Uriya ni Umusazi…
I don’t know how many times I have heard that comment made to me: ‘uriya ni umusazi’. It is dismissively made by people who are made uncomfortable by one’s expressed freedom of thought. ‘That person is mad’. Rwandans who can’t argue with you, call you mad.
What they don’t know is that ‘ubusazi’ as they call it, is a choice. We chose to be abasazi so that others can be ‘abazima’. And it is stressful. It is much easier to repeat self-explaining truths, share daily philosophies and retweet government directives. Personally, I look forward to getting married soon so I can have an excuse to retire from ‘ubusazi’; do as I’m told, pay my taxes and go home.
In all countries of the world, they have television programs and satire newspapers dedicated to making fun of politicians. Their purpose is to break the ice between the governors and the governed, to create more cohesion and human relations between us all.
In ancient Rwanda the community known as ‘Abatwa’ assumed that role. They did it in satire and song. All laughed but the message was passed, that’s how the Kinyarwanda saying went, ‘ukuri gushirira mubiganiro’.
When I read the communiqué announcing the removal of Minister Nduhungirehe, I thought it paid him a compliment. It said he ‘acted out of personal opinion’. Frankly I can’t say as much for many other ministers. Now that he is no longer minister, who shall we argue with? Who shall we disagree with?
I do not always agree with Amb. Nduhungirehe, I even disagree with him more often than not and I thank him for it. In many countries is hard to tell what a politician thinks, or what they believe. They are trained to speak in ‘langue de bois’, opaque, indecipherable sentences and shift positions as it suits them – more often than they change actual suits; in other words, It is hard to find an ‘opinionated’ minister.
As a result, all we do is sharing niceties with officials, agreeing with them or emphasising their points, I guess Amb. Nduhungirehe’s sin was to forget to indicate on his handle that his tweets reflect his personal opinion and that ‘retweets are not endorsements’.
Now two points here: First, no one is entitled to being a minister forever and this decision shouldn’t be surprising, just as we weren’t surprised when he was appointed minister. In fact, I believe the Ambassador will soon be redeployed by government and if not, he could always pursue his career as a tax lawyer in the private sector.
Second. In what the Ambassador tweeted, he could have been mistaken in his judgement but that too is fine, as another saying goes: ‘to err is human’. Either way, ‘nta gikuba cyacitse’. I just thought this advent gave me an opportunity to start a conversation on the place of opinionated people in our country.
I believe that exhaust valves is healthy in a society, and that disagreeing gives people an opportunity to iron out different points of view to build awareness on a given issue. When some disagree publicly, many find answers to their questions, after all, we are a country of dialogue and consensus. I draw this belief from my studying of Rwanda’s political history, where, since time immemorial, the people practice what is known as ‘infrapolitics’ – which means not expressing opinions on politics.
However, disagreeing constructively requires training. The reason many people resort to uncivility whenever they argue, is because they aren’t socialised to the culture of debate, yet as another Kinyarwanda saying goes: ‘umuryango utazimura urazima.’
I also felt the need to write this send away piece because I consider Ambassador Olivier as a friend and colleague and I genuinely wish him well. So to thank him for his service, thus far, I wanted to offer him this poem by Marianne Williamson, which very much represents who he is:
Our deepest fear:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.