter system, when a section of Rwandans were denied all rights and liberties.
Rwandans burnt their fingers when they trusted a regime that preached what a friend calls “tyranny by the majority and extermination of the minority”. What came of it was the genocide against Batutsi that exposed Rwandans to the world as demons still in the Stone Age, if not worse.From across the oceans and 16 years without visiting Rwanda, of course, anybody can say they’ll bring manna to Rwandans. What they won’t know is that in these last 15 years, Rwandans have grown to such a level of sophistication as to confound any person with such thoughts. Faustin Twagiramungu found out the bitter way, even if he is not ready to divulge the truth as a lesson to these neophytes. Time was when you could blow empty, hot air in hyperbolic abuses to the ruling click and win over hearts. Alas, that Stone Age is no longer here and Ingabire cannot rewind the clock.
I don’t see how you can materialise from foreign climes today and convince Rwandans that 10 political parties that consult on matters of national interest spell dictatorship. Nor can you convince them that it is a sign of oppression if there is a law in the statute books that does not give citizens the right to commit genocide against their own.
Rwanda today is a land of liberties, however, and I am sure Rwandans will welcome this “umukobwa utashye iwacu” (a girl going home) as Ingabire calls herself on her UDF (United Democratic Forces) – Inkingi website. If for nothing else, she will be welcomed as a prodigal daughter. Still, as someone has said, it will be hard for this ‘young lady’ to weave a critical mass around her political persona, if what she has to sell are only abuses hurled at the current leadership. If she is ready to listen to me, forewarned is forearmed!