The Sentry Bird

What is the role of the press?

I was recently on my usual show on Kiss FM when the subject of the media in Rwanda was discussed. The host posed me a question. Can the press in Rwanda hold government in check? There is this notion that in the absence of other institutions the press can hold a government in check, to check the excesses, to expose their wrong doings. This frame of thought pits the Government vs the Press, the press is an irritant the government has to tolerate in the name of democracy, to prove its democratic credentials and allow occasional humiliation to appear humble. What is the press for? Is it to hold the government to account? Is it to check the excesses of power? There are institutions in place to hold government in check, the judiciary, Civil Society, Development partners, and public opinion can do this adequately. It is dangerous to think the Press is there to hold government to account, the press exists to inform the public on matters that are relevant to their lives, in so doing you can occasionally praise leaders or criticize them, but the overall objective should be to inform. If a policeman thought it is his duty to expose criminals, then they will fall to excesses of their own prejudices. A policeman who believes it is their job to uphold the law will more likely succeed. A free press cannot compensate for weaknesses in governance, it is only when those in governance have a solution that they can articulate clearly that Free Press becomes a reality. Our problems with the freedom of press stems from the inability of our officials to provide adequate solutions, not out of cruelty, they have no answers so they shut press down.

 

The Sentry Bird

 

What is the point of the press? I will illustrate this with an example in nature. In large herds on the plains, with Zebra, Antelope of all kinds, Warthogs, and all can rely on the best security system in nature. The Sentry bird posts on a high perch and looks out for them, when a leopard or lions come to ambush the herd, their main problem is avoiding the alarm of the sentry bird, it rings loud when it spots a predator and the hunt is over. Now that the animals know there is a lion, leopard, hyenas or cheetahs on the prowl, there is no chance of catching them, the leopard exposes itself and walks off. In return the sentry bird gets to pick and eat ticks, fleas, lice and other irritants of the grazing animals, it forms a dual purpose of exposing big threats and elimination of smaller threats. For the herd it is a win-win, it gets an alarm system, and grooming to remove disease-causing parasites. The sentry bird does this by earning trust, it never raises a false alarm, it is always alert, it is always clear about differentiating threats, but mostly, it is entirely in line with the herd and follows them. There is also another bird on the plains called the Honey-guide, it calls to people to show you where hives are hidden, sometimes deep in the stem of a tree. Young Maasai boys wake up to the call of the honey-guide, it takes you to a hive, in return it gets to eat the grubs and smoked out bees, but legend says that if you don’t share then next time to will lead you to a lion’s den. These are two illustrations of press in Rwanda, we follow the later pattern of the honey-guide and not the sentry bird, we chase instant rewards and not a sustainable model.

 

Hunger Games

 

Last year there was a mini-famine in Eastern province, it was caused mostly by climate change, and though Eastern province has long suffered these problems, they are exacerbated by local government inaction. There were stories in the press making the rounds, stories of mass-migration to Uganda from Eastern, even the Govt paper admitted that some 50,000 people were on food aid, or was it 50,000 families? If you ran this story of the real severity you would be accused of “Gusebya Urwanda” maybe even locked up in jail until you retract it. If the president was an ordinary man who said there was visible hunger, he would have been arrested. The local mayor would go crying to senior people “look, they are attacking US,  they are saying the WE  as a government are useless, if I go down you go down!!” more tears then his sponsors swing into action to protect their political investment. The reporter is accused of lying to the public, retracts or is jailed, Rwanda’s image is saved while people starve. It is true that local leaders know that  reputation matters a lot to government, to the point that they will cover up for them to make it look like everything is dandy. Then the president finds out about the severity of the problem and is livid, we were all afraid to say it but now we can all say what was blatantly obvious before. If only we had a sentry bird, to warn us of problems, the leopard creeps up to the herd and instead of heeding the warnings, the bird is silenced and the leopard eats us. We wait for the Ombudsman report to tell us what we all knew, long after resources have been wasted and when we can do nothing about it.

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Love Jones vs Love and Basketball

Love Jones vs Love and Basketball

I miss the 90’s, we had segregation but at least we had diversity. Instead of giving us parts in mainstream films they gave us our own film market. We made a big deal of Black Panther having a Black Director, Black cast, Black crew but this was the norm in the 90’s. I would not call an Eddie Murphy movie a black movie, even Coming to America had a white director John Landis and was a caricature. Back in the days when Hollywood had its little black ghetto churning out classics; Boyz In the Hood, Menace 2 Society, Friday, Dead Presidents, films that stand alongside all the great 90’s movies. It was a breeding ground for many black actors that became mainstream later, be it Samuel L. Jackson, Maurice Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Alfre Woodward, Jada Pinkett. In the time since we have had “Inclusion” but marginalized inclusion, where cardboard black characters spout lines meant for white actors. The variety of the types on movies is also not there today, diversity without variety makes Jack a dull boy. I wonder if these two movies would get made today? Maybe it would star Rihanna and Trey Songz. Love Jones would be set to an action movie script, they kiss and quote poetry as they shoot at each other, she’s an assassin, and he’s vampire or some shit. The best thing about these two movies is they use basic love formulas but cleverly subvert them. The Boy meets Girl story vs the Girl next Door story, these are tired concepts but the stock and trade of Romcoms, but they somehow make them work by setting them in the real world with real characters and realistic outcomes.

 

Nia vs Sanaa

 

The Queen of 90’s chicks is Nia Long, she set out to do the quintessential young black female roles and owned the 90’s, she had parts in all the major black movies. Sanaa Lathan came up in the late 90’s and ran into the 2000’s. Both have Swahili names, as the children of black conscious 70’s “Right-on” parents, so by the 90’s they knew to avoid the standard roles for Black women, Junkies, Hookers, tired single mothers, freaky hoes, and all that jazz. Nia Long’s character was a more mature woman looking for love but career first, Nina was the strong 90’s woman men dreamed of but couldn’t handle if we got her. In time, all women have become Nina-like, self-determined, proud, fierce. Sanaa made a different type of character, more demure, tom-boyish, antisocial, reclusive, a young woman coming of age in love and life. In my favourite scene the two are still children “will you be my girlfriend?” He asked. “Okay” she shrugged. “What are we supposed to do now?” they wonder “We have to kiss for like 5 seconds” they kiss, then he starts ordering her around “You can’t tell me what to do!” then they wrestle and she just about wins. The dynamic of being best childhood friends and also lovers is also interesting, it changes their relationship forever. In Love Jones, the battle of changing gender roles is also there, so this makes it not just a Romcom but a social critique. In the end, both movies hinge on the women’s failure to be “Ride or die chicks” the unrealistic expectations of the men added to their impatience leads to impulsive decisions.

Egos of Glass

 

In both movies, the men have the classic male fragility as a subplot, these fragile egos lead to infidelity with the concept of “Preemptive cheating” when the men feel unwanted and go seek validation through sex, and the woman finds out and it is over. One of the best dialogs on love is in Love Jones “What is Romance? Romance is that half-second before you ask her to marry you and her saying yes. That moment of uncertainty, so when a person says that the romance is gone, they mean they have exhausted all the possibilities and reached certainty.” I paraphrase but the get the gist of it. Love and uncertainty = Romance, once you take the love for granted then it loses its luster. Love Jones asks what love is for? Is it to last forever? Or is it to help you find your way in life. Every relationship means something, no matter how short, because it helps you grow as a person or regress. The objective is not eternal love but “To help you find your level.” Love is fleeting but can have eternal effects. In the end of Love Jones there is no rousing kissing scene with a howling ballad playing in the background. That would have been so easy, it would have been a requirement in mainstream movies, there’s just an acknowledgement of their love and the glorious art that came out of it. In Love and basketball the classic scene is inverted, normally the boy chases and bows on one knee, but here the girl is the hunter and boy the hunted. He’s about to marry a standard issue model-type in Tyra Banks when she challenges him to a game for his heart. She loses, but as she walks off he says “Double or nothing” then it cuts to years later when she’s a WNBA player and he’s a supportive dad looking after the kid.

 

So where is this Cottage industry today, who is making Black movies apart from Tyler Perry? The 80’s gave us a window where video opened the floodgates of creativity; movies could bomb at the box office but thrive on video because it caught another demographic that didn’t go to the cinema. Suddenly Black movies were profitable, they were cheap to shoot, costing as much just one scene of Star Wars they could recoup 20 times the investment. The video also extended the hours we spent watching films, there was more fodder needed to fill the shelves of video stores. These new Black movies were not just for Blacks but were part of Youth Culture as a whole, Boyz in the Hood was loved by white kids because it was ultimately about Youth and coming of age. Even with this white audience, they never pandered to them, the whites were always the butt of the jokes, it needed authenticity among blacks to be accepted by whites. By the 90’s Black cinema was producing some of the best movies, highly profitable compared to cost, a $5m investment could get you $50m  at the cinema and another $100m on video. This segregation, self-determination and new technology did wonders for movies. The new digital age has crowded out the creativity, Hollywood would rather do X-Men Part 9 than an original movie to last the ages. Love Jones can’t sell a video game, merchandise, action figures, nor a ride at Disneyworld. The lack of imagination is terrible now, we have mergers where now only 4 media outlets exist in America, decisions are made for cold cash, no innovation coz that leads to losing money. Get Out was a hit because it went against the trend, white people thought it was so creative but Black people were used to such subversion. Get out there and watch some classic movies

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Patricia’s Story

To Forgive is Divine

http://kisstv.rw/business-today-08-04-2018/

Patricia’s Story

 

This is the time of year that we are humbled, in hearing the testimonies of survivors we see the myriad ways in which the events of 1994 present new problems. The story of Patricia touched our hearts, it was a lesson in how reconciliation and forgiveness brings true healing. She suffered the torment of being a Tutsi in a school just before in 93, when children were separated in class according to tribe, she went to join her friends in the Hutu section and was beaten back to her side, and so she left school altogether. During the Genocide against Tutsi she taught children as they hid from the machetes, eventually most were found and killed, but, she said, they died knowing how to read. Her family was massacred, but she somehow survived, but that was only the beginning of her suffering. She decided she would forgive the killers of her family, killers she knew well, people she once shared with and lived with. On her first day as a teacher the first pupil to walk through the door was the son of the man who killed her father, he didn’t just kill him but tortured him and pleasured in doing it. The child was downcast, could not look her in the eye, when she did a roll-call he refused to give his name. “Just call me Aimable, I have no other name.” She could have asked for the child to be moved to another class, it is one thing to forgive, but another thing to have to meet the man who killed your family every parents-teachers day. She asked him again to state his name “if I tell you my name you’ll hate me, because it is the same as my father’s.” She put an arm around him, held him and said “Don’t ever be ashamed of your name, you are not your father, only your father will be asked of his crimes, they are nothing to do with you. Your only job is to be the best student you can be, nothing else.” She really took time and effort to help the boy, to make him more confident as a person.

 

Self-actualised reconciliation

 

Patricia is on a level 5 of Reconciliation, where she has fully self-actualized what it means to forgive and transcend your tragedy, and use it for good to help others. I get the feeling that she was already a deeply compassionate person before her tragedy and somehow kept her compassion in all the madness. It shows that reconciliation without compassion is impossible, it would just be a futile act. How many of us could be as compassionate to forgive a killer and hold no grudges and carry on your job as usual. Very few people have reached that level of reconciliation, nor should you feel obliged to, for some, just forgiving is enough. We often portray the most extreme versions of reconciliation, but they are hardly representative “He killed my family now we’re best friends and play football twice a week.” That is not normal, this might be Stockholm Syndrome. Many avoid giving their testimony because at the end you have to say everything is fine and dandy, most are not there yet.  Another big question it raises, the effect of this on the next generation, children who weren’t even born when it happened but see the haunting shadow of something never spoken in their homes. Like the child who knew his father had committed crimes against his teacher, expecting the teacher to hate him too. Love can disarm your enemy better than any gun, the father of the boy can’t have told him the truth but the truth came out. Patricia has not given up, she has not surrendered, she is fighting alternative warfare by non-violent means, using love as a weapon. She is fighting genocide ideology like soldiers in RDF but by other means, her mission is to save the next generation, to stop any stigma, any association with such an ideology. When we stigmatize a generation we doom them to repeat the mistakes of their parents.

 

We don’t talk about “you know what?”

I find that for the majority of Rwandan find it hard to approach the subject of what happened in 1994. For one side it is hard to remember all those who were hacked, for another it might bring deep shame to confront what Daddy did for 3 months some 24 years ago. The net result is the same, not talking about it and the danger of repeating it. We’ve relied on parents to talk to their kids about it but that has clearly failed, we wait till people are fully formed to engage them and try to change minds set in concrete. It made me wonder if we should water it down to make it more palatable? But the message would be lost or blurred, it would be revisionism by another name. My friend who grew up in Germany gave me the solution how they do it. In primary they teach simple nice history, the Romans, Greeks, etc, but in secondary it becomes very real, it is entirely around the holocaust and the events around it. History is compulsory in Germany and very gruesome, meant to shock the young generation into not repeating it. It is propaganda but they make no apologies about it. We need to teach history in schools compulsorily, we need to teach Civics and good citizenship in schools, we need to teach our national vision in schools. The genocide ideology was incubated in our school system, it is how they got the entire future political, economic and social classes in their pockets. We will not undo this with Ibiganiro of adults who are already set in stone, we will undo this by teaching the history of our nation to future generations. We need a dissociation between generations, to deny ethnic unity and condemn what is wrong. Today Germany has the most anti-genocide mindset there is, meanwhile in America only 40% know what Auschwitz was, memory is dying. Teach it raw, let them see the horrors like German kids do, it is the only way to avoid it.

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Little Big Men

 

 

You can fool some of the people some of the time….

…. But you can’t fool all the people all the time. The president of the nation recently opened the Local Government annual forum with a brilliant speech that winded round through anecdotes and metaphors to a succinct point. He talked of Rwanda’s problem as a landlocked country, how some nations block our way to the sea, just like how a rich neighbor can erect a wall to block you from going to fetch water. In our long list of problems, there are some beyond our control, but there are other problems we invite on ourselves. People are being denied quick services by obstruction, local leaders are putting up barriers between themselves and the people, and becoming more aloof and arrogant. I have seen this myself in local government, your file gets pushed back because there was a tiny box you forgot to fill out of 100 questions. You hardly find local officials at their place of work, or if they are there, they are in a meeting. The president castigated local leaders to eradicate child hunger, they said they’d have a meeting about it, they said reflexively, but the president was furious, NO MORE MEETINGS. This is the problem, the question is often asked as to who they are accountable to? Is it to the executive alone? Or is it to the people? Are they just ticking boxes and hitting their benchmarks without really impacting people’s lives? Rwandans are very understanding, just showing that you empathise with the sufferers goes a long way. However, we often see local officials denying a problem even exists, even in the face of empirical evidence. When they are cornered they say people are lying about them, they have enemies, finally, they ask for forgiveness. As if that will fix the problem?

 

Narcissism kills development

Pride comes before the fall, these mayors saw 70% of their previous incumbents removed prematurely, but they still have the temerity to be arrogant. They think previous mayors were stupid, they won’t make the same mistakes, but they often repeat the same mistakes. Firstly, let us dispense with this “Nyakubahwa” business, a local mayor can’t have the same title as the President of the Republic. That title in not to be given lightly, calling yourself Excellency or Honorable when you have done nothing to earn it, yet puts you above the people. How can an ordinary citizen talk to a mayor honestly while stroking their ego? This narcissism is killing our development plans, to have self-importance stops you from serving the people. Leaders are there to serve the people, to solve their problems, to be accountable to them, and to understand their needs. Another reform we need is referendums to either recall or sack mayors who haven’t performed, it should be done by the people. Let the executive select local officials, but the local people decide if they are performing or not. Let local leaders be servants, not mini-gods, little big men accountable to the Executive alone. We need to redefine what it means to be a leader. Go to a Chinese building site in Kigali and ask for the Chief Engineer, look for the most humble among them, the engineer will be digging with the laborers. In Rwandan building sites, the engineer is the fat guy doing nothing, sweating in the heat and yelling at workers. The Chinese know that if the leader puts in hard work, the others follow with even harder work.

 

Servant leadership

Where are these mayors chosen from? We have no gender parity among local officials like we do in parliament, around 90% were men, a boy’s club. What kind of training do Mayors, Executives, and Cell Leaders get? Leadership is now a science, it can be taught to most understanding people. All public service officials in Rwanda should do a course in Servant-leadership. The principles of Humility, Integrity and Willingness to Serve, that is at the heart of our problems. Leaders feeling they are above the people they serve, having no humility so they can never be accountable. Integrity without humility will be corrupted, you will find a way to justify your theft in your mind, or to steal but still do the project. Willingness to serve is a big problem in Rwanda, to go the extra mile, like the Chinese engineer digging with his Bayede. Officials are looking for a reason to deny you service “You missed out this part” or “You attached only 3 photocopies, not 4.” This means problems which should have solved ages ago stay in the system. All it would take an official change it is attitude change. Taking of responsibility is lacking in Rwanda, passing the buck, it wasn’t me. Before we instill accountability, we need to instill a sense of responsibility in people. What we have now is blame-culture, accountability is innate if you feel responsible, but if not, then it is just blame. People will be accountable to themselves, correct themselves, report themselves. We should have systems that allow flexibility and responsibility. Walk into an office with a problem that is not straight-forward and staff cannot help you, because something could go wrong then they’d be blamed or even sacked. This is against accountability, this is blame. So we hope our local leaders got the message, but we also need more flexible systems to allow them to take risks in order to solve problems and not be punished for it.

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Africa United

 

A tale from the Grandfathers

 

One day the animals of the savannah decided to have a meeting, a ceasefire was declared, no lion will eat a gazelle, no hyena will eat a warthog, and so they sat together. They wanted to unite in order to preserve their homeland, to unite against the hunters, the poachers, and the encroachers. It seemed a good idea, the herd animals all agreed, there is safety in numbers, but the leopard said she was always solitary and seeing as she didn’t eat grass this union was of no use to her. The elephant said she was too big to join with the gazelles, impalas, and zebras, she would make her own deal with the poachers and she was convinced by her size she would get a better deal. “You stand 4 meters tall, you can’t hide, they will kill you first and take your tusks, but at least we can hide.” The lion sat aloof, unbothered by the bickering, his strength would win the day, he said he would devour the poachers, but they have guns and will shoot you from far away.” The mongoose laughed, he would outsmart the poachers, sneak past them and hide in the bush. The problem was the bushfires, where can you run to? The monkey laughed, he would just climb up a tree, but they are chopping down the trees. The birds said they’ll just fly away from these problems. Where to? Eventually you have to land back to earth and you’ll find the same problem.

 

This was a story told to me by my granddad decades ago, the original question was “Why is Africa so messed up?” he explained it to me in terms my little mind could understand. We are in a dire situation, not because of the white man only, but we ourselves have not capable of agreeing a way forward to solve our problems in Africa. The day we decide to change our circumstances we will begin to effect change on our continent. Africa decided on March 21st to change its circumstances, to change its outlook and the way it is perceived by the Rest of the world. 44 nations signed the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, the rest mostly agreed to consult with their parliaments to ratify it. The Rome Agreement of 1957 establishing the EEC had little coverage that day compared to Elvis topping the charts, but the effects were monumental, it took years to get the full treaties working rightly, but it all stems from that day. The EU had many geopolitical factors pushing it, America had over 1m NATO troops in Europe to protect it from USSR invasion. The US wanted all the European nations in a group that they could deal with collectively, it made international relations easier. Likewise it is in the interest of the West to have a strong AU, it might be against the interests of their companies, but the world benefits from a strong united Africa. We Africans can deal with the wars, droughts, famines, that always require Western help. As we saw recently Rwanda donated money to help another African country fight desertification, we go to beg for $20m here, $100m there, to fight this and that, but we can collect money among ourselves to fight ebola, or any such problem. The West gave $150m to fight Ebola and took all the credit, we Africans could have given $3m per country and fixed it, because it would eventually spread to all of us.

 

The Elephant stand alone

 

Two glaring omissions stood out on the map, ironically it was the two nations who have most to gain from an African Continental Free Trade Zone, Nigeria and South Africa would get the biggest share and yet they are too insular now to see it. Another irony is South Africans are scared of Nigerians coming over and vice versa, but the SA and NGR banks would swallow the African Banking system if there was free competition, their manufacturing sectors would take over the African market, and they would effectively have a veto by virtue of their sizes but they are still thinking they can get a better deal alone than with us. 27 African nations signed the Free Movement Agreement, waiving visa requirement for Africans, some were understandably reluctant, such as South Africa with a Xenophobia crisis, TZ scared of super-sharp worldly Kenyans coming and outsmarting them in everything, the SADC nations blindly following SA. The problem we will see is “vested interests” yes we are poor, but this poverty makes someone very rich. People who make money importing goods from the West or East will never want local manufacturing, nor to import from other African nations. In Nigeria there are no functioning Oil refineries because petrol importers were subsidized by government and made a fortune importing fuel. This is replicated in every sector in Africa, our poverty enriches others in the same system. Each nation will have to fight these vested interests or at least coopt them into this African Free Trade Zone, or they will just sabotage it. We need to overcome ourselves, our own greed and selfishness, the hardest opponent is always the one in the mirror.

 

The benefit of kindness

 

Rwanda has had an open door policy towards its neighbors and even faraway foreigners, we have benefitted from Kenyan investment, Ugandan skills and business, Somali businessmen, Eritrean supermarkets, we even have Senegalese and Malians dating back decades. None of this investment has ever stopped Rwandans from starting their own businesses or being successful, it has brought a large inflow of investment, most have settled here and reinvested the profits employing thousands of locals and paying tax. Outsiders are always better at spotting gaps in the market, locals become entrenched in their thinking and ignore solutions, and we can fill the gaps in our markets by cooperating, seeing Africa as one economy and not our petty little economies. We must think “Buy Local” first from your local country then if not then another African country. We must stop lusting after Western goods just because they are from the West, goods perform a function first, you can buy them anywhere especially local. We have to harmonize our laws on business, we cannot have more cross-border investment if our codes are different. That way we can collectively bargain with the West and East with the same criteria, we can avoid tax loopholes that cost us up to $200bn. It is only by fighting collectively that we will get our share of the global economy, they say that the Economy of Africa is smaller than Spain, but we don’t owe twice our GDP’s in debt. After WWII America sat down with the Europeans and decided that in order to prevent future war nations would be given a share of the global economy. The Marshall plan helped German by, injecting capital, infrastructure, and also promising to buy the goods from these countries to make them sustainable. African countries were not present at Breton Woods, we could not advocate for our share, this 2.5% of global GDP was assigned to us, we are 15% of the world population, we will be 30% of global population by 2050 with 2.8bn people. Africa is not the future, Africa is now, most of the global growth is coming from Africa, but headlines don’t reflect that. We can change Africa overnight if only we spoke with one voice together.

“I freed over 1,200 slaves in my lifetime, but I would have freed even more if they knew they were slaves.”  Harriet Tubman

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The Silo Effect – when Govt is not talking to Govt

 

Wrong kind of silos

 

One take-away from the 2018 Umwiherero was the problem of the Silo effect, when one arm of government or management doesn’t talk to or share information with other parts of government or an organization. We can often blame the individuals in office but we never look at the structural issues. Information Silos in computers or people are caused by the same factors; size of organization, number of internal units within organization, quality of the workforce, degree of specialization and the incentive mechanisms. So when we look at a problem like child nutrition, where; Ministry of Agriculture, Education, Family and Gender, Health, Local Govt, and a myriad of other arms of government all have data and projects dealing with child nutrition separately but they never truly pool resources to solve the problem together. In IT Silos occur when the data is incompatible with other platforms, same problem with government, they are not producing reports that can be read and understood by other departments, it just becomes jibberish. One ministry has its way of doing thing and another has a different way, not compatible. We also need to integrate our reports into a single database that all can access. The silo effect is also countered by flattening the management system, this pyramid system of government we use create Silos, each department jealous of another, levels of management clashing. There is a reason Google, Facebook and all modern global innovators have horizontal management, not vertical, it allows information to flow better. Anyone can talk to the boss, you don’t have to go through all the layers of bureaucracy, this way, no secrets are kept, problems are dealt with early, and this solution is shared to all.

 

Turf warfare

The main reason for turf warfare in government is the management structure, the pyramid system that is designed for information to flow down, and not up. The system is designed for orders to emanate from the top, but feedback from below is limited and filtered through many membranes of management. Information is power, controlling and stopping the flow of information is seen as power, but in this age it is the facilitation of information flows that gives you power, the info will come out, the executive has eyes and ears everywhere and they will find out. A Rwandan Head of Department is deeply protective of any information coming out, even if it is positive, this hinders accountability, information should be shared on principle not when they are forced. Institutional memory is deep in Rwanda, an official will tell you “we do it like that because that is how we have always done it.” Bringing in a younger generation would help counter this dated thinking. We have seen a balkanization of government into smaller more efficient units, each tasked with a particular problem, but these units are not integrated. They do not see themselves more as a collective than a unit within a collective. Then you have a tough Imihigo target culture, if one district asked for help from another, that is like a student asking for answers during an exam. Imihigo can be used to make people cooperate and not just compete, there are many great things about it, but there is a deeply competitive component that does not encourage cooperation.

 

Disjointed government

 

After the recent concern about child nutrition, the solution was seen to be a special child nutrition program, the child does not live in a vacuum, you cannot solve child nutrition while the rest of the family starves. We go through daily moral panics about this, that and the other. Today it is Malnutrition, tomorrow – teenage pregnancy, the day after – alcoholism, drugs the next, all depending on headlines or level of outrage. These problems should be solved regardless of moral outrages in the middle-classes, these problems affect each and every one of us. We no longer need the 5-tier system to deliver services, we can assess the needs of Rwandans in real time with a database. We can have a Social Service to deal with these periodic problems systematically, not on an adhoc basis. We are wasting valuable resources in countless projects, each targeting a tiny aspect of a problem but never the whole problem, add to that the aid and NGO sector doing their own thing with no coordination. We need a Social Service of social workers at Mudugudu level to deal with families in their context. That Child Malnutrition will be connected to other problems; the Father’s ability to find work, the number of children, the seasonal aspect, the marital balance within the family. It is impossible to only deal with child nutrition in a whirlwind of problems that are all interlinked. If the family is the smallest unit of government than we have to deal with it as such, as a whole, not little projects for every little problem. This is mainly a legacy of aid dependency, with certain pet projects given preferential funding we had to structure our services accordingly. Donors give money to causes, not countries, so TB, Autism, Child Mortality, Women empowerment all get different levels of funding and accountability systems, this is mirrored in our structures according to funding source requirements.

 

 

Welfare state

 

The notion of social security is a pipe dream for most. You tell a starving person that you are cutting part of their money to put in a pension that they will collect in 40 years’ time? It is and will be of no benefit to Rwandans in the long run if immediate needs are not met. Food security is national security, our ancient leaders knew this, a General in Kinyarwanda translates as Umugaba – Distributor, you job was to distribute food according to need. One could even confiscate food for storage for another season. Mayors are really powerless to handle child malnutrition on their own, without powers to redistribute food to the needy. Our worthy aspirations are doomed to fail if we do not tackle food security, and not just tackle supply issues but solve hunger. Do this calculation. If an average Rwandan spends all day just to find what to eat, then how can we even begin to achieve our economic dreams? We need a national Foodbank, we lose 30% of produce through bad storage and pests, we need Silos in every Murenge or cell to store food, let people bank their food and we use the surplus to feed the needy. Our social security system has to move towards helping basic survival not theoretical pensions. We can have food banks with IT backup where one can see the amount of food stored, be given a code which opens the food bank like a cash point ATM. We need to deal with people directly not through 5 layers of potential waste, mismanagement, and apathy. Let Mayors deal with roads, schools, clinics, planning permission, accountability and so on, food security is national security, it has to be dealt with nationally. If 30 districts are reporting the same problem, then it is no longer a local issue and must be dealt with nationally. For our social and cultural problems, we need a social answer. Social workers will deal with vulnerable families, the same families with malnutrition are likely to also have alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, criminality, and all the ills that go with poverty. Moral outrage will come and go, once a problem is out of sight we forget, until the next time, more moral outrage, wringing of hands, more meetings, then we forget, until the next time. The main purpose of social workers will be to help make people functioning tax-payers in a stable home. This would be real social security.

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Black Panther and Fear of the Black Market

FEAR OF A BLACK MARKET: WAKANDA

“We got a negro problem”

In the series “Mad Men” about advertisers on Madison Ave in the 60’s, a customer comes in with a big problem. The TV company called Admiral was suffering growth, sales were through the roof and growing. The Mad Men look perplexed, surely that’s a good thing, the disgusted executives of Admiral TV begged to disagree. They had a nigger problem, too many black people were buying their TV’s and this risked losing them the White Racist market, so they wanted it both ways, blacks to stop buying and whites buy more. That is the economic model of racist capitalism, to economically suppress a portion of the population and not fulfill their economic potential, their own narrative of ‘Black Wretchedness’ blinds them to the economic potential of Blacks as a market. Look at the businesses prevalent in Black neighborhoods; liquor stores, fried chicken joints, strip clubs, pawn shops, payday loans, all designed to destroy both mentality and physically. If you want Bistros, Electronics shops, designer clothes, insurance, banking, you have to go to a white neighborhood. As if blacks don’t use any of these positive services. The same applies to movies, they never see blacks as a potential market. Hollywood movies are written and designed for 13-25 year old men or boys. They provide 80% of current revenue, they watch the blockbusters, then buy the video game, then merchandise, then waits for the sequel to do it again. Hollywood used to be way more diverse especially in the 80’s and 90’s, when video and DVD sales brought us unusual diversity. Beverley Hills Cop would never be made today, no CGI budget, no marketing budget, it would sell itself, Hollywood feeds off failure they get paid even when it flops. Most adult audiences moved to series and Netflix-type shows where you can explore the full moral complexity in 13hrs and not 90 minutes. So Hollywood pandered to this White male 13-25 group, and it became whiter, more racist, contrary to its so-called Liberal values.

 

Is it that far-fetched really?

Of all the things this movie professes, one thing is really irking to some; the idea that a black African country could be the most technologically advanced nation in the world. This has angered some Conservatives like Ben Shapiro, Tucker Carlson, and Ann Coulter, who scoff at the idea of blacks being technologically advanced. They claim Black Panther is Racist because it excludes White people. Did they say the same for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? In recent Hollywood movies we’ve seen Tom Cruise as The Last Samarai and Matt Damon built the Great Wall of China. A whole generation of young white kids will grow up thinking White people built the Great Wall of China. White Supremacy is under attack, young white kids are seeing great things achieved by other races, you explain by saying those brown people were being commanded by white people behind the scenes. The idea that Blacks were the most advanced race technologically is not absurd, we just chose the wrong technologies. The Bronze Busts of Benin are still the best and most detailed metal sculptures ever made, the goldsmiths of Mali were the best in the world, the Luba had the best copper works in the world. Slavery was the biggest transfer of knowledge and skills in history, we look at slaves as meat, but they were valuable for skills. White slavers knew certain tribes were expert in certain things; Senegalese slaves were sent to Carolina to farm rice, Yoruba slaves with metallurgy skills were sent to be Ironsmiths, Benin’s masons were sent to build Northern cities. The slaves who built congress must have just thought it was a giant Mosque with a dome on top.

 

The world of Wakanda

 

First of all, this format does not do the idea justice, 2 hours is not enough, I just hope they do a Game Of Thrones type of series to fully explore the infinite possibilities. This movie was just a brief peep into a world of the possible, a world that we want and we decide ourselves. The aesthetics are drawn from all of Africa, it can be jarring to see Malian imagery mixed with Xhosa and Igbo, but to an American it is all African. The strong female characters that complement the strong male characters without clashing, a society that has resolved the gender balance issue, with technology overcoming brute strength “Guns, So primitive!” 60% of the audience has been women. The wonderful villain Killmonger, a real pan-Africanist who wanted to use their technology to free Black people all over the world, and the Hero – T’challa who wants to stop that. In this there is a moral dilemma for Blacks, a Disney production cannot advocate racial liberation, but just the idea of it is subversive enough. It leaves you wondering who the hero really is? In the end T’challa has to fulfill the destiny of the antagonist, to see he was wrong and fought for the wrong cause. It is the essence of warrior culture to honour your enemy, in so doing you honour yourself. You realize you wanted the same thing, just with different methods. Black Panther is a different hero to what we are used to, shows vulnerability, is reliant on others, and doesn’t have all the answers. This movie shows the importance of shifting the narrative, perhaps the mistake of the Civil Rights movement was to try and get a Capitalist system see them as human, they should have been seen as Markets. Now Hollywood can point to solid data that Black Movies work on a big scale, a Black man starred in the biggest Star Wars movie, so White audiences are not scared of diversity, only the no-risk bean counters in Hollywood are. Hollywood is losing its power, production is moving to other cities, Atlanta has a more diverse $8bn movie and TV industry, 40% of Hollywood peak earnings.

 

Afro-futurism in molding a pan-African vision

 

Mythology will never die, it just adapts with technology, who would have thought that in 2018 we’d be spending $100bn a year on Mythology. Books, Films, Video games, apps, TV, series, all this is just mythology. Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings, Star Wars, James Bond, all these are age old stories that have existed throughout history. Noah Yuval Hariri wrote in his book “Sapiens” that the most important thing helped advance humankind was stories. Stories are the glue that bind us, stories entertain, impart wisdom, teach ethics, preserve knowledge, affirm values, and they are the only true inter-generational link between us. When you hear negative lies/news about Africa and you shrug “It’s just stories” stories are the most dangerous thing in the world. That story affects how you are viewed, it affects the interest rates your nation is charged, it affects how much you pay for basic medicines, your ability to get a visa and any aspect of life. When we say we need to tell our stories it is not just for entertainment but an important driver of development. We lost our stories, we lost ourselves, and this is a chance to revive them. We have better stories than Black Panther that are centuries old, much richer in detail and relevant values, but Black Panther is a good start because it is based on many of those myths. I imagine a Rwandan Blockbuster featuring our own heroes and gods, Gihanga vs Ryangombe in an epic battle for the ages, like Thor and Odin. It would have universal values for all to learn from, but it would uplift Rwandan children the most. Start with a Comic book of Rwandan myths and history, but transposed today. Can we ever imagine a Rwanda that was never colonized? What kind of Rwanda would it be? We can start on that today, in reimagining our past, we would be designing a perfect future by learning from past mistakes.

 

Challenge issued

 

Young Rwandans, write a 1,000 word story on Rwanda uncolonised, a futuristic utopia but still faced with challenges both internal and external

 

Wakanda Forever

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