On Kigali: Why #Kigali, Why #Rwanda?

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Why Kigali, Why Rwanda?

1. Because a young girl in her twenties offered to drop me off at a restaurant yesterday and when I asked what she did, “School?” She said she was in the process of starting her own company. We spent the next fifteen minutes discussing her brilliant startup idea.

2. Because on Monday, I sat with my friends at a cafe overlooking the city and we batted solid ideas around centred on causing a major disruption in an African industry that will remain unnamed for now. There was never any doubt that we could do this. It was only about finessing our ideas and strategies. Both my friends are female, early 30’s. And for one of them, this is not the first time she is redefining a “closed” space.

3. Because I have been here for a week’s holiday since Monday and the electricity has not blinked. You will understand it better when I say my freinds and I are also making an IT gamble in Nigeria and for three days last week, my developer/partners were unable to work because there was no electricty in Abuja. Coders work in quiet plugged in environments, air conditioned with their headphones on, food is usually not important until they are ravenous. You cannot he hauling your computer from one end of town to the other “looking for light” and you simply cannot do your job by buying the obligatory beer at a bar or restaurant where people come and go.

4. Because you are surrounded by young people, all creative, all confident, with more brilliance and intelligence than the continental average. And Nigeria does not even approach the continental average.

5. Because you can travel three hours from Kigali to Gisenyi, by Lake Kivu at the DRC/Rwanda/Burundi border on excellent roads that have working streetlights all the way. And there, you can sit and eat the best tilapia and sambaza with chips at the New Tam Tam Bikini restaurant by the lake.

6. Because, in Kigali, you have beat cops at every corner in a way that makes you feel very secure. I have on occasion asked for directions and they were all very helpful, even though they had little English just as I have no Kinyarwanda or Swahili. There is a sense of a country that takes itself seriously, where law and order means something.

7. Because Rwanda has the best coffee in the world (sorry EThiopia) and has a cafe culture.

8. Because Kigali has culture, like Lagos but not like Lagos for the latter’s chaos.

9. Because the busses work and even the okadas, called motos here, are safe.

10. Because the business climate is so good for the entrepreneur it would freeze Nigerians stiff to realize how much easier their money would perform better here. Wages are comparatively high, yes, but quality of life is also generally high which impacts on employee productivity. You don’t need to “know somebody” at every level. A Rwandese company is Rwandan, sometimes I wonder if a Nigerian company is not an adopted child from a hated mother in Nigeria. Nigeriam business climate makes it so hard to make money.

I have no doubt that the Rwandans have their own peculiar issues which I do not see, which I might never understand. But that is the burden of their being native. But Rwanda shows something, that Africa can get it right if we can make the structural changes and implement the checks neccessary. The population of the country is about 11 million, the size of Lagos. And Lagos will not be on my top seven places to live as a young businessperson in this Africa.

On Nomads Everywhere

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1. Was just chatting with my cousin and it struck me how men who are always leaving, lovers, cities, things, are the ones who never leave completely.

2. And I imagine us as tortoises forever carrying the remnants of our pasts. Not leaving is not an option, but neither is forgetting what one has left.

3. We live in a somnambulist state where severance is what is not possible.

4. Here’s to the nomads of the world. The ‘”uncles” of the children of normal people who live alone, and tell the best stories.

5. To ones who die alone in places where no one has heard of.

– Ra.

On Leaps of Faith…

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Listen, we are holding on to the things that we desperately want to matter. But if suddenly those markers are taken away, the facades we build so crucial to our notions of civilization and sense of self, will crumble. And we will become what we are truly, not a whole lot no matter what we have done, believe we are, dreamed to be.

So, when someone holds a hand out to you, do not mock or think them weak and yourself strong and central and powerful. Such a person is only begging that you participate in a fiction by which you, yes you, will not be doomed and destroyed.

– Ra.

On Somi’s Lagos, When Rivers Cry ft Common

@SomiMusic, a Rwandan musician, released The Lagos Musical Salon, in 2014. It’s perhaps the most brilliant exploration of a city in music on this continent. Her subject was Lagos, Nigeria. Yet, how searingly her lyrics bare the Nigerian ethos, and its underlying sadness. The rivers are crying. Please enjoy a particular favorite track.

– Ra.

 

When River’s Cry
by
@SomiMusic
Feet crushing plastic
Moving windows tossing bottles dry
I can’t get past it

Waste and dust still choking road and sky
The trees remember days of plenty
Before rivers cried

Winds carry sorrow
While forgetful dreamers pass us by
Temperatures rising
No one stopping just to wonder why
Old men recall the kindness of the sun
Before the rivers cried

[The rivers tell a story of
God’s reign and glory
Pay homage to the land of those that came before me
The land of the mother and the first man discovered
Look overseas and see waters that are troubled
The bridge somewhere in the truth and the kids
Somewhere in the spirit of the kids the truth lives
I died many times many lives just to live again
Contemplating on where my life and river blends

I was ignorant to the earth and what we did to it
Never seek to find. Yeah, I hid from it
So when the rivers cried, I never felt the sentiment
Until the hurricanes – that’s when I caught wind of it
My Paps said the hurricanes was the ancestors
Reminding us of who we are and our transgressions
Lessons of the mother and the waves
I’m the sun reflecting the earth these days]

Green belts tug at the necks and bellies
Of our beasts and times
Shortsighted leaders
Flush with irony and oil mines
Eroding shorelines lap at memory
While the rivers cry

On Being A Jammeh At The Wrong Time

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Yahya Jammeh with Muhammadu Buhari

The state of international law and politics in West Africa now indicates just one thing: Don’t be a Jammeh.

If you want to be similar to a Jammeh, make sure you distinguish yourself from him in salient aspects–having regional friends or a bigger country and, of course, not holding elections and changing your mind afterwards at the unfortunate turn in history when ECOWAS is particularly serious about elections.

But, take my advice. Do not be the Jammeh in any condition. They will just use you as a line in CVs and a footnote for Academese grammar.

In all, I’m very pleased with the position of Nigeria in this matter even as I feel that mediation could have avoided the show of force. But even this show of force adds to the corpus of thinking around multipolarity and makes a strong case for regional blocs like ECOWAS. I like a West Africa in which Nigeria plays a strong role.

But we must also sort out our internal security while at it.

– Ra.

@JaladaAfrica Announces #Africa ‘s First Mobile Book Festival, Five Countries!

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I’m a proud member of the Nairobi-based Jalada Writers Cooperative , formed in 2014. Jalada has just announced our upcoming international book festival which will see us travel to four East African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania) and the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa.

Find more information below and please, we are still in need of financial support and are open to partnerships and collaborations.

– Ra

Africa’s first mobile literary and arts festival

Jalada Africa, a Pan-African collective, is pleased to announce the inaugural Jalada Mobile Literary & Arts Festival happening in March 2017.

The festival is a hybrid between a traditional place-based festival and a bus tour, and will cover 5 countries and 12 towns: Kenya (Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu, Mombasa), Uganda (Kampala, Kabale), DRC (Goma), Rwanda (Kigali) and Tanzania (Mwanza, Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar).
The festival will celebrate diversity and create living connections between writers, artists, and diverse audiences in the big cities and small towns across East Africa.

Presented as a series of full-day events, the festival will feature an expanded retinue of panel discussions, literary readings and debates, spoken word and theatrical performances, creative writing and translations master classes, poetry workshops, exhibitions, art installations, and film screenings.
The festival will also incorporate new and imaginative ways of documenting literature and art using mobile-phone mini-documentaries.

The events will feature writers and artists drawn from the Collective, and tens of exciting authors, performers, and thinkers drawn from East Africa and beyond, as well as international voices. The mobile festival will travel over 4500 kms and engage directly with over 10,000 enthusiasts.

Jalada Africa was formed in 2013 by writers from Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Uganda and South Africa, and currently comprises of writers and artists, of African origin, from the continent and the diaspora. The Collective seeks to break boundaries by publishing works that stretch the reach of creative writing, expand the range of reading experiences, and diversify audiences for literature.

The festival partners with Goethe-Institut Nairobi. It is partly funded by the British Council nAnA grant, and is supported by a host of cultural institutions across the region, including Yole! Africa, Huza Press, Africa Writes, Babishai Niwe Foundation, Goethe-Zentrum Kampala, Nafasi ArtSpace, Sooo Many Stories, and others.

For inquiries, send a mail to festival@jalada.org

(Fiction) Sortie Over Sambisa by @CyberAgbero

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Chronicles of a Counterterrorist (air component)
by
Ijeoma Ogbulie Eugene

I look at my wristwatch; 3.14 pm. I was lying on my camp bed trying to catch some sleep, the darn flies wouldn’t let me. Then all hell breaks loose!!! “Scramble scramble. ACKNOWLEDGE!!”

Since leaving the 303 flying training school and return from the fighter pilot training institute in the US, I had never adorned my jumpsuit and helmet in such record time.

Seconds later I am sitting in the cockpit of an F7-Ni turning on switches  and taxiing on the runway of the expansive airstrip of NAF 105 composite group  maiduguri, HQ of the air component of operation lafiya dole. I am cleared for takeoff, few seconds later I am airborne.

I had no idea what we were scrambled for; one Alpha Jet had taken off seconds after I did. I could hear him breathing through his mouthpiece on my helmets earpiece. Then he spoke to me;

Alpha pilot: “Sir you get idea wetin the mission be?”
Me: “noo…you see say no time for briefing…i dey suspect say ground troops don jam ambush or maybe wan advance and those  animals they fire them well.  Any how we go soon…”

A voice from command center interrupts our conversation: “ground troops radioed in for air support. They are taking fire from multiple machine guns and RPGS. They currently have their backs against some mountains and have no where to retreat to. Go in there, roast those animals and create a path for the men to pull out. Coordinates are being posted to your screen as we speak. You are to engage once you get there. Safe flight”

This is my first time on a combat mission. Fear creeps in then adrenaline starts pumping. Eventually training kicks in. I do a check on my weapons…I am armed and ready with 4 short and medium range missiles and my machine guns had over 500 rounds. I call on my colleague flying few meters away from me to know what he is packing.

Me: Boy how many you carry?
Alpha pilot: Sir, I carry 6 and my MGs dey fully loaded.
Me: Thank God. Na me go drop height first…I go drop first payload then I ascend. You come from back drop…we go do am two times each and now spray them ‘groundnut’ small.
Alpha Pilot: Yes sir, Ok sir.

Five minutes later we were directly above the scene of the battle. O boy! Our men were pinned down at their location, it was only a matter of time before they run out of ammo and its game-over.

I can hear ground troops on our secure radio calling for blocking units close by to come as backup. I patch into the call, giving them my call sign and then requesting they give me exact coordinates of the enemy since I wouldn’t want to be dropping any ordinance on our men. Immediately coordinates appear on my screen. I descend, take aim and fire. I go higher so my partner could drop hes.  I look out of the window from my cockpit and I could see the animals running in different directions. Then I notice a vehicle moving. It wasn’t a friendly…then I notice a second one…I call out to my partner; “two boogies escaping, one on my right and the other heading north. I dash you the one heading north”…seconds later all that was left of the vehicles were their mangled parts.

WOW! Nothing in flying training school ever got me prepared for the feeling! I was fighting for my country! I was taking out the bad guys who had sworn to make life hell for my people.

My earpiece comes on…the soldier with the radio on the ground is calling, they were taking fire possibly from some snipers meters away from where they were, we were needed to level the general area the shots were coming from. I tell my partner to hang on let me descend and do the job….a few bursts from the machine guns on the right and left of my jet leaves the whole place in smoke.

Then it happened!

I saw the dot coming close to the big circle on my screen; it was the MAW (missile approach warning system) of my jet alerting to a missile that had been fired from ground at me! What maneuvering technique would I use to evade…then I saw another and another…three missiles approaching.. . RPGS? AAAs (anti aircraft artillery)? All these thoughts were flashing through my mind in less than a second . The best way to defeat these missiles was kinematically, a method that includes flying as far away from the missile as possible so they bleed off energy. But they were three! Now! I took the first sharp 45° turn with my eyes on my screen…one dot had disappeared…csecond turn… I could hear my engines screaming at the second sharp turn and then BOOM!!

I opened my eyes…where was I?…A voice spoke “e don wake”. Where am I, I asked? The same voice spoke; “we see your plane as e dey fall until e crash. Oga say make we run go where you crash see whether you dey alive before boko people reach you first.” Then it came back to me; I wasn’t fast enough to loose the last missile.” Then I asked the voice; what of the second plane? He answers, “that one don go. Thank God say una come, this people don nearly finish us. Oga no worry, your wound no plenty. Na only leg you break.”

The men had successfully cleared the area without having to retreat. It was a success but…

My first combat mission. My first crash. At least I came out of this fight alive. I look at my wristwatch: 5.23pm.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Illustrations 2017 CyberAgbero(™)

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