Rwandans, almost to a wo/man now beyond age 30, has ever lived in a refugee camp. They know it’s a bed of no roses but, rather, of myriad pressures that only solidarity can help assuage.
One example: you and siblings are sleeping on a grass-weaved mat on a ‘grass-mattress’, on the floor, in your grass-thatched family hut. Suddenly, you wake up to the sound of marching ‘boots’, shoot out of bed and go for the fire-place. With a wood-piece’s ‘flame-torch’, you find and scoop up hot ash and, with it, draw a line on the edge of the grass bed, in their path and all around the flanks of their attacking column, to force a retreat.
You’ve disrupted an attack by an army of red ants! Without disturbance to family folk, at that.
You are thus triumphantly going back to bed when you notice the small tongue of a flame on the ‘mattress’ edge. You let out the loudest shriek of your life because it means the ash had a small cinder, when everywhere is highly combustible dry grass.
Such a warning siren was well known and everybody was out of their house in a flash, ready for a swift rescue action. If it was fire, they knew a tiny spark could have a hut up in flames in no time. More seconds lost meant more huts and even a whole range of camps reduced to ashes.
Young and old, all fell over themselves to be first at the rescue scene, to minimise damage.
This swift rescue reaction is in Rwandans’ DNA; they’ve been with it from the time their society came into existence. Having always lived in times of survival of the fittest – amidst enemies, beasts, natural threats, fickle fires, on – they’d learnt that they were fittest united; weakest, divided.
And that they were at their most formidable when they extended this rescue bug to others to form network links of bonded partnerships. That’s how slavers gave the area around here a wide birth as “nshi ya Bwana Mkali”, transliterated to mean the “land of unassailable warriors”.
Sadly, the gun and the Bible came and blew this whole regional bonding out of the water. But, happily, 1994 came along and brought a remodelling of this society to united fitness. Marrying old values with modernity has meant more solid fitness and a wider network of friendships.
Knowing this Rwandan eagerness to come to the rescue of family or friend in adversity then, President Kagame, in an interactive interview with journalists last September 5, was clearly bewildered when asked why Rwanda was first in Mozambique to help put out the fires of terrorism.
Said the President: “If somebody had his house on fire and he is calling for help, I have never heard of a situation where the one who arrives there first is questioned!” The short analogy summarises some values that inform Rwanda’s strong spirit of self-protection and ready sacrifice for friends.
Of course, the journalist’s question had loaded implications to show that Rwanda practically rushed to be first in Mozambique because she was driven by gain from the intervention.
Gaining payment from the Mozambican government; from France whose company has a billions-worth investment there; direct payment from the investing company; winning over the favours of donor countries; making a name as hero hunk of the ’hood; the whole poppycock.
Rushing to fight terrorists armed to the teeth for lucre?
Engaging in armed combat is not a walk in the park. It is a hurt business, where, at the least, young lives can be injured; at the most, lost.
But the contempt of it all! These pompous foreign self-projected smarty-panties should know that no price can buy the smallest Rwandan drop of blood. No price at all; not even the earth.
Rwandans will die in defence of their tiny neck of the woods, their country, that I can aver. They will die to save lives in distress wherever they can. But for funds; minerals? Not on your life!
This truth was borne out during the liberation struggle when they stopped their country from hurtling into the abyss. It was borne out when these do-gooders read the right act to Rwanda about being in D.R. Congo to loot minerals instead of her stated mission of freeing Rwandans held hostage by génocidaires ensconced in forests there. After her mission, they’ve seen that the country exports the same amount as, if not more than, it exported then.
After all, as President Kagame said in different wording, minerals don’t see a borderline and say: Hey, let’s stop!
And in any case, these Johnnies-on-the-spot, why were they lost for words when it came to the Central African Republic? In all the UN peacekeeping missions that she is part of, hasn’t Rwanda changed UN operational guidelines to concentrate on protecting and building the lives of civilians?
Rwandans’ swift rescue reaction bug cannot bear five years of lives senselessly lost because neighbours have to be there first, when their modest means can put a stop to that flaming shame.