To Rwandans, with love: On humility, restraint and vigilance

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To Rwandans, with love: On humility, restraint and vigilance
To Rwandans, with love: On humility, restraint and vigilance

Africa-Press – Rwanda. Rwanda has come from far indeed. So much so that amidst the excitement of witnessing these improvements, it is sometimes difficult to remain level-headed, and maintain the humility that President Paul Kagame recently highlighted the importance of, at a Unity Club meeting last month.

I don’t exactly blame anyone for feeling all warm and fuzzy at the mention of Rwanda under RPF-Inkotanyi. I suspect that having been deemed insignificant for so long, a patriotic African could find themselves almost intoxicated by greatness bearing their country’s flag. Unfortunately, intoxication compromises alertness, and this might be counterproductive to our pursuits.

Wendell Philipps, an American slavery abolitionist, wrote that “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Perhaps the aforementioned humility, however unexciting it is to fetch from within, leaves more space for awareness. Chest-thumping, on the other hand, tends to drown out the ominous sounds that warn of incoming threats.

We mustn’t allow the landscape of the 59-94 Rwanda (a timeframe you will find to be longer than the period since our country’s liberation) exist as the backdrop of reality against which our lapse of wellness temporarily stands. With every achievement, we have gained more to lose. Cognizance, therefore, is fundamental to protecting what has been earned, and could be instrumental to securing more successes.

Enemies Undead

Rwanda, although landlocked and “relatively impoverished” (credit: Kenneth Roth), sits at the centre of the continent that houses the world’s future. Worse still, the country is led by a Pan-African leader calling for the emancipation of the entire continent against the residue of colonial rule.

Let’s look at the context. The control of sub-Saharan Africa, with its relatively low population density and notorious resource wealth, grows ever more appealing as the world races towards “overpopulation”.

Overpopulation is a questionable concept, however it enables western powers to justify a few things: allowing a large portion of the newly born children in the global south to starve and lose their access to habitable land, due to greenhouse gas emissions caused by industries in northern countries; rapidly exerting essential resources such as potable water; dousing food supplies in harmful chemicals to lower production costs; sinking, intentionally, global wages while demanding for the ever-more rapid production of superfluous products.

Africa, the developing continent, has shown resilience to plenty of these assaults on human welfare, meticulously devised in northern boardrooms. This feat both impresses and saddens me.

Considering the sheer effort it requires to exist on constant survival, defensive mode, I can only imagine what we could achieve if these threats disintegrated, and all this drive, the Inkontanyi determination, could be channeled into merely improving our welfare. This is the win we are yet to achieve. This is the big boastful Goliath landlocked impoverished David must send tumbling: an order where our most extensive efforts are exhausted on defending ourselves. Instead, they should be channeled into discovery, creation and the persistent pursuit of self-love.

I have come to believe that only unvarnished and legitimate love of the self can neutralize the appeal of vanity, and the resulting fear of falling short in the face of challenges ahead.

The (Rwandan) national sport of restraint

I admire President Kagame for not fear-mongering – a tactic that would radicalize any of his moderate or complacent supporters in his favour – like several foreign politicians have preconized. When the UK’s Boris Johnson sought to secure his election through Brexit, the Boogeyman of the Syrian refugee that would rob “real” British Nationals of their benefits was deployed. The average terrorized and misinformed Brit then ran to the polls, and voted to elect a man with open disdain for the working class, science, and truthfulness.

In America, the fearful “monster” only chronically-politically-inexperienced Trump could save the proud American citizen from, was the Mexican “illegal immigrant” that hopped border fences to “rape”, among other sinister things. But these cheap stratagems have never been of taste here. President Kagame could very well highlight the true nature of the risks we face (and overcome) daily, to attest the necessity of his firm leadership. But instead, he chooses for the visible improvements on our wellbeing to speak for themselves.

There are two fascinating levels to this humility: the first is that the victor of so many battles, would opt out of boasting about perhaps their most sensational triumphs, however eager the crowd may be to celebrate such glory.

The second is the implication that no win indeed, is absolute. Humility therefore, is not so much modesty, but pushing self-indulgence to the side, leaving room to consider existent threats to more progress. After all, one can only surpass an obstacle they have acknowledged and measured.

This spirit of restraint, which I find at times intriguing and at times elegant – perhaps due to my part foreignness – seems present in nearly every Rwandan. Many western institutions have chosen to misinterpret Rwandans’ abstinence for being too afraid to talk. But when you don’t have much, as Kenneth Roth dearly wishes to state we do not, there is no point sharing what will not be appreciated. There is no use speaking what will not be understood. Very few outside of Rwandans will understand how the journey we have lived these past few decades, has marked us. How could they possibly relate to such a succession of spilled blood and death, of rebirth and survival, of unfamiliar optimism and new-found hope?

Maybe we shouldn’t expect to be appreciated, defended or understood. Humility and vigilance will lead us to many more unacknowledged wins. After all, as President Paul Kagame is a living example of, they have done a wonderful job at that so far.

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