The contrast could not have been starker. The significance of the two events could not have been greater and more different.
Inside the Hyatt Hotel in Chicago thousands of Rwandans and North American friends of Rwanda met in an atmosphere of both business and celebration. They hugged and laughed and told stories of what had happened since the last time they met. It was time to catch up on each other’s lives and with events in the motherland.
The eagerness to connect with the country was striking; the pride to be Rwandan so plain it was palpable. Equally evident was the desire to be linked with Rwanda by the country’s friends.
Rwandan cultural performances, both traditional and contemporary, provided the backdrop to the celebratory mood. It was the perfect setting for the good-natured, relaxed conversations as well as more animated and excited chatter.
And that was not surprising. Rwandans and their friends were happy to revel in their worth as people. They were pleased to display it in emotion and in deed.
For indeed the Hyatt Hotel gathering provided Rwandan entrepreneurs with the opportunity to showcase what is happening in Rwanda, the successes people have registered and what the future of the country looks like.
And the message to the thousands gathered inside the hotel, when it came, it was appropriately rousing and fit the occasion to perfection. President Paul Kagame touched on what they all felt – their dignity as Rwandans and their contribution to building their country.
They cannot wait for others to do it for them because, if they do, they will be trodden on and will have no reason to complain. They cannot be content to be given leftovers or handouts. The president’s message was as much for those inside the hotel as those outside.
That was inside. Outside, in the deserted streets, a handful of fugitives, not more than a dozen, and hired protesters made a lot of discordant noises. Absent was the self-respect and confidence so evident in the larger group inside. The rag-tag group was so defiant in this important trait that they turn to foreigners to fix what they allege is wrong in their countries.
Even their organizers did not seem to believe in what they were doing. Or perhaps they were ashamed about the stark difference between them and the group inside.
Theogene Rudasingwa who had promised to disrupt the North American diaspora meeting (aptly dubbed Rwanda Day) with the President of Rwanda even refused to talk to the media he had invited. The man who loves listening to himself and cannot pass the opportunity to indulge a blatantly puerile and narcistic fascination was afraid of his own voice. Something was seriously wrong.
He and many others did not want to show their faces – perhaps out of shame and guilt (although those are not qualities you would associate with Rudasingwa). They certainly lacked conviction. It was clear that the dozen noisemakers and their crest-fallen organizers were only performing a task they had to do because they had been either hired or needed to justify to their funders so that money could keep flowing.
Rudasingwa’s pal and co-conspirator, Paul Rusesabagina cut a pathetic figure as he paced up and down the street. The man has an exaggerated sense of his abilities and a high propensity to deceive to match. He wants Rwandan history to revolve around his fictitious image. Was his restlessness finally recognition of the futility of his quixotic adventure? Or was he seething with anger that he had in the end been uncovered?
If the two men have any shred of self-respect left, they will surely abandon their reckless and destructive enterprise and reclaim the love of their motherland. But I give them too much credit.
That was not the only difference between the two groups. The street group (very apt choice, the street!) hurled insults at President Kagame. They followed these with lies, not even original, but those peddled by their handlers. The insults and lies like they spewed out are usually a sign of bad upbringing. Maybe you can’t blame.
This is what has become the hallmark of the so-called dissidents – ill-mannered, have no programme except insults, out of touch with events in their own country. If they have any programme it is to destroy their country. They seem to have a quarrel with the president which they want to extend to all Rwandans. Small wonder they could not gather more than a dozen people and a handful of the usually curious media.
On the other hand, the group inside was brimming with confidence in what their government is doing for the country. It has a vision. It wants to build. It wants Rwandans to take this primary national responsibility. And to do so effectively, Rwandans must recognize their own worth and reclaim their dignity which is theirs by right and which no one has the right to take away from them.
And that is the essential difference between self-respecting Rwandans and the street variety. The former are proud to be who they are and forward-looking. The latter despise their own kind, are backward and destructive. It is easy for one to make the choice of where they want to be.