The New Times (Kigali)

16 February 2013

Rwanda: Yes, Kigali Is EAC's 'Love Capital'

opinion

It is now official; Rwanda is the most love-filled place in East Africa and Africa as a whole. After all, a recent survey conducted by Gallup Polling Organisation ranked 'us' (what a nice time to claim being Rwandan) second among countries where you can get most love. In the survey, only the Filipinos can do a better job.

Okay, I need to clear some things here. One, I do not tend to believe in polls that much. I despise the way the ideas of a sample are sold off as gospel truth. And depending on who is funding the polls any results can be arrived at. I have seen all sorts of weird polls and I often just ignore them.

However, the issue of Rwanda coming tops in a love contest could indeed hold some water especially if one concentrates on the capital Kigali. I have some knowledge and real life experiences of some of our cities in East Africa and I can easily vouch for Kigali in the area of an enabling love environment.

Kigali does beat other capitals in several areas as far as this love thing is concerned. After all how many cities do you know that have a roundabout that that is dedicated to lovers every Saturday? The MTN Rwanda-branded roundabout in Kimihurura is a must-see for any visitor.

On Saturdays the green lawn of the wide roundabout is dotted with colour as recently wed couples pause for photographs. A traffic officer is even stationed there to ensure that drivers slow down to allow them stroll romantically from their Limos to the lawns and back after the photo shoot. I can bet most wedding portraits actually look the same for many Rwandans.

Another reason why I think Kigali qualifies as a top love spot is that it is one of the few cities in the region where one can have a romantic walk in the evening by the roadside. Security is guaranteed as armed soldiers are always patrolling to deter petty thieves and ensure that one enjoys the beauty of the well-lit city.

The pedestrian walkways are well paved so one is not likely to sprain an ankle while flooding a loved one with utopian promises. The fact that the roads are free of potholes also means there is almost zero chance for a speeding SUV to splash love birds with dirty rain water that would have gathered in a paddle. Elsewhere such a walk would only make life easier for thugs.

I also think I like the fact that pretentious Valentine's Day hullabaloo is not so pronounced in Kigali as it is elsewhere. But since I am no love expert let me leave this love business and get back to what I am more comfortable with - politics.

Last week Kenyans made history when they held a live televised debate for all the presidential candidates.

Uganda would have beaten them to this record if only Museveni had showed up when one was organised. It must be easier to have these kinds of debates when the incumbent is not involved. It is not easy to picture President Kibaki taking questions from Julie Gichuru or responding to my latest hero Muhamed Dida.

On the positive, side it was a great achievement that should be tried and developed in other East African countries (trying to be a little too optimistic here). I really enjoyed the quips by Mohamed Dida who seemed to be in touch with the common man's problems and more so he stood up for us the teachers.

Other candidates performed dismally in my view as many waxed lyrical about not being tribal and dillydallying in the ICC question. They allowed many candidates to get away with falsehoods. For example, while they pinned Raila Odinga on the tribalism issue in 2007, nothing was said about Uhuru Kenyatta's more recent "Join me or perish" mantra that was aimed at his fellow Kikuyu candidates, Peter Kenneth and Martha Karua.

As an East African I was really disappointed by Paul Muite's war drums on Migingo Island. The good news is that he clearly stands no chance of ever becoming Kenya's Commander-in-Chief.

I am also not sure whether people outside Kenya followed the debate as keenly as they did when it was Obama and Romney. We need to be paying more attention to issues that are closer to us than what happens miles away.

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