Lonzen Rugira, the unusual Rwandan

lonzen_rugiraOvertime, some of us had given up on reading the New Times. We felt life was too short, so we’d perused the headings and move on. Every now and then, someone we admire would be published in there and share the link – then we’d read. So when Lonzen Rugira came about, I was clueless.

My father was the first to alert me about Rugira’s review of my blog.

  • ‘Is that you he’s speaking about or somebody else? he said, teasing me.
  • Who? I asked.
  • Oh you do not know each other?

He’ll never admit it, but I think when my father read the review, he cried.

When I read it, I felt vindicated and freed; my country is changing, I felt to myself, pushing a sigh of happiness. Like Diogenes the mad philosopher, I had been walking with a lamp in broad daylight, looking for a human. All on the path laughed at me, my friend, author Kimonyo Jean Paul referred to me as the ‘romantic of Rwandan politics’.

I’d once ventured on a simple, complimentary story and exposed myself. The person I’d complimented took advantage of my generosity, like Rwandans usually do, and by that she’d subliminally shut down an aspect of my writing; the naivety, insouciance and insolence that enables a writer to wonder, further afield. I’d now become a ‘practical’ writer, serving a strategic purpose, with clear-cut lines and little or no loose ends. I’d write legal arguments instead of stories.

So when I saw Lonzen’s article, I was speechless; there was such generosity, such class and grace, all projected onto another person he’d not physically met; a person with no money nor power. I was not aware that there were Rwandans like him: Rwandans who’d complement people outside the sociopolitical hierarchy. Praises, I’d thought, were reserved for incumbent power structures; incumbency being of such essence that many read the Pravda, sorry – the New Times, just to keep up with the fleeting notion.. it’s safer, easier…

‘Our deepest fear, Marianne Williamson had once written, was not that we were inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measures’. I found that to be the deepest fear of others. Our playing small, she’d advised, did not serve the world: ‘There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you…’ in my experience, that’s a bloody risky poem!

People from ‘here’ I’d been told, would not selflessly praise or curse you. If they did, they’d do some sort of ‘boomerang complement’, to praise or curse you, and par ricochet collect the windfalls on your behalf.

It was the first-time I had seen such a person in Rwanda. I had last met Rwandans like that in Zaire; so I hid behind my Zairian background to arbitrarily complement the people I liked on my blog, and I’d experiment how, the country being small, localized minds acted like crabs in a barrel. Dr. Lonzen Rugira challenged all my fears and prejudices. Also, he revived my love for the New Times Rwanda. I now know him well though, to sense at times, his struggles to contain his mind so that those around him wouldn’t feel insecure, but he fails most Mondays.

Today he wrote an exceptional piece about Fidel Castro. ‘Castro’s real crime’, he remarked, ‘was the audacity to examine contradictions.’ – When I read it, I felt Lonzen had made an important contribution to society. Using Castro’s trajectory, he explained the struggle of all revolutionaries, of all insurgents against established, powerful systems. I thought of Robert Mugabe and of Kaddafi, I thought of our own Agaciro struggle here in Rwanda.

I think every young person should read that column to understand what a struggle is and why; here is the link: http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/article/2016-11-28/205769/

1463353133lonzen-mugshotI can’t miss Lonzen Rugira’s column; what I like about them is that they quench my thirst for historical justice. If his Monday column in the New Times did not exist, someone aught to have invented it, except it is quiet an ambition, for there aren’t many like him.

While at University, Dr. Lonzen Rugira looked like Ziggy Marley, rocking fierce dreadlocks like a true lion. He’s cut them since, but remains a rasta in his heart and mind, for the mental struggle that drives him is that of being bothered by the suffering of others, and recognize comrades on the way. The New Times and we Rwandans are lucky to have him.

In ending, there is one thing that I’d like to agree with Marianne Williamson, that ‘As Lonzen Rugira lets his own light shine, he unconsciously gives us permission to do the same, and he liberate us from our own fears and prejudice; and for that we are grateful.