The Rwanda I know and love is a warm, lovely country full of hardworking and extremely focused people. It has dreams of being a middle-income country in about a decade, it has some of the lowest rates of corruption in Africa, it has a no-nonsense leadership, and it has clean streets and children in school. But if you listened to some of the worst critics that Rwanda has, you would think that everything I’ve just written is simply hogwash. In the eyes of various ‘human rights’ groups like Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders, exiled former political leaders and their friends and certain foreign academics and politicians Rwanda is a dark place where children are sent to island prisons, where journalists are shot, politicians are exiled and killed and people are terrified of the State. There is lovely English saying that I like to use, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. While one can throw all sorts of allegations and what not, the truth is what finally comes out eventually.
Pierre Celestin Rwigema is back in Kigali. For those of you who don’t know him, eleven years ago he was the Prime Minister of Rwanda. Eleven years ago, yet again, he fled into exile for reasons that he later found to be unsubstantiated. Addressing a press conference at the Novotel, he said he was misinformed and asked for forgiveness. “I know some people are still angry with me because of the language I used, but I apologise”, he said. Blaming his former party colleagues of lying to him and frightening him into seeking political asylum in the United States, he continued to say that “anyone following Rwanda’s evolution would wish to be part of it. This is why I chose to come back and be part of the good cause. Seeing what has been done in Rwanda I am ready to keep building this country and serve the people of this country, who have gone past trivial issues like ethnic sentiments”.
This is all straight from the horse’s mouth. Now, let’s try to be logical here. If Rwanda is the death trap that all its critics say it is, then why is someone who obviously has a lot to lose returning home? He was comfortable in exile (and even if he wasn’t, exile surely wouldn’t ever be as bad as an assassin’s bullet); he probably had a home and a social life. He had so much to lose if he actually believed the ‘hype’. But he didn’t and doesn’t. He’s now home and ready to be part of the Rwandan socio-economic miracle. So, what does he know that all the soothsayers of Rwanda’s imminent doom don’t? Nothing.
The truth of the matter is that everyone knows the truth of what Rwanda is and what it aspires to. However, the critics understand that belittling Rwanda and the Rwandan leadership puts bread on their table and they will not let the truth come between them and a fat paycheck. The professional ‘Rwanda-haters’ will not change their minds on Rwanda but what they are most afraid is that the average man in the Paris or London street, who are their target audience, will change their minds on Rwanda because of positive news. If these people had their way, Rwanda would go up in flames. But Mr. Rwigema’s return is a slap in their face because it exposes the fallacy that they’ve been peddling all these years. Rwanda isnt the graveyard that they say it is; rather it is a place where each citizen is asked to play their part in the “New Rwanda”. Let me finish with a quote from Congolese music legend, Koffi Olomide. “The truth takes the stairs while lies take the elevator. But it gets there eventually”.