Journey to Self-Sufficiency – What’s Your Role?


by Sam KEBONGO, 29 JUNE 2013

We have seen how the world works. It is not what it seems. Simply put, the strong rule over the weak. People who preach to us equality and human rights are the also the guiltiest violators. Pro-trade fellows are the same ones that shut us out in trade. It has been like this in the past and will always be like this.

From activities leading up to the partition of Africa in the Berlin Conference of 1885 to the oil industry’s ‘secrets of the ‘Seven sisters’ in 1928 in Scotland, we, Rwandans like other Africans, started from a position of a disadvantage; on a back foot with big problem in tow.

Yet all this is not neither malevolent nor benevolent. The lion does not attack the young antelope out of hate or spite. In fact, in some warped way, it could claim to love the antelope; for its tender flesh! It only attacks because of self-interest. Before we are self-sufficient, we are in the antelope’s position.

So, what should we do? Nelson Mandela; in his book ‘No Easy Walk to Freedom’, puts it perfectly. He says, “… no general pins his victory on the actions of sympathetic soldiers in the enemy camp; a competent commander secures victory through careful planning and execution of strategy”.

There is a combination of attitudes and activities that can move us to where we want to be. They include but are not limited to the following:

Focused patriotism: Patriotism is the one thing that we do not need to teach in Rwanda. There is plenty of it all around. This is a good thing and it can spur growth through what economists call ‘feel good factor’. Focused patriotism? You can direct your love for Rwanda towards helping it achieve Vision 2020. But how do you do this? We will explore this below.

Self love: I get suspicious when someone claims to love something more than they love themselves. The only exception is romantic love, especially a teenager’s first love (before the heart breaks). Fundamentalists claim this too, but theirs is mostly a case of hate, not love.

Self love, not to be confused with selfishness, is the key reason for being in the cause. You want to improve your situation. But you realise that your situation will only improve alongside that of your compatriots as they are similar. So you work together in a self help group, a cooperative, or any other joint arrangement.

In all this you remain aware of your issues and personal role in improving your situation as opposed to following blindly.

Sense of community: If you were the very rich person in a very poor neighborhood, you would most likely have many a sleepless night. It should, if you are normal. At best you will feel bad for your poor neighbors and at worst, you will worry for your security. As you pursue self improvement, you must seek, as much as possible to improve your community. Starting with your Umudugudu (cell). Again this is not something we need to teach a normal African.

Professionalism: Do you believe in African time? Do you have to say ‘ihangane’ (please bear with us) to people you serve for matters that you know could have been done better or faster? We need to pull up our socks. A full day in Africa is 24 hours as it is in Europe and Asia. We need to remember that it is our sense and practice of professionalism that enables us to realise our dreams. It is where the rubber meets the road and without it all our patriotism and community love remains hot air.

Entrepreneurial thinking and action: Do you see the big picture? Do you see opportunities in problems? The land of milk and honey must have bees and cows. Getting honey and milk from them will not always be a straight forward affair. There are challenges, there will always be, it is your role to overcome them.

Trading with our neighbours: Remember the old chorus, ‘… the more we are together the happier we shall be?’ it is true; recently, the President was in Uganda for a tripartite meeting with his Ugandan and Kenyan counterparts on infrastructure. That means we, as citizens, should have business contacts with citizens to take advantage of this and build our countries.

Know your role and own it!

Our Madiba, our Nelson Mandela; the lawyer, soldier, the black pimpernel, the political prisoner, the president, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, the hero, the icon… we pray that God be with and keep you in your hour of grievous ill health and pain.




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