I love living and working in the warm Rwandan sun. And honestly, I don’t see anywhere in the world I would rather be than here at home. But every year, I suffer huge pangs of jealousy whenever there is a Rwanda Day celebration, either in the US or Europe. It seems so fun and so informative. As I watch the celebratory scenes on YouTube and Rwanda Television on Sunday, I was reminded of the October 1st festivals I used to attend with my parents as a child. When I saw the dancing and singing at the Rwanda Day celebrations, I remember the same in Toronto back in the early nineties. I remember those celebrations as some of the most glorious times during our exile because those were the times the entire Rwandan community came together to celebrate our culture, our tradition and our common patrimony. That was when we proclaimed to the world that we were ‘Rwandan and proud’.
Prior to Rwanda Day, I watched with interest as a bunch of misguided busybodies worked themselves into a tizzy, railing against the Rwandan leadership, and sometimes against Rwandans themselves. Using the might of social media, they tried to throw a spanner in the works of the Oxford University business school event celebrating President Kagame’s achievements in pulling Rwandans out of poverty. When the online campaign failed, instead of admitting defeat gracefully and moving on with their lives, they decided to go native.
On Twitter I saw a bunch of haters go on and on about their triumphant ‘protest’. It was only after I came across a YouTube video by ‘The Voice of Congo’ that I saw what their protest was really like. I had assumed that the protestors would stand on the side of the road, spew their nonsense and lift a few placards. I assumed wrong. Wild looking men and women wearing military fatigues calling themselves ‘freedom fighters’ (with names like James Bond Never Die) ran around, throwing themselves in front of the President’s car and pelting his motorcade with eggs. All the while screaming obscenities in Lingala, hoisting posters of Etienne Tshisekedi (the self-styled ‘People’s President’) and acting like buffoons.
While I was merely disgusted by the antics with the President’s motorcade, I felt the blood drain from my face when I saw the animals (I am loath to call them protestors. Martin Luther King Jr was a protestor, these people where animals) surround the business school, and threaten the students with death and sexual assault if they dared walk out of the building.
Watching the scenes, I was shocked by the vitriol. Not from the tiny group of Rwandan protestors mind you (they stood on the sidewalk and acted civilized. Misguided in my opinion but civilized nevertheless) but from the numerous Congolese. The video left wondering why in the world these people had so much hatred for a president of another country that they would risk being trampled on by police horses?
I came to the conclusion that they had been so confused and lied to, that they actually believed that their country’s political, economic and social problems was Rwanda’s fault.
Watching them call our president a “killer”, I wished I could ask them about Kofi Annan’s recent report which details the manner in which international mineral companies and members of the state apparatus are conniving to strip Congo’s mineral wealth. I would ask about the Minova rapes, in which Congolese troops are accused of sexually assaulting scores of women. I would ask them about the legacy of Mobutu Sese Seko. I would challenge them about the fact that they were hiding in European capitals, living on welfare and menial employment, instead of going back to their country and actually doing their part to develop it.
I’ve noticed a tendency among some of us to blame outsiders for our woes. This must end if we are to actually move forward. Refusing to acknowledge the systemic issues that we have will only keep us in the dark longer than needs be. I am proud to live in a nation that is tackling its issues head on. Now if only the citizens of our dear neighbor could do the same…