Rwandans have a way of shrugging off unpleasant things that seek to distract them from getting on with whatever task is at hand. They always have an apt response that is often a resolute and defiant statement with the strength of a solemn vow. The most current one is to say: dukomeze imihigo. A very liberal translation of this is: let’s stay the course, keep our objectives in sight and attain our goals. It is a way of saying; we shall not be distracted or diverted.
This has proved an effective rallying point for the nation – whether in nation-building or countering adverse events.
The latest such attempted distraction from our course has been the unsolicited advice from our good neighbour – President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania for Rwanda to hold talks with the FDLR terrorist group based in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We may not discount the good intention behind the advice. It was probably good neighbourly advice conveyed with neighbourly insensitivity. Or perhaps it was a message from elsewhere delivered with the bluntness of the impatient messenger. It could even have been a smokescreen for other motives. It does not really matter.
It does not matter whether the advice rose from a burning desire to join the ranks of that elite group of peacemakers and earn a Nobel Peace prize in the bargain. Sainthood, particularly on earth, is very tempting. You only have to desire it. Saintliness is, of course, less attractive. It requires a higher moral standard and degree of selflessness that most mortals lack. There have actually been publicly acclaimed peacemakers who have also stoked the fires of conflict.
Whatever the reason for the good neighbour’s advice, it certainly did not divert Rwandans from their course for long. It was meant with “dukomeze imihigo”.
And sure enough foreign experts and media were soon reporting imihigo that had been delivered. At the weekend, Foreign Policy Magazine’s Profitability Index ranked Rwanda the fifth best investment destination globally. The magazine projected that the country was now more likely to pull in more investors and that the resulting increased revenues would reduce the fiscal deficit and heavy dependency on aid.
Now, this was evidence of the benefits of staying the course and attaining goals. The news carried more benefits for Rwandans than debating whether it was or was not a good thing to sit, talk and even sup with the devil and at the end hug him and say all is well and he was no longer an outlaw.
Problem is the devil revels in being an outlaw. That is what gives him distinction and relevance. He is by nature destructive and asking him to build anything is demanding the impossible – to deny his very nature.
If President Kikwete’s advice was meant to distract, it has done the opposite. It has put people on their guard and made them more determined to not be derailed but to deliver more imihigo.
Before the most recent attempt to get Rwandans to take their eyes off the ball as it were, there were others with the same intention. These previous cases were also met with the resolute call for staying the course – dukomeze imihigo.
Only last year, an avowed FDLR apologist led a United Nations Group of Experts in fabricating a report that sought to make Rwanda responsible for the governance weaknesses in the DRC. The absence of the state in huge parts of the enormous country has spawned numerous rebel groups. The man, Steve Hege, and the people whose errand he was running spared no effort in trying to divert Rwandans from their path. They actually did manage to convince some countries to cut their support to Rwanda.
In the event, Rwanda kept sight of its goals, got elected to the United Nations Security Council and became a moderating voice on the council.
The economy did not crumble. Novel ways of raising capital were sought. The resilience of Rwandans was once again in evidence.
Interestingly, in other previous cases intended to divert Rwanda from its development course have been linked in some way with FDLR and the genocide against the Tutsi. Take the case of the French judge Louis Bruguiere or the so-called Mapping reports, for instance. Both were meant to exonerate perpetrators of the genocide by placing the blame on the victims.
They failed and Rwandans went on with their imihigo.
We have seen it all before – advice, threats, accusations of all sorts and blackmail. They have not distracted us from our course. Even today, the latest friendly advice will not divert Rwandans. Nor will it absolve those responsible for the genocide of their crime.
In the meantime, Rwandans will keep their eyes on their goals and move to attain them. Dukomeze imihigo.