8 January 2013

Rwandans Must Write Their Own History


"Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind, which are delivered down from generation to generation as presents to the posterity of those who are yet unborn," Joseph Addison once asserted.

For most of us there is still a lot of anxiety, uncertainties, optimism, expectations, frustrations and commitments as we adjust our thoughts and minds into 2013! There is no clear cut between 2012 and 2013 so far - we are still mixing up dates, with memories of 2012 still fresh in our minds etc.

However, the reality check is that 2012 is gone and 2013 is here! At the individual level, the failed commitments of 2012 should be carried forward to be accomplished in 2013 for those who make New Year resolutions. At the national level 2012 will go down in history as the year when the RPF celebrated her silver jubilee, showcasing her achievements since it was formed. Indeed truth be told, the event was worth celebrating because there are achievements to celebrate! The formation of RPF was conceived by a few individuals and it later on turned into a national appeal. Through sacrifice, resilience and commitment, men and women of this movement entered into a voluntary contract to liberate this country, the journey that took horrible four years of struggle (I guess to our comrades who were in the struggle four years must have been like four decades)! True to their mission and vision, the country was finally liberated in 1994.

The liberators inherited a shattered economy, public service utilities broken-down, insecurity looming all over the country, depleted or no resources, no human resource skills, broken infrastructure - in short Rwanda was a failed state!

Eighteen years down the road, the writing is on the wall for everybody to see. My intention is not to narrate the RPF struggle and achievements here (because I am not an authority and I might lack facts if I was to do it)!

However, partly it's this contradiction that inspired my piece. During the month of December last year when preparations of RPF's silver jubilee were underway a friend of mine from a neighbouring country visited me in my office and somehow our talk dwelt on the beauty of Kigali City and what Rwanda has achieved in such a short time. Somehow, I realised that my visitor had an impression that the significant achievements were only impressive in Kigali and not evenly spread across the country.

As our discussion progressed, I assured him that what he was witnessing is a true reflection of what Rwanda has achieved and that it's well spread across the country. To prove my point, I wanted my argument to be supported by evidence and since The New Times had been serialising RPF achievements I reached out in pile of newspapers in my office to show my guest that what Rwandans were celebrating was a life well lived and spread across the nation in all the sectors. I was particularly looking for The New Times of December 20, 2012 which had a hundred pages pullout highlighting RPF achievements for the past 18 years. As I was combing the heaps and piles of newspapers that were produced hardly a week earlier, the question that came to mind was 'what if I wanted to refer to the same document/papers after a month, six months or a year? Would it be accessible?' I do not think so. As the present generation, those who are lucky enough might be able to interact with heroes and the architects of the RPF struggle which ushered in the new era of prosperity and achievements to know the true history of our country and how far we have come.

The present generation has also been lucky enough to interface with men and women of Rwanda who shaped the destiny of this country. However, my point of concern in all this is that we need to properly document and keep records of our history and this history must be written by the very people who made it for the future generations. The best way to preserve this history is through a book. One of the major mistakes we make as Africans is not writing our own history and it ends up being written by a group of self-styled experts and specialists from the western world who often write it badly!

Writing a book is both self-fulfilling and inspiring, especially if the author is worth the name. It becomes self-fulfilling to the author and it inspires the reader, in this case U Rwanda rw' ejo.

The author is an educationist, author and publisher

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