Touria Prayag's Blog

l’express Weekly June 8 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on June 8, 2012

Tomorrow is today

It is a very humbling journey. A journey through an incredibly clean country where there is not a speck of dust on the streets and not a piece of rubbish on the floors of shopping malls. As for plastic bags which litter pavements in many a country, here children have no idea what they look like. They were banned in 2006.

The impeccable cleanliness, lush vegetation and green, jagged, one thousand hills are no accident. Every last Saturday of the month, all the businesses have to close by law to allow the government authorities to clean the streets, plant new trees and create awareness. As you drive through the long, well- planned roads, all in excellent condition, or walk on the wide pavements, you immediately see the impressive result of all this.

If you wander about the 24/ 7 shopping centre at around midnight, you rub shoulders with locals queuing up in front of the delicatessen and fresh meat sections choosing the best cuts. Others are looking at the latest brands on display. Like in many countries, not everyone can afford them. Unlike in many countries, not everyone wants them.

The smiles are genuine and the safety you feel as you roam around is not just an impression. You are in a city with an extremely low crime rate, in a peaceful, non- violent country at peace with itself. Welcome to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, in the heart of Africa! A country with such a recent, violently- tragic history turned into a safe haven overnight! The importance a country attaches to issues can arguably be gleaned from the kind of buildings symbolizing these. In many countries, the most attractive buildings are often shopping centres, a telling fact of the consumer societies they have become. In Kigali, the most beautiful building after the stunning parliament, is, ironically, the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The beautiful gardens, the ponds and stone steps of the outside, create an impression which clashes sharply with the horror hidden inside. The horrifying history displayed in the mass graves of thousands of unidentified victims is embellished with dozens of gorgeous fresh bouquets and flower arrangements which Rwandan visitors flocking into the memorial keep bringing in. The mauve ribbons on each bear the same message: Never Again; we will never forget you. Over the tranquil ponds and green gardens, a flame is kept burning, a reminder of a history Rwandans do not want to forget but are adamant they do not want to repeat. Looking forward to the future is for Rwandans a matter of pride. For those who are mourning their loved ones, it is another sacrifice they decided to make for their country.

Kigali for me is living proof of what Africa can achieve when it wants to. It is an example of how quickly it can turn an ugly page of history and move on. It is the very evidence of how Africa can lead in many domains.

The foresight of Rwanda in the preservation of the environment and its ability to look forward can hardly be rivalled.

There are still many lessons Rwanda can and will learn from the rest of Africa but the rest of Africa has to be humble enough to learn the lessons of Rwanda. Taking a journey through Kigali, enjoying the long evening walks on the pavements, savouring the vast array of French bread, croissants and exquisite petits fours and taking stock of how much has been achieved, should leave every African with the proud feeling that for Africa, tomorrow is today!



2 Responses

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  1. Akin Alao said, on June 13, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    The lesson from Kigali is actually well said in this piece; yes we can get it right in Africa if leaders are willing to go the extra mile.

  2. Bernard Katambala said, on September 12, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    I read the artcle before I had set foot in Kigali, but when I landed yesterday and had a chance to walk to the city today, I can only say indeed Africa can be world class. I have seen and I have believed. There is so much,the rest of Africa can learn from this country. The street are so clean, orderly traffic… Amazing Kigali…

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