Look around and feel proud to be Rwandan

Today you shall not hear a single gripe from me. I will not react to Freedom House’s yearly report stating that Rwanda is not ‘free’. I will neither rubbish the court procedure in South Africa nor the sensationalist reporting that is accompanying the case; however, since I’ve mentioned it already let me give you my take on the initial proceedings and the headlines that are accompanying it. The headlines are alarming because Prosecution witnesses are taking the stand, they haven’t been cross-examined by the defense lawyers and defense witnesses haven’t taken to the stand yet. So, to all those observing the going-on in Johannesburg, don’t fret. Even the State Prosecutor Shaun Abrahams has called the case ‘jinxed’. And it’s only the second week.

What I want to do is to look back to where we came from, where we are now and where we are going. I listened to President Kagame speaking at the Amahoro National Stadium at the Liberation Day celebration. He said, and I’m merely paraphrasing here and there, that since 1994, we have been climbing and climbing a huge mountain and now we’d conquered the peak. We are now going down the mountain. While we shouldn’t think that everything is easy and automatic now, because we are still in danger of tripping over our own feet if we run helter-skelter downhill, the hardest part is over.

Sometimes I feel that in the ever-present desire to do better that beats in the hearts stops us really appreciating where we are right now. Personally, it’s impossible to spend an entire day without shaking my head and complaining about something wrong with the ‘Rwanda’. Either the service at a bank isnt up to my standards or the café I frequent doesn’t have internet connection. Or some overzealous traffic policemen are needlessly giving me a hard time. Or there is a power cut in the neighborhood and I can’t watch Dstv. I can go on for days and days. And I’m sure that all of you can do the same.

It often takes someone who isnt from here, or left Rwanda years ago, or in this case, a president’s speech, to make one step back and appreciate just how well we’ve done. Let’s look at my gripes; while I might complain that my bank is rubbish, it’s only because I expect great service now. In many nations, good customer service isnt a big deal but we’ve made it a priority. And although we have still a huge way to go, we ARE moving forward.

Or what about my complaints about the traffic police? Well, if you want to appreciate them and the tough job they do the best way they can, then travel around our darling continent. You will never look at the neon green-jacketed officers the same way again. So while they can improve, they are leagues ahead of their African counterparts. And what about the poor café manager who I besiege when my FREE wireless internet isnt up to par? I should remind myself of the time I went to Kampala, trawled around for free wireless internet for hours before I simply gave up and marched to the Kampala Serena hotel (paying a ridiculous amount of money).

I have started taking our progress for granted and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Take a deep breath and look around. Where once was the chaotic ‘taxi gare’, we now have a building, Kigali City Tower, that is at home in any western capital. In corners where ‘publi-phones internationale’ were situated are men and women selling internet modems. We have made huge progress and the foundations of a proper state are now present. We must allow ourselves to be proud of our achievements. It doesn’t mean that we should rest on our laurels, no. We must continue forward but not while taking everything we currently enjoy for granted.


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