‘…Therefore the skillful General captures cities without laying siege to them. With his forces intact he will dispute the mastery of the Empire, and thus, without losing a man, his triumph will be complete. This is the method of attacking by stratagem.’ -Sun Tzu, Art of War (III 6-7)
Indeed, good generals subdue armies to win battles. Masters of the art however, win wars and capture cities without firing a shot. To my knowledge, no other foreign people have found themselves in thousands, with their elite, their cabinet and their president, in Washington DC.
This week, Rwandans have ‘laid siege’ to the capital of the mightiest nation on earth. They are dining in their restaurants, sleeping in their hotels and preaching in their churches. It is not a violent conquest though, they will not break into homes, rape or pillage. They bring a message of friendship and hope, from the small nation at the heart of Africa.
They are not settlers in the new world, they are pilgrims. With delegations from across Europe, Africa and Americas, they have come together to celebrate their unity, to showcase their “agaciro” (Identity), to seal bonds of friendship and foster cultural exchanges. And when their mission is done, they will leave and return home to Rwanda.
Japanese in World Cups, have a culture of cleaning stadia after football matches. I am confident that Rwandans too will not leave unsettled bills behind. They will not shout, nor fight. They will not destroy property or litter in the beautiful city of Washington. They will smile, they will tip, they will show a different image of Africans.
By the time they depart, the American people will have a better impression of Rwanda, and its decent, disciplined citizens that have visited them. They will wish them to visit again.
Many individuals in the current American administration have a history with Rwanda. Some were in our country during and after the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, others worked for NGOs that didn’t always see things the same way as the RPF-led government, which stopped the genocide. Others again, had their minds poisoned by those who sought to destroy us and were defeated. But this week is a chance to change their hearts.
Rwandans have come to engage them in candid conversations. If they are ready to oblige us and listen, we are happy to tell our new story. The story of rebirth, of renewal; the story of the triumph of life over death.
In Matthew 7:16, the good book says: “By their deeds you shall know them…” It is hard, at times, to explain our unity and the people’s support of our president, to someone from afar, who lives in a divided nation and sees no similar traits in his own leaders. This week, Americans will see for themselves and testify. For to borrow a metaphor from the same book, “the blind will receive sight, the lame will walk, those who have leprosy will be cleansed, the deaf will hear, the dead will rise, as the good news by President Kagame is proclaimed to the poor – [at heart]…
I cannot end this sermon, without expressing gratitude to our gracious hosts, the American people. Many nations look up to you for lessons of progress. We too have come with an open heart. You can trust that what we’ll learn during this week, shall not be lost. What we’ll hear, shall not fall on deaf ears. When it is your turn to visit us in Rwanda, you will see that all you have taught us has been adapted to our own context, then implemented.
To put form to substance, and although it is not my place, I too would like to invite Americans this year. It is a year of celebrations in Rwanda! We will commemorate thirty years since the end of the genocide against the Tutsi. We will celebrate thirty years of uninterrupted peace, stability and progress, we will renew our trust in our leader whom, with our help, made it all possible.
May the friendship between Rwanda and America continue to flourish for the years to come.