[Initially posted on my Facebook page on Sept 15th 2016]
When I hear the word “revolutionary,” I swear I kind of panic. There’s a certain spirit that comes with it. Not long ago, I went to a function in Kigali where people were calling each other comrades. Eh! That was too intimidating for me I swear. I felt like I was in a movie set in Europe in the mid 40’s.
When someone calls themselves a revolutionary, I wonder if they know what it means? To mean it’s simple, you are ready to die for benefits that others will enjoy and in the process you will do whatever it takes to make that happen. In the Rwandan context today, at the question “who are the others if we are one and all is good for everyone” I do not have any answer.
Just because I found a way to express my thoughts, that does not make me special. Everyone should be able to. There is no need for me to wear a beret or call myself an activist just because I am eloquent. I will not disrespect the blood of those who died so I can be free, live free, speak freely by leveling my little self to their immense courage. I will not either waste the opportunity to live the life they couldn’t just because of some walls of fear constructed around me. No! Their sacrifice would be a waste. So I am going to enjoy it so they can cheer, fist-bump from wherever they are, whenever they are watching me. Those are the true pan-africanists. I am just a guy behind a big smartphone’s screen enjoying privileges that about 99% of people around me do not have. Truth be told, we romanticize words such as patriotic, revolutionary, panafrican. They got a good sound to them, don’t they? They make us feel like we are part of something greater than ourselves yet we all know if anything happened that would jeopardize our comfort, we would be the first heading to the airport. Hey, we’ve got passports. It’s a luxury around here. If you don’t think it is, you probably have one or you live in a place where it’s a basic right. Probably education is, healthcare too. Well that’s the case around here (I am in Rwanda by the way) but we are working on these things and others. However we still have a long way to go.
I am not one of those who will lie to you that opportunities are abundant and birds are harvesting because we have too much. This is an internet era where you all have access to real information and not just reports. I will not sell to you the image of an expensive bling bling dome that we only take from afar while I forget the slum that is right behind it between Rugando and Kicukiro. I will not shout every day that we have the cleanest city on the continent while I haven’t showered for two days because some of us have given up on the idea of running water in our homes. I will not try to impress you with beautiful street lights around the city while everything outside is in complete dark and that power is no solar. I will not sell you the picture of buildings worth hundreds of millions of dollars when the locals cannot afford to conduct meaningful business into them and be able to pay rent at home. I will not lure engineers to drop their jobs and come work with us when I clearly know that we will not be able to pay you the quarter of what you are currently earning. I will not ask students to drop their education and come continue it here because my former colleagues barely have jobs; local engineers and scientists are teachers for lack of opportunities. I will not ask artists to stop their tours in Europe and America to come perform for empty seats because people do not have the luxury to attend 15$ shows unless it’s an annual event. I will not ask my aunties to stop washing dishes and old people because at least that money takes care of my grandma’s medical bills and rent while I am broke, not because I do not have the skillset and talent, but simply because the opportunities we talk about are just words that we pick up on the Internet. You know the saying, “The problem with people today is that they care more about looking successful than being successful”? Welcome to your country.
I do not mean to disrespect anybody or any effort. On the contrary, I salute this tremendous progress. It’s unbelievable to watch and be a part of it however. Maybe I’m too small-minded to catch up but please, show me, teach me, explain to me how politicians driving imported SUV’s worth $100,000 and living in $250,000 mansions while I can’t sleep on an empty stomach will make me dream big? Explain to me why we live in such parallel universes where my truth becomes a mere rant because it is not reflected in your reports? Explain to me how a car-free day for millions of people who can’t even dream to have a car today because import taxes are extremely high is such an important innovation? How millions of dollars have to be spent in setting 4G technology on buses for which I can barely afford 230Frw per trip are going to help me grow my beans when draught hits the land? Tell me why I shouldn’t try my luck elsewhere because I’m surviving at 35 while I should have started building a house for my mother already? Kuki abo turi kumwe bose bimyoza iyo ubabajije uko babayeho?
I will tell you this. We “returned” to Rwanda because it was time to. We needed to. Nobody forced us to. Do it in your time, at your own pace. It would be a shame if you came home and not find your place because you did not take an informed decision. Also keep in mind that you will NOT enjoy the comfort that you may have where you are right now unless you sacrifice years in making that happen.
When you come it is not to harvest as many would lie to you, it is to invest the (“little”) money you have and lots of sweat. Be prepared for realities that defy logic on so many levels and in so many ways but above all welcome to your home.