“You have killed my business. It is all your fault”. “Not one customer has come to my electronic shop since morning whereas before I received between thirty to fifty customers daily”.
Those were some of the words that were thrown in my direction as I walked through the new Kigali car-free zone on Monday morning. The irate business owners blamed me for instigating a move that they believe will put them out of business and leave them impoverished, an accusation that I feel is unfair.
Firstly, as I told them, the pedestrian-only zones in Kigali were always part of the City Master Plan; the move was always going to happen. Secondly, I’m not egotistical enough to believe that the timing of the move was a direct result of my penning an article two weeks ago. Perhaps all I did was remind people of a plan they had in the first place.
So, as I told those who put me on the spot, perhaps they would be better served if they directed their ire in the right direction i.e. City Hall.
I cannot pretend to not feel their pain; I sincerely do. I would be heartbroken, angry, desperate and frustrated if I woke up one day and found out that I would have to change the way I did business with barely a warning. Let us be honest enough to acknowledge that some of the businesses along the road are going to have to leave or go under. They should have gotten more warning than a few days.
There is a saying, ‘to make an omelet, you need to break a few eggs’. The move to create pedestrian zones in our city is delicious. Walking along the road, I felt a sense of peace; instead of honking and the throat-irritating exhaust, I could actually hear the wind swirl around me. Instead of a rat race, I saw people spend time talking to acquaintances they met without being barged over by others in a rush. I even met a fellow writer sitting on the curb typing furiously on his laptop as he ‘stole’ free Wi-Fi from Pension Plaza.
Which brings me to my next point. We cannot allow this move to stagnant. We shouldn’t allow that public space to become a dead-zone. Too often I’ve seen our public spaces become dead-zones. For example, almost no one enjoys all the greenery in front of the defense ministry. No one enjoys the park in front of foreign ministry. They are just beautiful facades that are good to look at but are utterly useless to the general public. Despite the fact that they are maintained with our taxes.
I worry that despite city officials’ best intentions, they will create a zone that is like the rest of our public spaces, extremely boring. Here is my suggestion, create a semi-autonomous body, overseen by the City Council of course, that manages the zone in the publics best interest. I don’t see why we cannot have farmer’s markets on Sundays. I don’t see why we cannot have pop up markets every so often. I don’t see why we cannot have a street party. We can have Wi-Fi zones that attract students and tourists. We can have food and drink trucks. The sky is the limit.
How many of you knew that you will actually go to jail for months for having a sexual relation with someone who is not your spouse? According to Article 244 of the penal code you will go to jail for between six months to a year if you are convicted of adultery.
I understand that the law should be followed; however, I totally disagree with the people who decided to criminalize this. The State really doesn’t need to get involved with what two or more consenting people do in their bedrooms. There is absolutely no justification for it. Sure, its sad when a marriage breaks down but the public is not damaged in any way. In fact, it can harm the public good.
Let us imagine a scenario where the parent of a five-year old is caught literally and figuratively pants down. Not only does that child have to suffer through the unraveling of their parent’s marriage, they also have to suffer the ignominy of seeing their parent dressed in pink. Even if the children don’t remember the sight of their parent in pink, they will not enjoy their parent’s love for possibly a year.
Who in their right mind wants that? The only one would be a vindictive spouse. And our laws should not support such vindictiveness.