It’s been only two weeks since I put my thoughts on paper but it feels like it’s been longer. I guess that’s what happens when one’s written something weekly for close to a decade.
I was on leave helping to organise a sibling’s nuptials and all I can say is this, it was a relief when everything was done. I finally understand why very few Rwandans get divorced; the thought of enduring another bunch of wedding meetings and fundraisers gives them nightmares. They’d probably rather stay in an unsatisfactory marriage than go through another bunch of ceremonies again.
All jokes aside, when I returned to work yesterday and flipped through the day’s issue of The New Times, three things caught my eye. Firstly, the headline ‘ Gen Karake is free’. Secondly, the photograph of President Kagame walking from the new M.Peace Plaza building to City Hall. Thirdly, the story in which the Central Bank announces the prohibition of the pricing of goods and services in foreign currencies.
The release of General Karake is a victory against those who attempted to misuse international law to slander his good name (and therefore the Government of Rwanda) and turn history on its head. These well-known people assumed that they would get an easy ride. They were sorely mistaken. But while we celebrate the legal victory, let us not forget that the foul and immoral arrest warrants still exist. And until they are consigned to the dumpster of history, we mustn’t rest.
That is why I will not be satisfied when the Spanish Supreme Court annuls the indictments next month (I’m quite confident that it will). Why won’t I be happy? Because the Supreme Court will rule on the legality of Spanish universal jurisdiction and not on the facts of the indictment. What I wish is for a court to state unequivocally that the allegations have no legal merit and should be dismissed and treated with the contempt that they deserve. Until that happens, those who wish to rewrite history will always have a straw to cling to. They will be able to say, “we lost on a technicality, but not on the facts”. And that sends my blood to a boil.
The above photograph of the President walking to the newly inaugurated City Hall got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if we all could do that? When I look at the stretch of road from Pension Plaza to just beyond City Hall (which I’ve coined ‘Rwanda’s Wall Street’) with all its imposing structures and hundreds of offices, I wonder, how will anyone control the traffic jams that will eventually arise when the many offices get fully utilised?
I mean, even today sometimes the gridlock makes it almost impossible to move ten meters a minute. Imagine when the M. Plaza and the planned Equity Towers gets fully occupied? It will only get worse. Throw in the fact that the road cannot be expanded and one realises that City Council is sitting on an infrastructural nightmare. Here is my solution: between 6am-9pm make the Central Business District a car-free zone. It would reduce pollution in the city centre, encourage public transport use and reduce the creeping incidences of adult obesity due to the free ‘gym tonic’ people would get by speed walking to work.
Lastly, the issue of foreign exchange use in the country. A few months back, I wrote complaining about an incident in Gisenyi where I was forced to pay my hotel bill in US dollars simply because I chose to pay using a Visa debit card. According to the hotel management, they only had a PoS machine was compatible with dollars. I was outraged. How could a hotel in the country not have a PoS machine that accepted payment in Rwanda’s legal tender?
Forcing people who stay in Rwandan hotels to pay in foreign currencies is not only ‘agasuzuguro’ (contempt) but also a ploy to fleece them of their hard-earned money. For example, if you decide to stay at Hotel X in Gisenyi that charges $100 a night you have two choices; pay in dollars OR pay the equivalent in Rwandan Francs. The problem is, the hotel unilaterally chooses what the Franc-Dollar rate will be. So, whereas in one place you’ll pay Rwf 73,100 for a night (which would be the Central Bank forex rate), in other you’ll pay Rwf 80,000 (which is their rate).
Our country cannot become one where our own legal tender is second-class citizen of sorts. I urge the Central Bank to investigate the many hotels that are playing with our currency. Mister Central Bank Governor John Rwangobwa, who can we report to if we catch a business engaging in this act of financial trickery? And what will you do when we do?