Maj John Ntambara and I lived in Nyamirambo near the staff houses of Banque Nationale du Rwanda. He was with Rwanda Police (but at that time, the police and the military were almost one). While he worked in Gisenyi, I was a ‘petty trader’ plying my business between Goma (in the DRC) and Kigali. For those not in the know, DRC’s Goma and Rwanda’s Gisenyi are only separated by the international border; otherwise they are one sprawling city on Lake Kivu.
One day, I hitched a lift in a military chopper with a cadeaux (wrapped gift) for Claudine, a friend I had known through Maj Ntambara’s wife. I told Maj Ntambara about the kitenge gift I had bought for Claudine from Goma.
When we reached Kigali, Ntambara went straight to Nyarugenge Market where he bought the first kitenge he came across. Since I was unable to deliver the cadeaux to Claudine, I asked Maj Ntambara’s wife to do the delivery for me. And then bang; the kitenge scandal happened. To that later.
Ms Diane Shima Rwigara is an aspiring candidate in Rwanda’s presidential elections slated for August this year. She is a kavucire (pre-genocide Rwanda born and bred Tutsi).
Now, the kavucires are classified as Genocide Survivors; an emotive tag that I am afraid Diane Shima Rwigara’s candidature may wittingly or unwittingly turn into a political constituency. Although Diane’s candidature cannot fatally injure Paul Kagame’s victory chances, it may expose the dichotomy of what my friend Bernard Tabaire used to call the exiles (refugees) and ‘inziles’ (kavucire or those who remained in Rwanda).
The most influential members of the RPF leadership are exiles (former) with some kind of co-option of the inziles. However, in the absence of an influential national figure among the inziles, they have always sought identity in the former king, Kigeli Ndahindurwa V. But the king died last year.
The exiles (whose socio-political stock resides in stopping the genocide) have had their own wrangles vide: The fallout of Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa, Col Patrick Karegeya and many others. Ms Diane’s candidature may, therefore, present us with another political constituency that lays claim to the historical heritage of the genocide as part of its stock and identity.
Diane is said to have been a member of Intore (RPF militant activists or cadres). But that was until her father died in circumstances she publicly associated with murder aforethought. And in addition to her father being ‘deathed’, the family’s boutique hotel in the upscale Kigali was also destroyed by the city authorities because of some technical this or that.
So, Diane Shima Rwigara’s candidature is the wrath of a leopardess that has lost her child to a predator. She may be tempted to expose some structural weakness in the post-genocide forced national consensus or attitude.
She may talk (in Kinyarwanda) about human rights issues we only hear through Human Rights Watch reports.
Back to the kitenge story. Maj Ntambara’s wife delivered my gift to Claudine. And as would be expected, she wanted to know what this Mugande (Ugandan) had bought for her friend. So, Claudine was ‘forced’ to open the cadeaux in the presence of Ntambara’s wife. It was a ‘Wax Hollandaise Veritable’ kitenge.
For Maj Ntambara’s wife, her hubby’s cheap gift of Utexrwa (locally made) kitenge after two months of absence was embarrassing and scandalous. She was not going to show Claudine what her hubby brought her.
Two weeks later, Ms Ntambara told me: You ‘exiles’ will never understand us. Mur’impunzi, tur’Abanyarwanda (you are refugees and we are Rwandans). That was a pregnant statement.
I just pray Diane Rwiraga’s candidature doesn’t go that path.
Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of East African Flagpost.