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By January 4, 2014June 6th, 2023No Comments

Reconciliation with habits…..

Sunday 8th December 2013

And so it goes…..

By the early 1990s, all aspects of the struggle to liberate Rwandans were about to bear fruit: fund-raising, cadre job, et al, in countries of the globe and protracted armed struggle in the bushes and town-centres of Rwanda.

Then hell undiluted broke loose and the whole country was plunged into a blood-spattered abyss. Then silence. The world looked at Rwanda; looked at death. There was no difference.

Until the braves of Rwanda refused to accept this fate. Quickly, they roused themselves out of this enforced trance and pressed ahead. In bushes and in town centres, they put a stop to the turmoil. Slowly, step by step, sense began to emerge on every village; life slowly began to revive. A semblance of warmth and laughter started to part the cold lips of death into a smile.

Those who had opted for sausage-cushioned tasks outside the violent bushes began to make their shy appearances on the bloodied soil to witness the spectacle. Life was back; all was almost fine now. That’s how I heroically hit town, in August 1994!

I remember the day as if it was yesterday. “As if” is cheek-in-tongue, of course, because to me it is yesterday. You’ll comprehend this if you remember that I also remember 1st November 1959, when some Rwandans were stripped of their identity, as if it was yesterday. That’s when those condemned to almost 40 years of statelessness first fled; among whom, yours like-it-or-not.

However, “your remembering” assumes that you are a habitual reader of this half witted column. Which if you are, I pity you. Except, though, if it’s because you have nothing better to while away your Sundays!

Anyway, as I was going to say, when I hit town it was a hot afternoon. So I looked around for something soft to drink. Unfortunately, signs showed all tribes of alcoholic drinks and “Amata na Fanta bikonje” (cold milk and Fanta). I didn’t want milk and I am allergic to sweet tastes. So, I remember thinking to myself, do these Rwandans know only Fanta as a soda?…..

But first, that “bikonje”. I remember my son asking: “Dad, I know amata means milk. What kind of drink is bikonje?” Well, I didn’t explain. He discovered that it meant “cold” when he began to speak the language. Before that, however, the little imp had given me other headaches. Like when I said I was coming from Nyamata town and the rascal intoned: “You mean na Fanta bikonje?” Well, urchins don’t come any worse!…..

Anyway, again as I was going to say, there was no harm in asking and so I entered a shop…..

But again, first that “shop”. It was a shop because Rwandans from exile had illegally appropriated to themselves all shops and turned them into bars as there was nothing else to sell.

The “nationals”, as we called those who’d never fled Rwanda, had poured out. This was in the misplaced fear of reprisals. In truth, it was a ruse played on the “nationals” by génocidaires so as to create a void for the incoming government. The ruse backfired but that’s a story for another day……

So, again as I was going to say, in the shop I was surprised to see all tribes of sodas. Why did they put only Fanta on their signs? Queer Rwandans, I thought and aloud said: “Can you give me a soda please?” And the response: “You mean eau gazeuse?” That, in my smattering French, translated to “gaseous water”, which I didn’t want.

The “bar attendant” in the shop (!), a genocide survivor, then pointed at the range of sodas and asked: “Which Fanta do you want out of those, then?” It took me a lengthy bout of haggling before I could understand that in Rwanda there was Fanta Coke, Fanta Sprite, Fanta Tonic, Fanta Fiesta, Fanta everything. In short, the real Fanta is Fanta Orange or Fanta whatever other colour.

It’s the same with Colgate: Colgate Close Up, Colgate White Dent, Colgate whatever else.

However, what could have sent you fleeing back into exile was a failure to reconcile with the naming habits: places are named according to incidents in history. There are places with names as frightening as For-corpses (Nyamirambo). There is Butchery (Gakinjiro) but there are also comical names like For-lack-of-a-habitable-place (Mburabutoro), perhaps to mollify fears. As to “Where-are-the-loos” (Bann- -he), place it if you can!

Reconciliation has not only been among Rwandans but also with their habits.

And so it goes…..

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