– I respect a lot President Kagame, I admire him for what he does for the Rwandan people, I hope to do the same for Guinea. – Alpha Code, President of Guinea
As I heard Alpha Conde saying those words, during the last visit of President Paul Kagame to Guinea, I couldn’t help but reminisce on the speech of his distant predecessor Ahmed Sékou Touré, as he offered sanctuary to Kwame Nkrumah: ‘I should resign and let President Nkrumah become the president of Guinea…’
You see, Africa is back! That spirit, the one preconceived by the illustrious Cheikh Anta Diop, of looking at ourselves and each other as the cradle of mankind and the origin of civilization. I wasn’t there, but it must have felt this way…
For a while the spirit seemed to fade. The youth of our continent lost faith, at times blaming colonialists, at times blaming our despotic leaders; holding the western model in their face and telling them: look, you aren’t living up to this! Resigning into misery at the bottom and mastering the art of self-victimization.
That time of despair is coming to an end, at last. Giving way to an epoch where we, Africans recognize the power from within. When we celebrate our forefather’s wisdom, when we uphold our ‘Ubuntu’.
I can feel the revival, where the success of one is no longer seen as an indictment of the other’s failure, but a beacon of hope. To quote poet Marianne Williamson, ‘And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others’; to shine too; and I may add: in thousands of lights…
Today we can borrow a leaf from each other and together rise again, for she adds: ‘It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.’
Which is why we remember. We remember Amilcar Cabral who fought the Portuguese to his last breath, and Patrice Emery Lumumba who dreamed of a free and prosperous Congo. Many of us still find strength in that memorable speech of defiance that he gave before the King of Belgians on his country’s Independence:
‘Victorious independence fighters, I salute you in the name of the Congolese Government. I ask all of you, my friends, who tirelessly fought in our ranks, to mark this June 30, 1960, as an illustrious date that will be ever engraved in your hearts, a date whose meaning you will proudly explain to your children, so that they in turn might relate to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren the glorious history of our struggle for freedom…’
You are coming to Rwanda because you are descendants of Chris Hani, Tom Boya and of Prince Louis Rwagasore; revolutionary men whose deeds preceded you. When we greet you in Kigali next week, that’s who we’ll see in you.
As comrade Mugabe briefly recalled in his edifying speech recently, as he passed on the mantle of the African Union to president Debby: ‘we used to be one. One’s independence was not complete until all’s independence was.’ That day he recalled Ben Bella and Habib Bourguiba and many fallen comrades with whom he was brought up in the cadership of the Pan-African Movement.
We recall Comrades Kenneth Kaunda, Julius Nyerere and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, for offering their lands as back base for anti-colonial resistance and the springboards for liberation movements. We salute Comrades Samora Macher and Edouardo Mondlane, whose Partido de la Vanguarda Socialista (Frelimo), supported the Zimbabweans and South Africans in fighting apartheid. We salute Comrades Steve Biko, Oliver Thambo and Walter Sisulu, who never compromised on the total freedom of the South African people, from the yoke of the oppressor.
We remember Meles Zenawi, the fighter and Unifier of Ethiopia. He died too early, like his comrade John Garang, who never saw an independent and prosperous South Sudan…
Who should I recall, who should I not? My list is not complete, for I couldn’t exhaust the hundred of heroes, whom this land of our ancestors gave birth to; then again the story isn’t over yet, it is just getting started.
Today Africa is the most peaceful continent (50 out of 54 countries are internally at peace). Africa sustains itself and, as usual, supplies resources to the rest of the world (only 2% of its GDP is foreign aid).
As we enter into the Agenda 2063, it is essential that we inspire ourselves from our force from within, what we call in Rwanda: Home Grown Solutions. You see, upon independence most of us had what it took to thrive. The effervescence was real, so was the awareness and the heroism. It is real again today. Not only can I feel it, I can see and experience it too.
You have not been asked to apply for a visa coming to Rwanda. This should not come as a surprise, for the opposite is abnormal. When you land, look around; you will see that you are among your own. If you listen carefully, you might grasp some of the words in our mother tongue. Do not feel homesick, for your culture is the same as ours. And if you hear your neighbor’s story, you will be moved by the similarities to yours.
Africa is one, Africa must be one; borderless and integrated. After all, boundaries are only in our heads. They were not a choice but imposed, and for that we recall comrade Nkwameh Krumah who advocated for African Unity and Sékou Touré who offered support and sanctuary to African freedom fighters. We pay tribute to Haile Selassie Ai, the father of the Organisation of African Unity and Mouamar El Gadhafi, the father of the African Union, as we know it today.
Brother Mouamar died at the hand of the infidel. His name was tarnished, rolled in mud, but we reserve him a special place in our hearts. His demise reminds us young Africans, that we must guard firm, lest the best among us are devoured by the insatiable empire. Like mermaids they shall sing, they shall lure, only to our people shall we listen!
Let’s remember the great Cheikh Anta Diop and his friend Father Alexis Kagame, of whom he said he appreciated the work, because it was exclusively in Kinyarwanda, our mother tongue. Here we uphold the ideals of Frantz Fannon and comrades from the Caribbean, namely Aimé Césaire and Léon Gontrand Damas. Men of discipline and purpose, who worked tirelessly to infuse philosophy and scholarship into our struggle for resistance. They theorized our cause and established undisputed evidence to the strength of our character.
To quote young Somali singer K’naan, ‘even freedom fighters long for stories of love’, so this tribute would be incomplete, If I didn’t recognize Miriam Makeba, Kuyate Sory, Hugh Masekela and Fela Kuti. They made the hardships bearable; their voices knew how to mend our broken hearts and ease our pain.
In exile or on the battlefield, we all felt the same sensations when we heard Kayirebwa’s Umunezero… Their music is timeless, which is why almost sixty years later, we still vibrate at Joseph Kabasele (Le Grand Kalé)’s Independence cha cha…
They made it so that the Spanish conquistadors, the Portuguese ‘explorers’ or the Belgian white priests, would not steal our ‘Ubuntu’ and usurp our authenticity.
None of them could win the Nobel or Ibrahim prizes, they were vanguard iconoclasts, whose lives were dedicated to fighting the empire, it is not from it then, that they expected gratification, but from their own people: us!
Welcome to Rwanda. Here we are the children of Mutara Rudahigwa, an independence hero, who always sought to unify his people until that power was taken from him. We believe that Rwanda isn’t the borders of this small land, but a concept of openness and dignity: #Agaciro. By coming here, you are honoring us, as our dignity stems from yours.
I kept the best for last: This piece is dedicated to comrade Thomas Sankara. Everything you see here is mistakenly similar to Sankara’s vision and dream, which he was sadly unable to accomplish. From gender emancipation, public probity, community work (Umuganda), self-reliance: Dignity – manifested in the welfare state, but also in the defiance of yesteryear masters, namely the French, etc.
Rwandan folklore wants that the most valiant of us all, must die on the battlefield to redeem Rwanda’s triumph. We thus recall our own Fred Gisa Rwigema, whom with Sankara, left us too soon, yet redeemed Africa’s triumph and I am sure from where they are, watching upon us, we must make them proud.
Africa must be defined by its best, not its worst, so that those who grow up, know who to emulate.
So you be warned! Next time you start your sentence by ‘we Africans…’, remember that it is Rwanda, an African country that realized the highest human development of this generation, just followed by China.
Bothers and sisters, Karibu Nyumbani, Ikaze mu Rwanda.