Independences done wrong?

As I saw #KenyaAt50 tweets fill up my Twitter timeline yesterday, I found myself thinking how interesting it is that people who weren’t united before colonisation can celebrate independence together… What I mean is, today’s Kenya is somewhat a creation of the British coloniser, as they were the ones who drew the borders of the country we know. (The other day I read an article about how the British bargained – with the Germans who controlled Tanganyika – Zanzibar, in exchange for the Kilimanjaro, and found it funny how both now are Tanzanian territory). The drawing of borders by the Western powers isn’t something that only happened to Kenya: most African countries as we know them today were marked out by the “white man” who in most places did so by bringing previously independent territories under one single rule. A few exceptions exist however: one of them is Burundi [and Rwanda to some extent, considering that a lot of its historical territory – I hear – went to neighbouring Uganda and DRC.]

These two girls finally decided to go their separate ways

These two girls finally decided to go their separate ways

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My Rwandan experience

The Kigali City Tower

The Kigali City Tower. Source: 360events.rw

Figuratively speaking, last weekend was my first time in Rwanda; considering that I had only ever been there (multiple times) for “business”. This time, I boarded the bus that took me to Kigali with nothing else on my mind than to enjoy myself… The best part is that I was with 4 of my boys… Best (though short) break ever!

So below are the most notable points of my 3 day Rwandan experience…

It’s flippin expensive!

All the other times I had been to Kigali before, I had been rolling on my parents’ or taxpayers’ (don’t shoot me!) money – meaning that I cared less about my spending patterns. I never actually realised how expensive the city is until last weekend. The cheapest meal (drinks not included) I think we had (excluding breakfasts) cost 3000 FRW – and it wasn’t even in a posh place (I didn’t set foot in a Bourbon) – which is equivalent to 7,800 FBU, and that’s quite high! Overall, I survived a Friday night, a Saturday and a Sunday morning on a budget of about 100,000 FRW (260,000 FBU), return bus ticket included – although using the term “survived” may not be appropriate, as I indulged myself in few luxuries like renting a car for two days (30,000 FRW, fuel included), and the 3D and 5D Cinema experiences (9,500 FRW, just for the tickets). Please note that I shared my 15,000 FRW (without breakfast) room with a friend, that I did not do any shopping and that I did not engage in any (excessive) consumption of alcohol activity.

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Dear Mr Charles Onyango-Obbo,

Concerns: your article titled “Why Burundi needs a sex scandal to be noticed” published on theeastafrican.co.ke, on the 24th of June 2013

Allow me to begin by thanking you for being so concerned with Burundi’s image within the EAC. I appreciate your desire to see my homeland get just as much (positive, I hope) exposure as the rest of the partner states.

Second, allow me to thank the good Lord whom I believe had seen your article before you let it out into the wild and allowed the famous American rapper Rick Ross to tweet that he had just landed into “the beautiful country of Africa”, so that I may use this incident to make a few points with regards to your article.

You see, one should not assume that the mister’s uninformed remark was due to a lack of a good marketing campaign to promote Africa as a continent and not as a country; but one should call it what it really is – ignorance! While I have no intention of insinuating that Kenyans (or any other East Africans) are ignorant, allow me to believe that some of those around you – especially those who may have encouraged you to write the article – do need to expose themselves a little bit more to current affairs.

In fact, one should not allow Burundi to be blamed if somebody, somewhere, does not know the name of our President, or that there are other currencies in the World other than the shilling. Burundi, or Burundians, should not be blamed if somebody does not know that, unlike in other EAC partner states, our financial year starts in January; hence our budget reading actually takes place towards the end of the year. Should Burundi have held a regional awareness day to inform the community about this different way of doing things? I don’t think so.

You and your readers should also know that Burundi, and Burundians, are different when it comes to airing dirty laundry in public. We do not engage in such activities which are contrary to our culture and values. Sex scandals we have, but we do not publish them in newspapers or talk about them on TV. In fact, our new (rather controversial) press law prohibits this kind of practice – something which I thought you, a journalist who seems to have an “interest” in East African affairs, ought to know. Also, if you’ve had the privilege of meeting and hanging out with Burundians, I’d assume you’ve realised that being a gentleman – like Kidumu – isn’t something exceptional. We’re all like that. And I believe that one of the reasons why you have characters like the “Dr Chameleon” is because… well, they aren’t Burundians!

In this day and age, when the answer to almost any imaginable question is at one’s fingertips, thanks to technology, it is unacceptable that Burundi be blamed if somebody fails to know that the East African Community is composed of 5 partner states, Burundi being one of them! Do you know that a Burundian student will not be allowed into secondary school unless they know the capital of Kenya (or of any African state) and how to at least say hello, goodbye and present themselves in French, English, Swahili and Kirundi (the unique mother tongue of all Burundians, in case somebody fails to make the link)?

Burundi and Burundians should not be blamed, if somebody is unaware that a Burundian lady, Lydia Nsekera, was the first woman ever nominated on the FIFA Executive Committee… That Francine Niyonsaba is the current 800m World Champion…That Marguerite Barankitse was declared African Woman of the Year 2012… that Burundi won, for the 4th time in a row, the award for best African exhibitor at the International Tourism Borse exhibition in Germany… That Gérard Niyondiko recently co-invented the first ever Anti-Malaria soap… That Burundians are the CAVB Junior Men’s Beach volleyball champions (we have natural white sand and blue water beaches here too by the way!)… That Burundi hosted, for the first time, the prestigious International Cup of Excellence competition, that our coffee actually won some awards… And that our President plays football better than yours! We are not to blame if your media companies deliberately choose to ignore all these events (I’ve mentioned only a few) that all took place between June 2012 and today alone!

Yes, we may not be good as our neighbour(s) at marketing ourselves, and we may not share the same views as to what to put forward to make us ‘known’, but please give us a break! You should actually question why (some of) your people are clueless! Who is to blame: is it your education system, your media, or both?

Thank you, and kind regards.

Just a random Burundian.

Peace, from Burundi!

Peace, from Burundi. Photo by Arnaud Gwaga Mugisha

Why is Africa full of “First-World” wannabe a-lot-of-things… and people?

Music. Movies. Parties. Restaurants. Clubs. Hangouts. Beaches. Churches. Streets. Neighbourhoods. TV Shows. Radio Shows. Schools. Offices. Jobs. Banks. Businesses. Policies. Garages. Supermarkets. Malls. Shops. Markets. Farms. Salons. Lounges. Fast foods. Hairstyles. Clothes. Fashion agencies. Fashion shows. Friendships. Families. Personalities…. All victims of the “First World” wannabe syndrome!

Definition of wannabe: Poser, follower, a charlatan of sorts. One who copies or imitates all or most of the aspects dealing with their idol. They may wish to have certain clothing, skills, vocabulary, etc., of their idols instead of their own. Most likely a wannabe is lacking in self-confidence and is looking for guidance. (Source: urbandictionary.com)

wannabe4

For a long time – maybe, for as long as it has been known as “Africa” – Africa, or at least a huge part of it, has been referred to as a “Third-World”, in opposition to the “First World” which in general refers to Europe, North America and quite a few Asian countries today. Since then, some Africans, wherever they are, have been striving to push their countries to First place. Looking at the competition World we live in, I think it’s a normal reaction. Nobody wants to be third – and last actually – when there’s first place.

But WHAT makes us third? Who said we have to be like Europe and America to be “worthy”? What’s the standard here? Spare me your lectures in Economics; I had a lot of those in University. What I’m talking about here is what really matters… WHAT REALLY MATTERS?!

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