Rwanda takes the lead to save Africans enslaved in Libya
As the modern world is still marvelled by the existence of slave markets largely believed to have been abolished in the 18th century, Rwanda has acted swiftly on humanitarian grounds and offered to take in 30,000 Africans enslaved and abused in Libya. The footage by CNN of the secret slave markets attracted global condemnation but practical actions and solutions to rescue these people may take longer, since the number of people Rwanda is willing to take is smaller than those who urgently need help. In a statement by the Rwandan Minister of foreign Affairs, Hon. Louise Mushikiwabo, she mentioned that, “Rwanda may not be able to welcome everyone, but our door is open”. In the same statement, The Rwandan foreign minister mentioned two important reasons why the Rwandan government acted swiftly and could not, “remain silent when human beings are being mistreated and auctioned like cattle”. The reasons she mentioned were, Rwanda’s history and political philosophy, where the Rwandan history plays a significant role in shaping the political ideology and philosophy.
How and why does Rwanda’s history shape her political philosophy on helping humanity in danger regardless of the territorial boundaries? First of all, It is important to know that during the African slave trade, Rwandan chiefs put up strong resistance and refused to betray their subjects by selling them into slavery. These chiefs held in esteem the Rwandan cultural values among which, dignity of their people, patriotism and integrity (Ubunyangamugayo) were and still are highly cherished within the Rwandan society.
In 1887, the infamous Arab slave trader by the names of Hamad bin Muhammad bin Juma bin Rajab el Marjebi; popularly known as , Tippu Tip; failed to infiltrate Rwanda to get slaves and ivory and as a result, continued his journey on the periphery of the Rwandan borders and finally set up his evil business in eastern Congo. Tippu Tip was a nick name given to him in reference to the “tiptip” sound of the bullets from his gun which he used to scare the African people into submission and to kill African elephants for ivory.
Secondly, since 1959, many Rwandans lived as refugees where they were treated as second or third class sub-humans, with no basic or fundamental human rights. Ironically, some Rwandans who tried to return home in the 1980s were made stateless in their own country by the regime that was in power. Thirdly, when the worst human tragedy- the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi was happening, the world abandoned Rwanda! The UN Soldiers fled their camps leaving behind Tutsi women, children and men, at the hands of the Killers! This was a the greatest betrayal of the Rwandan people beyond comprehension.
The Rwandan leadership learn’t the hard way, taking lessons from this harsh history and the results is what we see in helping people whose lives are in danger in other parts of the world. This bitter history taught Rwandans to fend for themselves and be there for others, in times of need. The Rwandan people are the ones who stopped genocide, when call for help from those who had the means to avert this human tragedy fell on mute ears!
Rwanda is a small country with a mere 26, 338 km² of land and one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with more than 450 persons per km². It has limited resources not even enough to solve her domestic needs, but the Rwandan spirit has a bigger and rich heart to help and to save humanity. Irrespective of her limited size and resources, Rwanda today, is the 5th largest troop and police contributing country to the UN peace keeping missions, and has since 2004, sent troops to UN missions in Sudan-(Darfur), South Sudan(Abyei)), Haiti, Liberia, Ivory coast and Central African Republic. The commitment by Rwanda to take part in maintenance of international peace and security is based on the belief that the international community has a responsibility to prevent conflict and act timely when confronted with challenges of peace and security.
The Rwanda political philosophy is also informed by the history, culture and contextual realities and aspirations of the Rwandan people. It is also built on the belief that all human beings regardless of race and color were created equal and there is neither superior nor inferior person and therefore all people have the right to freedom and should be treated equally. The humanist African philosophy of “Ubuntu”, is a core component of the values and culture of the Rwanda people. Bishop Desmond Tutu once said, “You might have much of the world’s riches, and you might hold a portion of authority, but If you have no Ubuntu, you do not amount to much”.
Rwanda with a small geographical size but a vast humanitarian culture, has welcomed thousands of Burundian and Congolese refugees, yet people see disturbing television images of big and rich countries kicking out refugees while others put fences around their borders! The Rwandan approach demonstrates that when human dignity is cherished, no boundaries should stand in the way as an excuse for not protecting people in danger.
On the day of his swearing in for another term of office in August 2017, President Paul Kagame urged African leaders to work together to overcome Africa’s problems by saying that, “Our commitment of the future must be sealed with a mindset of ownership, responsibility and problem solving”. The Pan-African spirit is essential to collectively tackle Africa’s challenges and chart the future in realization of development goals like the agenda 2063.
The people suffering in Libya are Africans and the onus is primarily on the African people to solve their problems and not to fold arms and wait for external help that may not be forthcoming, or comes rather too late when lives have been lost. Africa’s emancipation will be accomplished by Africans themselves though struggle. They must embrace change of mindset from the dependence syndrome to self-reliance and ownership of successes and failures, without shifting blame to outsiders for lack of help.
Gerald Mbanda is a Pan-Africanist
Works @ Rwanda Governance Board
Contact: Twitter @GeraldMbanda
The Express News