July 1 2012
Today marks 50 years of independence for Rwanda. Interestingly, 1st July in 1962 was also a Sunday. That, then, means there were Rwandans celebrating on a Sunday like this, 50 years ago. By 1962 I was freely roaming the ridges of Bufumbira, Uganda, as a hardened herds-boy. That’s why I was laughing at Rwandans who thought they were celebrating independence. I had more independence than they’d ever dream of!
I was in Uganda because I was no longer Rwandan. My country had disowned me. I was what’s known as ‘a stateless person’; bound to no state.
But, a stateless creature, you might ask, what’s that? And now that I know better, my answer: you can only know that kind of headless beast by becoming one.
If you don’t catch my drift, you might want to think back on what a friend wished for Human Rights Watch (HRW) activists and others like them. Unlike him, I’d prefer to see those activists answering for their sins against our Congolese brethren/sistren here, on this ‘breathing’ earth. Not for me the hereafter, where they might oil some hands with their fundraised loot.
Who knows, with all the corrupt spirits burning in hell, they might even gang up to cast more evil on us. I say, activist frauds, live your hellfire by roaming the earth as stateless spirits. Then you’ll know what these poor dispossessed Congolese are going through.
One month in that kind of hell and you’ll come out singing to high heaven to intervene in their plight instead of wasting time on a song like: “Hang Rwanda/She is there!”
But I digress. Before I was rudely interrupted by these frauds, I was talking about independence. Roaming the ridges of Bufumbira meant that I was a free soul. I was unconstrained by such stifling requirements as education. Where I used to be tormented by teachers trying to pump some sense into me, now no person or state had any responsibility over me.
Oldie, my old man, would not be waking me up at the ungodly hour of five in the morning to pack me off to school. Mama would not be loading me up with a ton-weight of backpack for my lunch. All were now at my mercy as I tended their cows; fetched their water; brought their firewood; did everything.
Being a free sort, I used to spring out of bed at cockcrow to go and enjoy the wide wealth of the wild (www!). First, I checked if there was water in the pot that I used to fetch water. Then I poured it in another container, leaving only little to wash my face.
That face-washing did not go beyond dipping my index and middle fingers in the water and rubbing my eyes with them. I put the same water in my mouth and chased it around my teeth with the tongue. After that I rummaged in the cooking pot for yesterday’s leftovers and that was that for morning tooth-brushing and breakfast!
Suppose it was my day for tending the animals. In that case, I took the cows out to pasture that early when it was still dewy. After making sure they’d enjoyed the dewy pasture, I took them back to their kraal where smoke was chasing away flies. After that, I went for a milk container and milked the cows.
Milking was not done ‘faah’ (as Kenyans say), either. I did not empty the udders as I had to leave enough milk for the calves. Then I cleaned them all; cows, calves and their bull. This involved removing ticks and checking that none had any ailment, in which case I’d call a traditional ‘veterinary’ expert. After that, they were spick-and-span and I now took them to graze for the day, with only a short break when they went for watering.
While they were grazing, I joined the other herds-boys and it was time for fun. We mostly did our training. Expertly tripping one another over with our legs. Fighting with sticks. Archery and spear throwing through improvised loops. Making catapults and hunting birds. Singing and learning cowboys’ praise songs of cattle. Stitching old clothes together and making improvised umbrellas (isinde).
Not last and not least, we went about stealing sweet potatoes and cassava from fields for our lunch, washing it down with milk suckled directly from udders.
Who could have more independence than that?
But trust statelessness to rear its ugly head sooner than later. I was caught napping in my isinde (‘umbrella’) while my small herd was ravaging the maize field of a peasant-farmer known as Mujinya. The fierce Mujinya and his son set upon me as if I was Lucifer himself. When they were through with me, I had a very clear image of what minced meat felt like!
To cut a very long story very short, we were forced to sell our cattle and flee to Jomba, in today’s DRC. That place where the Congolese forces are today tussling it out with the M23 mutineers became our haven. Temporarily, for our state had turned us into nomads.
Statelessness is not independence. It is a hell you can only wish for heartless outfits like HRW!
Otherwise, Happy Liberation Day!………..no, it’s not a slip of the tong…..fing….mouse!