Freedom struggle in thousand hills

Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul
Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul/ Photo: Collected.

Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul/ Photo: Collected.

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I was thinking about the sceneries of Oscar winner ‘Hotel Rwanda’. Suddenly I got back to my senses when there was an announcement in the airplane, ‘ you all know that plastic bag is forbidden in Rwanda so who are carrying it please drop those at the airport, you will get paper bag or cloth bag there to carry your goods.

In the early morning our flight was landing at Kigali airport there was another announcement that we would land on a small hill of the country of thousand hills. Due to embargo on plastic bags the passengers of a plane coming from Dubai also dropped their plastic containers. In the next few days we did not find a single piece of paper or any waste on the roads of Rwanda. If it is seen the cleaners cleaned those wastes instantly. However such scene could not be noticed.

The announcement of one stop service proved to be true in two cases , Rwanda is number 29th country as ‘ hassle free’ and in Africa its position is at no.2 in service rendering. If any body wants to start a business in any country of Africa it takes 11 and half day while it takes only 48 hours in Rwanda. You will be not required to go to any office, every thing is done on line. At the airport we saw the real picture when we saw that one officer is examining immigration papers, collecting visa fee, depositing dollar and issuing on arrival visa. One officer is doing four duties taking only three minutes on an average.

World Bank has kept Rwanda among the fastest growing economy. Digital revolution is also taking place there. In all establishments and crowded place free internet service is available. In the parliament of Rwanda 67 percent members are female which is the highest in the world, 90 percent people are under health insurance scheme, 70 percent people are literate. In 2007 Rwanda is the only country where anti-plastic bag law was enacted and enforced. On every Saturday all people including the president observe social development work through on voluntary basis. Through this practice many projects of the country is implemented.

The morning when we landed at the airport suddenly reminded the genocide in Rwanda 25 years back which has similarity in our genocide that had begun from the night of March 25 of 1971 and the atrocities of  Pakistan army during the whole nine months of our liberation war.

The mission of our country at Rwanda is being headed by Consul General Iqbal Hossain. We had in our delegation two editors Noem Nizam, Shaymal Dutta, two star journalists J.I Mamun and Munni Saha, national award winner artist Chnadan Sinha famous for ‘I will be penniless’, young business hunter Abu Hassan Md. Alamgir Shahin, UN peace keeping forces member during genocide Major General(Rtd) Masud Rizawan, Investment specialist expatriate in the Netherlands Nahidul Hassan, business man coming from Paris-Moscow Kitu Shawsawat Michael Majumdar, engineer from India Eklobya Singh, Topan Roy, Young business man of Singapore Gourab Malhotra. Three youths of Chattogram Nazmul Hassan, Syed Iqbal led by Manjur Alam. The aim of the mission was to know Rwanda. Some want about investment potentiality, some want to know the progress strategy, some interested in the genocide and the trial of the genocide and its aftermath.

From airport we were destined to go to visit Kivu lake but when we marked the transport carrying us was moving slow we brought it to the notice of our guide diplomat Eric Kaygi Rutni who informed us after talking with the driver that the transport is fixed with ‘speed governor’ so the speed cannot be enhanced. After a long journey we reached Kivu lake which is 56 miles in length and 31 miles wide and the depth is 1558 feet. The water body is filled with fishes, methane gas is extracted and it might contain minerals also. But as the country is poor they cannot go further to explore mineral due to want of financial support. Congo is close to Kivu lake. 

The evening comes down near the lake with the music of African anklet. The young male and female with well built body attired with colorful dresses start dancing in the sandy beach of Kivu lake. We do not understand their language but were swayed away by the tune of music.

In such unbounded evening the harmonium of Chandan Sinha gave a different taste. Chnadan started a storm from the songs of Shachin Dev Burman, Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey, Bashir Ahmed. Of course famous ‘becoming penniless’ of Chandan was there. On that very day we learnt from the Consul General that Shahnaj Rahmatullah’ who was in the boundary of sight’ have passed away from this earthly mundane. It is true that it is easy to develop the country of 12.22 million people measuring an area of 29 thousand 338 square kilometers but the case of Rwanda is different. But this equation will not applicable to this country.

The amount of cultivable land and also for habitation is very low. They had to travel a long way. The disparity between rich and poor is very big. The rate of poverty is coming down but at snails pace. There are good roads in the remote areas but with less number of transport facilities. So the poor people mainly depend on walking. The genocide happened just twenty five years back is still afresh in the memory of the Tutsi and Hutu communities. The people responsible for genocide are now facing trial.

The horror pictures attached to the genocide memorial at Kigali represents what was the dimension of the ethnic conflict that turned into a worst genocide. Though there was riot between the Tutsi and Hutu but the liberals of the both communities were the victims of their own extremists. The century long conflict between labor class Hutu and landlord Tutsi was   worst. After change over of the power from the colonial rulers of  Germany, Belgium and France the country was ruled by both Hutu and Tutsi. The Hutus encouraged by the western powers revolted against the ruling Tutsi in 1959 and a Hutu government was established in 1962. The Tutsis fled the country facing mass killing and tortures and took shelter in the neighboring countries.

The Tutsis who took shelter in Uganda formed Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) an organization of military and political front against the government.  In 1990 the RPF decaled war against the Hutu government. The civil war continued. On April 6 of 1994 the plane carrying the Hutu president Habiarimana was destroyed. But still it is not known who did it. But the Tutsi was targeted responsible by the ruling Hutu extremists. The cleansing of Tutsi started. The mass killing was encouraged though anti-Tutsi campaign broadcast through radio. About eight lakh people including women, children were killed whose dead bodies were covered with green banana leaves. At this stage the ‘Peace keeping force’ remained silent at the instigation of Britain as it was alleged. In this background the Tutsis under the leadership RPF leader Paul Kagami came to power in Rwanda. To try the genocide incident a tribunal was formed by the UN. Though the trial of that tribunal ended but now still Rwanda is tying the murderers as per their own law.

Under these circumstances the government is seriously doing two things that to bring discipline in all spheres of life and not to shelter corruption establishing the sense of patriotism strongly. None is Hutu or Tutsi but all are Rwandan. The government now in power through a revolution has made the people understand that there is no way to go back. The situation of electricity is pathetic depending on generators. Banana and potato are the only agricultural products. People live on these two products. 67 percent Rwanda parliamentary seats are in the possession of women which is the highest in the world. Its influence is very visible in the social life and business field. The whole rural inaccessible areas are full of markets.

Everybody is doing business on foot. But they do not occupy the roads and streets for market purpose. To attract tourists they not only nourish Gorilla, volcanoes, eco -park or lake but they want to make advancement in every field. For that purpose more than 1500 thousand top businesses of Africa have joined ‘African CEO conference’ held at the end of April in Rwanda. The revolutionary leader of Rwanda Paul Kagami has clearly said that the big investors must change their mind set. They shall have to set up connections with small entrepreneurs. The associate business leaders of Rwandan president are viewing the ‘China-India’ rivalry for the annexation of African market as positive. About the role of the government under such situation the diplomat Eric who lost both his father and mother in the liberation war that in such country change must come in the opposition group, they must join with the development process of the country.

Only becoming stars in the media opposing the government will not be acceptable to the people.  Rwanda wants to build up relations with every one. The role of Bangladesh is also visible in that process. Young energetic Zamilur Rahman Chowdhury of the micro-credit lender Ngo ‘Asha’  is spreading hope in Rwanda. Meanwhile several thousand poor people were brought under the micro credit net work. Brac of Bangladesh led by Topon Kumar has made the foundation of their program. To formally inaugurate the program Sir Fazle Hassan Abed is going to Rwanda soon. Young Arif is leading the UNHCR and USAID where many Rwandan youth both male and female are working. Asha and Brac are there not for employment of Rwandans but for spreading the Bangladesh experience of alleviating poverty in Rwanda. The PHP group ofBangladesh is also planning to go there for making big investments. There are only 25-30 Bangladeshis living in Rwanda. They have been joined by few Bangla speaking families from Kolkata.

On March 25 when Bangladesh was memorizing the black night in the country we were at the genocide memorial of Kigali. I was thinking the devastation of genocide exists in the whole world. The color of blood of all the victims are same, the language of the survivors tears are also same. We want justice for all genocide. Next day on the Independence day when we assembled at the residence of young Arif of UNHCR for singing chorus ‘my golden Bengal, I love you’ led by Chandan then our chest expanded in full with pride. As Bangladesh is independent so it has lent its hand towards another blood bath country Rwanda.

We understand the meaning of Independence got in exchange of blood similarly Rwanda also understands in the same vein.  The revolutionary leader of Rwanda Paul Kagami when said that ‘they thought that we will be finished after we were buried under soil but we have come out as big trees as sphinx from that seed’. I just got startled, when five decades ago Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman irrevocably pronounced, ‘As we have shed blood, no one can suppress us.’ So the language of liberation struggle is same around the world. The people cannot be suppressed who purchase it at the cost of blood. This is applicable for both Bangladesh and Rwanda.

Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul, CEO of Ekushey TV.