Why Did English Miss Rwanda?

 

 

Everything is everything

This is a day and age where everything is connected, a beauty pageant led to many questioning our basic education system is working or serving our needs. We might have laughed at the lack of proficiency in English but it led us to wonder, if they can’t understand and communicate in English, which is the language of instruction, then how can they understand other subjects? Others scoffed at the apparent snobbishness of those criticizing young Rwandan ladies for speaking poor English when the event should be in Kinyarwanda. Then the rhetorical back and forth of “English does not denote intelligence” which is true, but ability to communicate is a vital skill in this communication age. The real point was lost in all this. Is the Rwandan Education system working for us as a nation? No one can expect it to be perfect but education is lagging other nations in the region, partly due to historical tragedies, but partly because we have not invested enough to change it. Our economic model of being a knowledge based economy would require only a few educated people, Google has 1,000 employees and the GDP of 20 African countries. What of the rest of Rwandans? There are no shortcuts, we have to develop by expanding our knowledge base, language is the key to that.

 

Actions not edicts

When we changed to English, what did we really do to help teachers learn the language? We just declared that teachers would now speak English or lose their jobs, so they often lied that they speak English. Let me tell you now, today as we speak, majority of teachers even university teach in Kinyarwanda. It was collective rebellion, they would all not learn so they could not sack them all. I would have expected 2,000 English teachers to join from EAC countries so every primary school has at least one fluent English teacher. I would have expected free classes to teachers, teaching materials, linking with radio programs to teach it, apps to help teachers learn and teach in English. Testing for teacher’s proficiency was barely done, so things carried on much as they did before. Right now we have the effects of this was academic corruption because you see students graduating in English who cannot speak a single sentence in it. Foreign campuses set up retail education, selling degrees for a buck. Rwandans will tell tell you “I have to do Master’s so I can actually learn” a degree is just to get you in the door. There is no shortcut to development that bypasses education, we need a major investment in teaching. The first priority was classrooms and schools, now we need to look at what and how we teach.

 

All languages have merit

 

To switch to English does not mean that Kinyarwanda has no merit, nor does it mean that French has no merit. The modern fact of Globalization means we are gravitating towards English, it gives you access to 70% of the Internet, 3 million books, 10m songs, its imprint is impossible to deny mainly because of America and not UK directly. Other countries like Croatia, Slovakia, Burma, Thai, all teach in their local languages. These nations have many books in their language and have translated most of the most important books known to man into their languages. Rwanda can eventually teach in Kinyarwanda but we would need to expand the canon of Books. We should use all the linguistic skills we have available, even French should be encouraged more, it gives us access to that world. Google translate allows me to read anything in French, Spanish, Arabic, instantly, so languages are not going to be the barrier we once thought they would be. Many departments of our universities go years without publishing, simply because they are afraid to publish in English, yet they have knowledge to share, a simple editing department can increase publishing and attracting more funding for projects. It is about empowering, using what skills you have, and using technology to bridge the gap. Above all it means investing in people, it was good to see a pay rise for teachers, now we need to invest in Education as a whole, each dollar invested in education brings back 20 in productivity. There is no easy way.

 

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Generosity is not Justice

 

“You always talk of giving back more, but not of taking less

You always talk of helping more, but never talk of doing less harm

You never think you might be the cause of the problem that you are trying to solve”

Anand Giridharadas

www.youtube.com/watch?v=IP7HajXJD3s

 

The Neo-Feudal age

 

When I was growing up as a kid, billionaires were evil, in the Bond movies, in Spy novels, in newspapers and the like. They were always twisted, bitter, power-hungry megalomaniacs bent on world control. In this day and age we have come to worship Billionaires, they are the Superheroes of our age and kids don’t look to Superman but to Zuckerberg, Bezos, Gates, Page and Jack as their heroes. The media paints them as super-intelligent evangelists for the Gospel of hyper-capitalism, we seek their opinions on policy that have nothing to do with their expertise. We assume they know everything and should just be obeyed. This masks a wider problem. The huge income inequality gap that is emerging in this new world both internally within nations and between nations, and the rise of government deficits in proportion to tax-cuts for the rich. This creates a cyclical problem, lower taxes for the rich, less revenue for government, so they slash jobs and services, leads to worse schools, then they borrow money to make up the deficit, then the rich point “See? I told you government doesn’t work.” The Rich then set up charities and foundations to appear to solve these problems caused by government breakdown and are hailed as White Knights. This is also exactly how the West treats Africa. Their trade policies skew the markets towards themselves, we have to give them tax breaks to attract their investment, we have to cut down size of government to make up shortfall, we end up selling our goods for less, we end up borrowing more, services break down and they say “See? I told you Africa doesn’t work!” Then they come in to save the day with their aid.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSuQ-AyiicA

The winner takes it all

When someone gives you help, you must first question the reason for them helping you. Is it genuine altruism, does that even exist? Is it because they feel bad and want to cover guilt? Is it to paint themselves as heroes when they are really the cause of the problem? The winners of today are the same ones who wrote the rules of this modern digital age. They all went to the same schools, the governing class and economic elite are now in bed together more than ever. The Ruling elite write laws to help their friends make and keep more money, money has replaced virtue as a measure of Goodness. They say there are winners and losers but they wrote the rules, the rules just happen to favour them. The top companies in the world have commoditized social capital by breaking down society, not building it. Facebook monetized friendship, stopped you from talking to your neighbor so it could make money off you. Amazon is taking over every small local business person that used to shake your hand in the morning and ask about your kids. Tinder is commodifying LOVE, the girl you grew up with next door is not enough, there are infinite possibilities of love, just keep swiping, but you’ll still end up marrying the girl next door. Africans look at the West and wonder if we would like that for our children? Africans have stopped idealizing the West, we are seeing the effects of that lifestyle, rich in pocket but poor in spirit. These billionaires then decide which diseases should be cured first, what type of schools we have, and what is taught there. If a billionaire’s mother dies of a certain disease, he donates billions to that disease and makes it a priority, pushes for more government funding for that. Generosity is not justice, generosity can only help a few, justice helps all.

 

 

National pathology

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgIsBdAiezw

This brings me to how this affects Africans. We appeal to Western generosity, but not to justice, every economic survey shows the West takes out 3 times what it gives in aid to Africa. We appeal for generosity to help solve our problems but never for justice. Justice is what is needed, there is no economic justice towards Africa. This was spoken about openly for the first time by the Deputy PM of Italy, he spoke of how France still colonized some 14 African countries and forced them to use a currency that makes them poor, this forces the best young talent to flee the continent. It is an open secret that France gets some $500bn from its colonies, without that money it would be in 15th position globally. No amount of generosity will lift us out of poverty if the left hand is taking more than the right hand is giving us, only justice can save us. Generosity is a bonus, it is discretionary, justice is mandatory for all of us. There are so-called philanthropists I have worked for in NGO’s that ban words like Inequality – say “lack of Opportunity” meaning you can’t get at the core of the problem. These mega-billionaires that fund many of the World’s biggest initiatives have an interest in the world remaining the way it is, they will never allow any meaningful change that will affect their profits. The donors only want cosmetic change and not structural change. If the world trade rules were changed then aid would not be necessary. If the richest 10% paid taxes then we wouldn’t need their charity. Like a parent who refuses to pay school fees, the school is run down, then the parent donates to the school to look nice.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6q3zy4NRzz4

Black people, it’s not our fault!!

 

Africans and Black people in general have been ashamed for so long. We have wondered just what it was in our blackness that made us so stupid, so dumb and slow compared to the white man? The statistics bore this out, every economic, educational, social indicator pointed down. Surely, we could not blame racism alone. Even Martin Luther King said the Civil Rights movement should primarily be about economic empowerment. We had academics like Charles Murray scientifically trying to prove blacks were less intelligent, he was clever to put white people not at the top of the intelligence pyramid but just below the Asians (read Orientals) in his book The Bell Curve. Murray recently wrote a book called Falling Apart about the disintegration of White middle-class America. In this book he points to many of the symptoms that dogged Black Americans are now affecting White Americans. Social breakdown, less marriage, children born out of wedlock, high drug abuse, alcohol abuse, joblessness, lower literacy rates, high crime, suicides, all these are affecting average whites. People are suddenly realizing that this problem can happen to any society, any good neighborhood can turn to a ghetto if social capital breaks down and poverty rots the spirit. After decades of hand wringing the West is seeing what we Africans have said for years, this is not our true character but poverty makes you do stupid things, act reckless, against your own interests just to eat for the day.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euH3pAuLuko

What is power for?

 

In this brave new world we have redefined almost everything. We rarely talk of Morality, we talk of ethics, morality sounds judgmental, pious even, like religious, ethics sounds professional. Is it ethical for one man to own more than 20 African countries? Yes. Is it Moral? No. What is power? What is it for? Is it to serve the people or those with money? What is money? Is it something to be hoarded in the trillions just adding endless zeroes that mean nothing, is this just a game? We decide the value of money, like in Venezuela or Zimbabwe the dollar will cease to have meaning. How can we wrestle power back from the global elites that have controlled it? These are the questions we missed as we were swiping left. Technology is just breading a more rapacious form of capitalism but it doesn’t need to be that way. Technology can also free us. Social capital is the most valuable commodity on earth, all peace and development is built on social capital, without it we are nothing, savages at best. Money is just a way to try to replace social capital, in rural areas you can see rich social capital where people can live without money, just by good deeds. Go to the barbershop, get a cut, can’t pay, no problem, you owe me a favour. Next time I need my yard cleaned you pay for the haircut with labour, or tomatoes, or whatever you have. We have technology that can track social credit and we can live with minimal use for money. The world is falling apart because no leader can articulate a vision for the future that is inclusive for all. We are too deep into the Neo-classical thinking of Markets are Good, even when the markets are destroying our economies for an extra 0.1% efficiency. We should believe in markets, but understand that markets exist to serve us, not the other way around. Above all we must ask “what kind of world do we want?” We Africans have to be ready because the day of reckoning is coming and we must speak with one voice “GENEROSITY IS NOT JUSTICE.”

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When James Met Nikki

 

If you can keep your head while chopping off those around you

If you can destroy cultures, religions and Gods and make them worship you,

If you can enslave, colonize, rename, reconstitute and baptize

If you can kill in the name of profit, slay in the name of prophets

If you can sleep with a slave, she bares you a child in the dark, yet sell him like fish in a market

If you can sell your soul and gain the world, trade love for gold and pearls

If you can dream and make slaves achieve you dreams, with cracking whips and screams

If you can teach a man to hate himself, to love you more, rip his shell and inner core

If can make the slave hate themselves, to curse a mirror, to love you dearer

If you can make the slave think he’s free, free at last thank God Almighty,

If you can keep the system as before, with chains virtual, in the mind they hurt you all

If you can do it same as before, shoot a nigger in the streets, runaway slave on concrete

If you can exclude from education, deny health and redline wealth,

If you can be a liberal but have all the benefits of discrimination, if you can lace your golden boots up

If you can call the poor lazy when they have no boots to strap, no food to eat, no market to cap

If you can watch children die of hunger and disease, still keep bombing, blockade, sanctions increase

If it is good for a man to sell his soul and gain the world, with all its ugliness, give me all of it.

Then yours is the world my friend, what’s more, you’ll be a man my son, you’ll be a hollow dead man

My opinion of the great poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling has changed of late, it is still a great poem to give a child, it basically says “Give it all you got” but it has a deeper meaning. It was trying to explain why the white man is on top of the racial order, it was due to endeavor, resilience, bravery and high morals. As we look back at the colonial era we see the real reason the white man dominated, it was by evil, ruthlessness, lack of humanity, and lack of morals. Colonialism put the white man close to the finish line, the colonized had to start way behind the start line. We are trying to emulate the West, but their system is failing and has failed. What created peace and prosperity in the West was the uneven global market which gave them an advantage, with the rise of the third world and China in particular we have seen a decline in the West. Into this confusion have arisen many groups and movements from Brexit, to Yellow Vests, to Podemos, to Five Star. The cause of this chaos is that no leader can clearly articulate a viable future for their nations, they can only threaten that the alternative is worse.

 

In 1971 in London, two Great Poets met to discuss the future of the black struggle, their insights were so clear and prophetic. It was a great battle of minds of two generations. The context was crucial, MLK and Malcolm X had been assassinated, the movements became more militant with Black Panthers and Mau Mau. Black people became ‘conscious’ with their Afros, African names for their kids, new hip slang, slogans but nothing more. The promise of integration fell apart, and black people came to the sudden realization that they were in their own again. Young Black Feminist Nikki Giovanni met the whiskey swigging genius that was James Baldwn, their conversation is one for the ages, eternal questions that remain unanswered. What is power? What is morality? Can one be moral and powerful? They are questions not just for Black people but people in general.

 

They foresaw identity politics

“The biggest danger for your generation is to substitute one form of Romanticism for another, all these are just commercial categories.” James Badwin

When I look at sexuality today and I see the micro-categories “Cis-het, non-binary, transgender, intersex, queer, cis-queer, gay, bi” it goes on. You wonder what is driving this micro-fragmentation of identities and you see the commercial driver, algorithms now demand more precise parameters to provide more precise information to keep you buying stuff. The capitalist world turns everything into a product to be bought or sold, even Black Militant fantasies are sold back to us via Wakanda. The Black person was a commercial product for 244 years, it is hard to stop thinking of a people like that quickly. Nikki speaks of how everything becomes a fashion, becomes stylized, made into a package and resold to you.  It all comes down to power, our attitude towards it and how it interacts with us as people.

 

“Why do I have to learn so much about my oppressor when he knows nothing of me?” NG

“His game is working, he doesn’t need to know you,” JB later says “Power without morality is just sterile, look at Franco in Spain. When you got to lock up every one it just means your game ain’t working.”

Power comes from social capital and acceptance, when people don’t accept you then you have to use brute force, like white police in Black ghettoes. Why do we spend so much time studying the ways of our oppressor? Trying to reverse-engineer our corruption, or to emulate and hopefully oppress him back. Mostly we study our oppressor to try and fit it, so as not to get on his bad side. They don’t need to know our culture, but we must know theirs. They don’t know our God, but we must worship theirs. Their game is running, no need to change it. Nikki expressed the frustration of younger black militant generation.

“What has a man to gain by gaining the world but losing his soul? The world!! That’s what you can gain. Give me the world with all its ugliness and bitterness, give me all of it.” NG

“The White man gained the world but lost his ability to love.” JB

Slavery enslaves two people, the master and the servant, the master becomes dependent on the slave, he becomes a slave to fear, paranoia, he fears revenge and being killed any time. In order for the White man to gain the world, he had to lose his soul, to cease to be human, to be above human, to kill any sense of empathy to a person of a different complexion to them. If the Black man wants to assume that position of authority it would mean abandoning all sense of humanity, to adopt the pathological thinking of White people. She didn’t care, power is power, in all its ugly glory. The way the West developed is not sustainable, the industrial revolution would never have happened without millions of slaves digging minerals for free. He was warning her that the power system is corrupt and will corrupt anyone that controls it.

“In a moral situation top is bottom, you are on top of the argument by being on the bottom” NG

This is a central tenet of the non-violent struggle, brute force vs moral authority will always lose. The brutality sways public opinion towards you, by being weak you are strong, the victim has all the power in that situation. Baldwin warns to be careful of this, the Power always has media to demonize you, they use fear where persuasion fails. This has been adopted by many other groups against the system. In this modern age fake victimhood is power, even Trump supporters who are privileged think they are victims, even billionaires think they are victims. In a moral struggle it is like Jiu-jitsu, using the weight and strength of your opponent to maneuver around them, the extra power becomes a liability, you win the hearts and minds of the public. Baldwin counters that by warning against desensitization. When we look at the Black Lives Matter movement, and the mass sharing of harrowing images of Black men being killed and the net effect of that was desensitization and loss of shock. That is the emotionally numb world we live in now, it always takes more and more to shock us.

 

The most interesting part for me was the aspect of gender relations. Nikki was exasperated about the state of Black men in America, who perpetrated the same violence on their women that was they accuse the White man of. Baldwin “Once you destroy a man’s sexuality, you destroy his ability to love. He has no floor on which to dance, he has limited means to express his love.” I just don’t understand that, said Nikki, whose father was a violent alcoholic. “How does a Black father explain to his child that ‘I quit my job coz my boss called me a nigger’ the child won’t understand.” But Nikki responded in a common way “I don’t need your money, you don’t have to put a steak on the table, I can get my own damn steak. I need you, let’s do this together.” The Black family was breaking up badly, the first waves of deindustrialization, expansion of federal employment to Blacks especially black women, generous new welfare programs, were masking a deeper crisis. A crisis of confidence in Black men, so we saw more militant Black movements like the Black Panthers, who Giovanni saw as just a fashion and wanting to replace white patriarchy with Black patriarchy. “Like Fred Hampton, who can be his wife?” This was the founder of the Black Panthers, who heavily criticized Black women often espousing a more obedient ideal Black woman who didn’t exist anymore.

 

It takes a nation of millions to hold me back

The push and pull between the past and present, the generational transition and the fight to stay relevant. “Respectful of the past, but not bound by it.” Is how Nikki put it. Knowing what to keep and when to change, Africa was colonized because to failed to adapt to see what was happening until it was too late. We kept the same military tactics as we did before, charging into machine gun fire with our spears, over and over again. We did this because we were bound by the past, this was how warfare was fought and we failed to adapt. The one nation that was not colonized went and bought the same arms and cannons their enemy had, got military advisors with new tactics and defeated Italy 3 times. The inner battle between individualism and collective effort was also showing, the seeds of the destruction of the Civil Rights era “You deal with your Black, I’ll deal with mine.” Nikki said. Deal with your individual circumstances and not the collective, but that is where you lose your power. Like a herd of buffalo can fight off a pride of lions, soon each buffalo feels strong enough to fight a lion alone, they branch out alone and are eaten. Public Enemy had an album called “It takes a nations of millions to hold me back” it requires an entire system, millions of gatekeepers “Sir, you can’t go here, can’t go there, do you have a badge?” The system is not just isolated individuals but a network of millions to maintain the status quo as it is.

 

What we did with Jesus

Nikki lamented that she was attending a protest and the best blacks could offer was Gospel music, songs about Jesus. “What we Blacks did to Jesus was a beautiful thing, we took him with his blue eyes and made him ours. Ain’t no Swedes come from Palestine, so you know he was dark.” This is what I take away from this… Blacks use the tools of oppression and turn them on the oppressor. Think about it, music was supposed to indoctrinate slaves and make them work harder, they used music to set themselves free, the art of the oppressor is transformed into the art of liberation. We did the same with Jesus, re-appropriated him with new or original values of fairness, equality, Justice and freedom. We became believers but we made the White men atheist, now that this God had been taken over by the pagans they couldn’t believe no more. From now they would use science to defend racism, religion was no longer a useful tool. Today when the Patriarchy wants to convince the public they don’t summon the Bishops, they summon scientists, lawyers, researchers, the new priesthoods. Baldwin strikes at the heart of White Christian hypocrisy “God, to the white man represents purity and safety. Why has the Son of God got to be white? Aren’t we all Sons of God?” The problem with using the tools of the oppressor to free yourself is that you are never really free, and you are still trapped by the same thinking as before. The oppressor finds new methods of oppression using the illusion of freedom. Then you realize you are a mental slave, the chains are in your mind and impossible to break unless you use an entirely different mindset.

I would advise any person to watch this conversation. I cannot do it justice

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Marriage is safe, no need for moral panic just yet

 

 

There has been much ado about the state of matrimony in Rwanda lately, social trends seem to point towards divorce but if we look closer it is not as bad as stated. Rwanda went from 26 divorces the previous year to 1,000+ divorces in the last year, the Taliban would be proud, not even their moral authority is that powerful. 1,000 out of 3m+ marriages is still 99.999 stay together. People fear this is the “thin end of a wedge” or “first trickles of a flood” but we never thought that our near 100% success rate in marriage hides a deeper malaise, people stay with the wrong person out of social pressure. The marriage is the basic building block of society in Rwanda, to marry is called “to build” even if you are renting. When you marry you become a brick in the wall of society, you marry the family not the person. Our concept of marrying for romantic love is a very new one, most people in history married out of necessity, life was fragile, and people were few. It is only with economic security when all basics are met that you even start to contemplate romance. You married to build a family, to build alliances, to get protection, to extend lands, to further the will of Gihanga who demanded it. It was understood that you would learn to love each other, that personal feelings were subordinated to the wider Good.

 

Our ancient marriage institution was insanely liberal, that is why we still maintain 100% success. The myths are true, even wilder than we thought, the was no time of moral purity in our history, we were and are above all, practical and pragmatic in our approach. The Spear planted in the doorway, was an indication that your wife had male company and didn’t wish to be disturbed. Polygamy was not allowed but co-wives or Bakyeeba were common, if you did want to commit adultery then do it openly and bring them home. Whatever the couple agreed was their business as long as they could maintain their social obligations. Even with our 99.99999% retention rate, many marriages are just shells for show, but the show is so important, understanding the many levels of duty in marriage beyond romantic love. Many parents co-parent but live apart, or sleep in separate wings or the house. Quite often the solution is maintaining two homes, one rural, one urban, no questions are asked. We need a more detailed survey on the state of marriage in Rwanda, to take into account all the small fixes we use. Looking at rural areas, which is reflective of most Rwandans beyond the urban elite who got the 1,000+ divorces, men are carrying on as usual. However, women are waking up and knowing their rights, kicking abusive men out. Women empowerment will bring more divorce until men start adapting to women’s needs.

 

However, many of the laws to supposedly protect marriage have a negative effect on it. The tough adultery laws with prison time for a straying is making many young men just cohabit with their women, never to fully regularize their marriage. Many young men feel the law penalizes them unfairly, or that it favors the woman, but this is just correcting centuries of laws and customs favoring men. A couple have a religious blessing, invite friends like a full wedding, exchange rings, she changes her name, but she is not legally covered by marital law, this has effects on property ownership, child custody, tax and government services. We made the laws so tough that people are bypassing the law entirely. We need to accept we have a false picture, many couples are staying together out of obligation and social pressure. Maybe it is better to have a fake foundation than none at all. In this day and age of digital connection, that will fuel more divorce, the world is becoming small, what you see online is seen here very quickly as well. Overall the state of marriage is secure in Rwanda, it is still the building block of society and Government. However, some trends among the wealthy point to where we are heading socially. That 1,000 must have been comfortable middle-class couples, when women can support themselves and their children they opt for divorce. Poorer women don’t have that choice, they fear being abandoned financially and their children suffering. All countries have shown as women get economic independence they are less likely to stay in a loveless marriage, this will happen here too. When people complain of breakdown of society, they are often denying something that has happened for a while. For now, I won’t fall for the moral panic.

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Judge cancels No.1 rated Rwigara Reality TV Show

 

 

Rwanda’s Kardashians

Thinking back to some two years ago when the Rwigara saga began to unfold, we could not help seeing parallels with the Kardashians in America. A rich glamorous family that fell on hard times after the death of the father, beautiful glamorous and amorous daughters, a mother behind the scenes pulling all the strings, and an endless thirst for publicity – just too many similarities. Diane had never expressed much in the way of political ambition before that, but the way the authorities seemed to overreact made her into an instant celebrity. The Western media was quick to crown her the head of Rwanda’s opposition, as she ticked the boxes, young, articulate, bright, and modern. The fear was that she could be a protest candidate, a ridiculous notion in itself, but enough to scare some people. She went after the egos of those in power, really said the things you can’t say in Rwanda. From the outside it seemed utterly ridiculous, what followed was even more so. Kim Kardashian was accused of trying to overthrow the government, accused of working with Al-Qaeda to spread terrorism, detained in a maximum security prison, top of the priority list for FBI, NSA, CIA, DEA, and SEALS. Wouldn’t you watch such a show? Rwandans just got out their popcorn and laughed their way through this saga. This saga was number 1 in ratings but it was harming the legitimacy of our nation. We really have to make a decision in this country, are we going to keep making the same mistakes over and over? We go into panic mode and freak out only to regret it later.

 

A Cluster bomb

A clusterbomb is one of the worst weapons ever made, it is a bomb that explodes to release other smaller bombs, these bombs are bright and shiny to look like toys so children pick them up and die. Clusterbombs can kill people long after a particular conflict is over. The Rwigara saga is a lesson to Rwanda in what happens when you are stuck in a vortex of three competing interest groups within government wanting the same outcome but different processes. Rwigara was causing discomfort in the media through her comments and should have been ignored, security services wanted her arrested and did so hastily, the prosecution didn’t have time to make a proper case as it was also being tried in the media. As it was being tried in the media, evidence was being leaked to sway public opinion, the bar set for evidence in the court of law and the court of public opinion are very different. This jeopardized the case, the evidence held less weight in court, screen-grabs work well in swaying public opinion but not judges. The verdict was a scathing rebuke of the prosecution, the burden was on them to prove, not for the accused to disprove, this is a major step forward in Rwanda. The burden of evidence is shifted to the State, the accused has the right not to incriminate themselves, to remain silent. I have witnesses many arrests in Rwanda but never see an officer read out your rights before arresting someone, it just grab and cuff, sling them in the back of a truck. Incitement is not as simple to prove as prosecutors thought, private messages without any action is not enough, so keep whatsapping freely to let off steam

 

Internal reformers society

As champagne was being popped in the halls of HRW, the Washington Post and Congress, with outsiders taking all the credit, there was a HUGE sigh of relief in Rwanda as well. Reform in Rwanda is always seen as the work of the West “pressuring” Rwanda, this is as if to say that no one within RPF wants reform. RPF has a huge wing of the party dedicated to reform, just that they don’t march in the streets, they are bound by strict loyalty but committed to changing from within. Hardliners make the most noise, but when the dust settles the reformers often win. RPF People were advocating for the release of the Rwigaras, even Ingabire, not because they love them but they were not a threat and they were too much trouble for nothing. The Rwigaras wanted this, they got it, they took over the narrative and the headlines. Whenever we wanted to talk about the 10% growth, or good Business climate, or anything positive it always led back to the Rwigaras. This was their Reality TV show, we were willing participants in their game, they played us well. We made them into national security threats when they were nothings. We made them the equals to our government, when you meet people who live off publicity then you suffocate their press coverage by ignoring them.

 

A dance with the Devil

When the devil asks to dance, you better say never, coz a dance with the devil might last forever

This was just 2 weeks of bad coverage, that turned into 2 years of bad coverage, death by 1,000 cuts of little bad stories. It costs us investment, tourists, our good name, by the time you try to explain this story it is too late. We have to stop this “Chicken Little” mentality, that the sky is going to fall down because of one story. This government is one of the strongest in Africa, but to gain sympathy it must appear weak, it must appear fragile, as it only one story can bring this whole country down. So we arrest journalists to prevent bad stories leaking, then the arrest of the journalist becomes a worse story. We are repeating the same folly with a Rwanda BBC Journalist, making them into terrorists with weak evidence, prosecution planting co-accused you don’t who confess to it all, the same mistakes which the judge lambasted them for. We should do a reassessment of how we operate, to avoid hysteria and bright shiny things. I’m tired of hearing “Rwanda is making great strides forward but….” I want to get rid of that BUT. Rwanda is making great strides, end of sentence. We can’t blame the human rights people alone, we must clean our house. We can’t accept that we must commit a few crimes to enforce the law, then there is not law.  We also need to stop this “Let me cut you down to show you” attitude that created this messy mud fight.

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A Blueprint for Reviving Rwanda media

 

 

The baby and the bathwater

 

The year was 2010, we were faced with a dilemma in Rwanda media. How could we get rid of the bathwater without throwing out the baby? The Baby was the nascent Rwandan media, the bathwater was all the tabloid rags doing rounds on the streets; the Umu’s, Umuseso, Umurinzi, Umurabyo and so forth. It was a Rubik’s cube of a puzzle, to close down press with all the outrage in Western media, while plotting a way forward for Rwandan media. In the end, it was asking the wrong questions, these tabloids were on their last legs anyway, they were not the future, yet they formed the basis of Rwanda media policy going forward. The bathwater was thrown out, but the baby would be left to fend for itself, to self-regulate, the sector was not ready to regulate itself but the Rwandan Government did not want to regulate media directly. Therefore, so many problems have arisen since that could not have been anticipated, Rwanda media has largely stagnated in the time since, and we have been unable to solve the structural issues dogging our industry. I would also venture that this was to the Government’s detriment, having a weak internal media industry has harmed the government. Instead we chose to outsource our media to mostly Foreign publications, with planted or paid for stories that give us a hit of heroin until we need to do that again. We could have had a local media generating these stories organically, we have spent millions of dollars that could have gone to develop a local media industry. For the media, we also should not feel entitled to government funding, but we must solve the problems affecting us.

 

Slow death

 

Since 2010, we have seen the slow death of Rwanda media, zombie stations with just a playlist, one-man bands all over the place. We have lost all the best, all the best journalists are now some PR for an NGO earning $1,600 per monthplus benefits. Why take all the risk of being a journalist; being arrested, harassed, not being paid, getting ostracized, and all for what? The Greater Good? So I bump into a great journalist at the lights, “Where have you been?” She points to a baby seat in the back. The world of journalism was too unstable to raise a family, better to take the NGO job, with the paid holidays, travel, benefits, school vouchers and a RAV-4. PR took over, companies would pay plenty to have positive coverage, individuals would pay to be interviewed, the focus switched away from the Reader/listener/viewer to the subject of the interview. Now sales and clicks didn’t matter, just what they were willing to pay. All this time we have had growth in terms of numbers, more stations, more publications, now digital TV stations but no real growth in professionalism, in content creation, in standards, we are spreading the little we have very thinly. A station owner bragged to me that it made $3,000 a month, a much better station makes $9,000 a month, even the best barely make more than that. How can you run a good newsroom, sales team, marketing team, DJ’S, presenters, researchers, reporters, on that money. We have 37 stations, that is past saturation point, most are for Kigali only, 37 stations for 1.3m people. We have 90% of Rwanda mostly served by the government station Radio Rwanda, in these other stations there is just “Katogo” music and talk, no specialized programs, no product differentiation, just copy cats on copy cats. There should be forces of consolidation at work, mergers and acquisitions, forming Syndicates, partnerships, and overall cooperation, but nothing of the sort. The market continues to fragment and is not enticing to media investors because of the Cowboys in the market, people who are untrained but trying out their luck. Cowboys are happy with diminishing returns.

 

Diminishing returns

 

There was a time not long ago when Radio stations all made huge profits, many have seen revenues drop by 75%, the market is too saturated, government cut its ad buys, private sector has also reduced ad buys and many prefer direct marketing via social media, where they can get instant feedback and also provide customer service. Many radio stations put all their hopes in TV, but they are just producing radio with pictures. They quality of their pictures shows this, no professional cameramen, lighting, sound, make-up, electricians, wardrobe, producer, scriptwriter, director, and presenters trained in media. They use amateurs and enthusiasts, they exploit them for a short while and exploit another. Radio stations now pay in “exposure” but we can’t eat it, I do 2 hrs radio a week for free, I’m told I can “leverage” it into something else. Even commentators in football have to pay the bills “the best milk, cake and Fanta bikonje is at Mama Fils at Kimironko market, hmmm, so nice. Neymar with a shot!!!! Goooooooal !!!!!!!!” you are expected to pay yourself. This is how our cowboys have stayed in business, by not feeding the cow, just driving us to market for less and less. As long as the meager returns can pay the owners lifestyle of 2m+ they are fine because their salary is untouched.

 

Lack of investment

 

Political risk

 

This is the biggest obstacle to investment in Rwanda media, the government has a dim view of media, instantly suspects anyone before you even start. It doesn’t matter if you have forensic evidence in Rwanda to back up your story, it is not true until the Government accepts it is true. A simple fact like “The sky is blue” might be obvious to some, but if you were to state such a fact before the Government accepts that the sky is indeed blue, then you can face prison. Look at the Story of Hunger and famine in Eastern Province last year, local journalists who reported it were harassed till the story died down. Only for the President to castigate the local officials for denying and pretending there was no problem. The truth is that the power of government even extends to local officials who have strong backers in central government that can kill a story. It is easier to make a story go away than it is to fix it, journalism is a losing game in Rwanda. This requires a gesture of goodwill by the government, to openly encourage investment in the media. Many big Rwandan companies want to invest in a media wing, they have to capital to start professional stations in Rwanda but they fear contagion. Imagine you invest $2m in a media empire then just one little story by a junior staffer brings down your entire company, and this contagion spreads to all other arms of your business empire. It is too risky, hence we have these cowboys who can thrive in the Wild Wild West of Rwanda media. We also need a business code of conduct for the media, a media investment code, copyright law enforcement, and direct investment in a media college. We also need a cessation in issuing new Radio and TV licenses, it is devaluing the media industry, any new entrant will have to buy out an existing company. Compel the existing media companies to work together in networks, raise the price of owing a radio/TV station, or at least set standards required in technical staff. Most Rwanda TV stations belong on YouTube where it is free to broadcast. Let us get down to 4 networks, consolidate the market, increase audiences and revenue.

 

Owners need to evolve

 

The entry barriers to media in Rwanda were set very low, one can chose between buying a car or opening a TV station, it is that cheap. Costs have been continually dropping that offset the loss in ad revenue. This led to the saturation of the market, huge reduction in ad buys because smaller audiences just weren’t viable. Saturation leads to duplication, lack of specialization, lower skills levels, exploitation of workers, it becomes a race to the bottom. Saturation also stops outside investment, investors do not mind a small market, a small market can grow into a huge market, but a saturated but small market is like a pond of piranha. We have to work on the reduction of stations, to have more regional coverage, smaller broadcasters cannot afford reporters in every district. If we stop issuing new licenses then their values go up to whatever the market price is, owners can sell out for higher. For the ones that remain, you need networks, there is no radio or TV station in the West that stands alone, all are part of a network. This helps increase audience, bargaining power of media is increased with larger markets, it reduces costs as well, less duplication, more specialization and more professionalism. Instead of having an accountant for each, you now share, you share HR dept, publishing and clearing, sound tech, cameramen, all these can be shared and somehow you collectively get the staff you need. Consolidation is so important for our survival, especially in a small market, but there are factors stopping consolidation, mainly the easy purchase of licenses, we should even review if some existing license holders qualify to hold one.

 

 

Solutions

 

  • Stop issuing TV and Radio licenses, the digital switchover assumed that frequencies are infinite, but the attention span of listeners/viewers can be overwhelmed with too much mediocrity. For Frequency owners, it increases the value of stations. It will mean new investors will have to co-invest, or buy out current owners. The amount of money for investment is limited, so we cannot have 37 stations all standing alone, each taking minute shares of the market. Radio Rwanda still has 80% of the audience most of the time.
  • Make Radio and TV form networks, the reason for networks is to increase audience for ad buys. You sell an audience of 2m and now you have a viable proposition. Let us have 3-4 Networks, even with 37 stations but in networks. Adverts would be synchronized across the Network, say at :13mins, 27mins, 42mins and 57mins on the hour. A total of 12 minutes per hour. Revenue is shared across the network according to ratings. The results will be instant; more ad buys, better quality of ads which have be properly designed and focus-polled using metric data.
  • Once stations are in a Network, there is no point duplicating the same thing over and over. Some stations will move to rural areas as part of this Network and to smaller towns as well. Content will have to be much more varied to fit the various segments. One station can be Pop music only, another News and Talk, another Educational providing lectures, another doing religious content. The news becomes more varied, both in region and content. News in Rwanda is 90% Kigali based, yet events are unfolding all over the country, the audience is 90% outside of Kigali.
  • Exclusive deals – turn on the radio and you can find 5 stations all commentating the same game, all doing it badly, unprofessionally, lying to their listeners, their commentary has nothing to do with what is on the screen. We should sell the rights to the EPL on the Radio, let only one station get it, then they can get the ad revenue, then we can have professional coverage not semi-drunk guys jerking around. Rwanda football League, Basketball, any sport should have exclusive rights bought, not random coverage.
  • Outsourcing News – we can have a Rwanda Independent News agency, where several stations outsource their news to a company that provides bulletins across networks. It allows smaller stations to fulfill their public service remit. It allows for better news as an agency can have reporters everywhere and just send in News, Sport, Weather, traffic updates, public service announcement and have them across a joint network. This allows pop stations to just do pop, or if it is a talk show, you can focus on your content exclusively without the distraction of hourly bulletins.
  • Setting content quotas – due to poor regulation of our digital TV we have stations that just show content illegally all day without paying copyright. All day, even new movies are screened illicitly, Black Panther was showing for free when Century Cinema paid for the right to screen it. These TV stations are just a 24 Replay machine. No one is developing local gameshows, quiz shows, comedies, soap operas,  lectures, news analysis, human interest, science. It is just a morning talk show “Radio with Picture” then they just link up the Hard Drive and play western stuff without paying. These TV stations are not fulfilling their obligation to create local content, they don’t have the inclination, the money, the skills, or the IMAGINATION. That is why I’d advocate revoking most of them. Local content must be 75% of content on air. Movies shown must be paid for, because we’ll get sued, and those who want to buy rights legitimately are put off by the lack of enforcement of law.
  • Set standards – we just set a price to buy a license but we left standards behind. Let the criteria be technical, workers must be skilled, paid a minimum wage, worked only a certain number of hours. Standards can be set in numbers and metrics, equipment, skill level.
  • Set up a Media College – we shd have a media college with at least 2,000 students a year. Not these little media courses with 20-30 people. We need to train so many skills; journalism, camera, sound, make-up, editing, producing, special effects, around 200 different skills. We say that Africans must tell our story, we don’t have the tools, telling our story is not just standing and shouting, it requires skills. If we had a big media college then Rwanda becomes the center of African media, we sit on the cusp of Francophone and Anglophone and could cater for both markets.
  • Media Park – set up a facility where media companies, content providers, skilled workers, can set up shop at an affordable cost. This can attract media companies from all over the world. This only happens when you have a skills base, when you’ve built a media college and you have a large pool to choose from. Media can make billions for Rwanda, with our fast internet, livable city, no power cuts, we already have a headstart on many regional rivals.

 

 

The government of Rwanda cannot blame lack of skills for bad journalism in Rwanda, it is their duty to teach these skills. How can you blame a child who was never taught? If we had bad engineers, we would open a better Engineering school, we need to invest in media skills to actualize the vision we have for Rwanda. Let us begin a dialogue on the way forward, discussing how to mitigate political risks of investing in Journalism and media, the saturation of the market, the lack of content, the localization around Kigali, the lack of ad buys, the high costs of running, and all factors affecting media. I believe the only answer is consolidation, setting egos aside and working together for a bigger pie, it can be syndication, mergers, affiliation, but we need to pull together. We need to stop issuing new licenses, to increase the market value of frequencies, to force consolidation and end the “ever diminishing returns” games. We need a signal from government that media is a viable industry to invest in. We need investment in skills and training to equip us with tools to tell our story. We need to see media as central to our development, a media company with 100 workers can bring in billions of dollars if the content is right. We need a common sense approach to media.

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How Africans lost their football identity

Football identity reflects national identity

 

Why is African football in a slump?

There was a time when many people predicted a great future for African football, Pele said an African team would win the World Cup by 2000, but it never happened because African football became a reflection of the chaos in government and society. African football was feared because it was fearless, physical, athletic and skillful, that is what made Pele, the Greatest, make that prediction. That was a time when most of our best players still played here in Africa, since then almost all our best players have moved to Europe but our teams have gotten worse. How can better players give us worse teams? It is because we lost our identity, we tried to play like Europeans and adopt a pragmatic approach but it killed who we are. Let a lion be a lion, don’t change it to make it more approachable and docile, you kill the very thing that makes it a lion. We brought in European coaches because we despise our own, then we say to a white man “Give us an identity!” we already had one. Where we lacked is the technical drill coaches not head coaches who spend most of the time back home then 4 days in a hotel. We should have imported fitness coaches, skills coaches, tactical coaches, video review coaches, and left the top coaching and development of identity with African coaches. In all the games that African teams have played they tried to not concede and play for a draw but were stunned by late goals or self-inflicted mistakes. That is not African football, we attack fearlessly, we match you for skill then outmuscle you.

 

National identity in football

One of the best books ever written is “The Ball is Round” it is a history of football around the world, how it started in ancient times until it was coded with rules by the British in 1863. The railways played a massive role in the development of football, as British engineers and workers built the railways in Europe, then South America, then Asia and Africa, they took with them a game that could played anywhere flat. The railway in USA was built by the Chinese and blacks with a lot of Irish and ex-confederate soldiers, and that is why football never caught on in USA. What made football unique is that with the same rules, the game developed very differently in every nation reflecting the national character. It was a time when football was isolated and evolved in different ways, there are no TV to compare another style to so you developed your own. That is why today football national teams reflect the national character. Your character is something you cannot hide, other than try to change it, you should enhance those aspects that give you an advantage. Look at the following national styles.

Brazil – Samba football, football is played to the sound of drums, the players dance in rhythm, they build up the tempo and strike. The nation is a proud nation, winning is not enough, you need to win with style. It is not enough to defeat your opponent but you need to do it with swagger.

Germany – Cool under pressure, efficient, cohesive and hardworking. These are attributes Germans love, it is reflected in their team, never count them out.

Italy – still have 4 World Cups, they have been around 2,000 years, they have seen empires come and go and know what works. First, contain the opponent defensively then pick them apart methodically.

Spain – the Matador style. A Matador doesn’t kill a bull with one go but weakens it with Picadors, tiny little cuts and stabs to weaken it. Before this Tiki-taka Spain played like a bull, but decided to play like a matador, smaller than their opponents but agile, killing you with little passes that open you up for the kill.

Holland – Total Football, anyone can play anywhere, versatility and teamwork, ingenuity and hard work is a hard combination to beat. One-touch pass and move, triangular play, freestyle football. Their model was copied by Barcelona since Rinus Mickels and Cruyff played there in the 70’s.

England – Up and at em. People say England doesn’t have a national identity but it has, just a very bad one. Just like the nation is in its post-imperial hangover, it has an overinflated view of itself. The cold weather makes you run like a headless chicken, the rainy damp pitches don’t allow passes to move smoothly. So the developed the wingplay crosses with a big 9 to lump it in with a header. Slick skillful players are despised as showoffs and potentially gay, the dumb macho tackling style that loses gallantly is loved.

Uruguay – Abajura just. A small but fiercely proud nation sat between Argentina and Brazil, punching literally above its weight. They will fight, cheat, foul, but also play amazing football doing it. They grow up playing in the narrow streets of Montevideo where the only rule is “there are no rules” only winners and losers.

 

What is our national identity?

Our identity is moulded by our recent past and ancient history. Sport doesn’t change character, it reveals it. When you are up against the wall, you revert to character, to centuries of ingrained behavior and national culture. We must define our identity off the pitch first and reflect it on the pitch. Our history is rich, Rwanda iratera, Rwanda attacks, it is not attacked. We are an attacking country, we defend by attacking. We attack early and swiftly, disarming you before can react, we avoid attritional battles as we can’t afford casualties, we prefer stealthy pre-emptive strikes. Looking at all our great battles, there is always an element of trickery and daring involved, the battle of Pweto-Pepeto, Kisangani, Kitona, Ruhengeri, all involve opponents with superior numbers, better arms, better training but we emerged victorious. That should be the Rwandan style, first, know your opponent, spy and spy again. Get to know all their weaknesses, strike directly at the weakest but most crucial point, destabilize, misinform and then pull your master card at the last minute. We must select players who fit this template, regardless of skills, skills can be taught, but you can’t teach that true cunning Rwanda instinct. We make a mistake, we take athletes and try to teach them football mentally, we should start with footballers and try to develop them physically. We need an identity based on intelligence and scouting our opponents, having a physical game to match our opponents, developing our team collectively not players individually, and developing a never-say-die attitude in our players and fans. We rose from Genocide, we can do anything. Rwanda for World Cup 2026, there will be 48 teams, we shall be one of them.

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