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Would that we’d say bye to ‘Isuka’!

By November 4, 2011June 6th, 2023No Comments

I grew up when radio was the rev but a rarity, hence my addiction to it. Nothing holds my attention like a radio. When I watch an event on TV, by the time it’s over I’ll have forgotten how it started. It is worse when I attend the event. There are always side happenings that get me distracted. But the radio, that’s my cake.

Unfortunately, I’d formed the bias that most of our private FM radio stations were always about music and phone-ins of greetings and totally ignored them. I’d made it something of a ritual to listen to BBC, VOA, Deutsche Velle or RFI for international news and only a few local radios for a few programmes: Radio Rwanda for local news and government programmes and both RR and Contact FM for their programmes on the history of Rwanda.

All that changed last Monday evening after listening to the report on Rwanda that BBC carried. The report was on ‘Bye Bye Nyakatsi’, an ambitious programme by Government to put every Rwandan in decent housing so they can leave grass-thatched hovels. Surprise, BBC was hailing the success of the programme! If you remember how it used to trash it as a tool of marginalising some Rwandans, you’ll understand my surprise.

Anyway, after listening to BBC, I listened to RR but it did not carry the report. Then I accidentally landed on Isango Star Radio and – another surprise! In its 19.30 hours news programme, ISR combs the country and the world with a fine toothcomb. That’s when I realised that each of these private FM radio stations has its own specialty. Rwando-phone or not, try them out. You never know, a programme from them may tickle your interest.

My interest that evening was in that story about the success of ‘Bye Bye Nyakatsi’. I was imagining: combined with the successes of what should be termed ‘Bye Bye Marariya’ (malaria) and ‘Bye Bye’ other things like ‘Bwaki’ (malnutrition), ‘Umwanda’ (lack of hygiene), ‘Ibirenge-Bisa’ (shoeless feet) and many others, they can do wonders. The next big campaign should be ‘Bye Bye Isuka’ (that hoe that a friend talked about early this week, even when his knowledge of it was a fleeting encounter in a Mutoro’s banana plot!)

Come the full force of ‘Bye Bye Isuka’ and I’ll invade the soil – and break an aging bone, if it comes to that. I’ll ride the biggest machine and swim the soil and come up with enough harvest to feed everybody, with the help  of only a few other people. Then the land can be liberated from ownership by tiny homesteads whose yield is almost negligible. There are other more productive occupations.

My fire in this field is borne of my history. For having ‘touched’ the soil and having had the hoe for a companion for the better part of my life, being out of touch with the soil is as suffocating to me as being out of water is to fish. Whatever effort I’ve put in to befriend the computer seems to wash off like water off a duck’s back. Maybe it’s as well. What was I doing pointing my nose at the blackboard, anyway? I should’ve known I was made for the hoe.

Problem was, the hoe had its own hazards, too, a reason I tried to escape it. In Bambo (in today’s D.R. Congo), for example, one day I was in the field alone tilling land that had just been cleared of maize. For info, to harvest maize, you hold the stem and leaves at the level of the maize cob and with your knife (panga/machete) hack at the stem obliquely to leave a sharp spike. It is this upper part that you take home together with the maize cob.

The spikes were about the height of my knees. It is these dangerous spikes that I was uprooting as I was tilling the land when suddenly I felt a bite – a red ant’s. Now, whoever is familiar with these ants will tell you that when you feel an ant’s bite around your neck, it means only one thing: ants have already covered your whole body. The most sensible thing to do in such a case is to remove whatever you’re wearing.

In my case, that was not a problem. I was wearing a loose shirt that reached my knees to look like a short kanzu. I just lifted it above my neck so that I’d use it to rub off the ants. Before I could finish formulating the idea, however, I saw ‘insana’ (a rattle snake) swiftly slithering towards me. Knowing how swift rattlesnakes are, I had no time to get a stick and, instead, flung the bundle of a shirt at the snake and jumped onto a rock.

Unfortunately, the rock was loose and it rolled forward. I lost my balance and my seat sank to the ground. When I tried to rise again, I felt a cutting pain in my lungs. Horror of horrors – the spike had gone the wrong way! I screamed and lost consciousness…..

‘Bye Bye Isuka’ will save many.

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