Here in Rwanda we have effected so many radical changes that no one can challenge us on making an overnight shift-over. As for being first at almost everything, there is no morsel of doubt that we are in a league of our own. Or so we deluded ourselves!
Actually, there is a country that beats us at everything hands down. It’s tinier than Rwanda and, in the time it takes you to blink, it will have decided on which side of the road to drive – and which date meets its new fancy on a particular midnight!
You must have heard about the island (I remember someone saying “no man is an ireland!”) country of Samoa. Samoa is the country that hasn’t quite decided what it should stick to. I remember it in 1892 being convinced by USA to celebrate 14th July (US Independence Day) on two consecutive days – in other words, twice in one year.
The other day, Samoa remembered that right-hand-drive cars were cheaper than left-hand and said why not, let’s drive on the left-hand side. And so it was, for the following morning they ditched left-hand-drive cars – which I hope we’ll not emulate!
So, Rwandans, hats off for Samoans. After zigzagging for too long to accommodate the wishes of Americans, they decided they’d had enough of it and changed to embrace the dates of their closer neighbours to their west, instead. Those neighbours are New Zealand and Australia, among others.
Now, knowing the way those two countries have always given you the sense of the eastern zone, I know you don’t agree with me that by joining them Samoa didn’t move east. What you are not appreciating, however, is that now that Samoa is nearer the international dateline than New Zealand and Australia, the two countries are to its west. And it’s west of the dateline. That’s how Samoa has shifted west.
But because that whole shift of dates teased my pea-sized mind, I should not assume that it does yours, too. Anyway, let’s start from the beginning. Last Thursday 29th December 2011 at midnight, Samoa jumped to Saturday 31st one o’clock in the morning – and was enjoying New Year the following day, doing away with the lengthy interruption of Friday daylight and night!
What swallowed that whole Friday search me, but what I know is that they celebrated New Year three hours before Sydney, where they’d have enjoyed it 23 hours after. A city that’s only three hours from Samoa and yet Samoans would have been more than a whole day in 2011 when Australians would have done with celebrating the beginning of 2012!
Beats Rwanda for quick thinking, if you ask me. While we know that we are closer to East Africans and have expressed our opinion on that by joining them, we have stuck to a time zone bequeathed us by colonialists who force-married us to a Francophone Belgian Congo.
The point is not that we would be rejecting a fellow African spouse on grounds of her (yes, ‘ubugabo si ubutumbi’— manliness is not dependent upon size!) flawed history. Rather, it is that we should make a statement on which marriage is more convenient. We should shift east where we have spouses with whom we share an adopted tongue and an East African dwelling.
An East African dwelling that’s our lifeline in terms of the path through which our acquired merchandise reaches us and through which we dispose of what is extra. After all, we eat what can and can what can’t, as our primary school teachers used to tease us. You may not understand that teaser if you went to school the other day.
In reference to Canadians and their agricultural habits, our teachers of eons ago were telling us that Canadians put what they couldn’t consume in cans and exported them. So it should be with us. An arrangement is made because of its benefits and since we have changed beds because we knew the new one was going to be cosier, we should go the whole hog and not be shy about lying in it. Let’s go East African time.
If everybody is agreed that that’s more beneficial to their country, why should we dillydally about doing it? Of course Samoans beat us at it, when it comes to knowing the opinion of everybody. With a population of about 1,800, they can even meet in one hall and in a few minutes decide what’s good for them all. There you’ll have a consensus built in a matter of minutes, a far cry from what you can do with 11 million.
Which is not to say that Rwandans do not enjoy the democratic advantages of being small. A population of 11 million divided into 5 provinces, subdivided into districts, sectors, cells and then villages (imidugudu) and having the power to make decisions at any of those levels?
It’s no wonder that nobody can understand how a people – an African people at that! – can transition from a dictatorship in the space of a dozen years or so to a near-full democracy when humongous neighbours have been in shambles for centuries and no hope in sight.
Samoans, do what benefits you.