Tuesday, October 8, 2013

KIGALI AS I SEE HER: RESPONSE TO PEOPLE MAGAZINE'S ARTICLE ON CHRISTINE AGUILERA'S VISIT TO RWANDA



Christine Aguilera visiting Rwanda
This morning as I started my morning ritual of checking emails, news, and social media two Rwandan friends, Denis Kamugisha and Ndahiro Emmanuel drew my attention to a recent article in People Magazine on Christina Aguilera’s June 2013 trip to Rwanda (http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20738743,00.html.)  The article states, 

Christina Aguilera knew visiting war-torn Rwanda would be eye-opening. But it wasn't until she spent time in Kigali, Rwanda, on a hunger relief mission this June – visiting refugee camps and seeing the severe poverty firsthand – that she discovered just how profoundly moving the experience would be.”

Though the article promotes godly values such as empathy and compassion People Magazine’s article was based on inaccurate assumptions.   In that process I believe it created an inaccurate perception of both Kigali and Rwanda that merits correction.   The Kigali People Magazine describes is one I have never seen.  

First, there is no war in Rwanda.    There was a war fought from 1990 to 1994 that resulted in the
2020 Vision Estate, Kigali, Rwanda
1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.   Now Rwanda and her capital city of Kigali are some of the safest places you can find.     

Rwanda has occasionally suffered incursions and grenade explosions in markets from the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) based in Eastern Congo.    The FDLR is largely made up of the remnants of those who perpetrated the Genocide in 1994 that retreated to Congo.   Also, Eastern Congo has been plagued with civil unrest and war for a number of years in which various militia groups (which include the FDLR) operate.   

I am currently living in the American city of Chicago.   Some call Chicago, “The murder capital of America.”   The reality is that Chicago has some tough violent neighborhoods.   Yet, it also has some delightful neighborhoods, and great educational and economic opportunities.    African Diaspora are flocking to Chicago (http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/international/2013/08/05/spc-inside-africa-chicago-a.cnn.)   It would be both inaccurate and hurtful to Chicago for Diaspora to repeat the negative stereotypes.    I don’t know any Diaspora who communicates about Chicago in stereotypes.   I believe Rwanda and Kigali deserve the same dignity.   

Secondly, I am unaware of a refugee camp in Kigali.    However, some refugees do find their way to Kigali.    Most Kigali refugees that I know find extended family with which they live.   Also, most refugees that I know in Kigali are educated professionals who soon find employment.   Kigali offers hospitality and opportunity which should be praised.
 
The refugee camp visited by Ms. Aguilera was in Kigeme.   The Kigeme camp is populated largely by Congolese refugees that Rwanda has graciously received (http://www.wfp.org/stories/christina-aguilera-and-yum-brands-fight-world-hunger-new-psa.)  
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees reports, 

“Rwanda hosts another 43,000 refugees, more than 99 per cent of whom are also from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The majority of these refugees live in three camps, in Gihembe, Kiziba and Nyabiheke, with a small number residing in the capital, Kigali. This brings the total of refugees and asylum-seekers in Rwanda to more than 57,600. The worsening security situation in the DRC limits these refugees' prospects for return (http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e45c576.html.)”

Besides these inaccuracies there is a YouTube video explaining Ms. Aguilera’s trip that though it may show accurate scenes from Kigali likely creates inaccurate perceptions (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aP46YKM-Dg.)  From my perspective inaccurate perceptions actually increase the likelihood of poverty becoming systematic. The video shows Ms. Aguilera with children singing and dancing.   It also shows Ms. Aguilera cooking food, and distributing school supplies.   She says in referring to hunger, “It is time for us to do something about it.”

Kigali is a city of paradoxes.   It has a growing middle class.   The city is not only safe, but clean.   Universities are thriving.   Yet, a portion of Kigali is poor.   I agree with Ms. Aguilera that it is time to do something about poverty.

I suggest the best answer can be found in the dreams of the Rwandan people.   Those of us who
do not carry Rwanda passports should show our concern by first listening.   We should read the 2020 Vision (http://edprs.rw/?q=content/vision-2020.)   Then we should adapt our plans to best fit Rwanda’s dream.   The vision is to transform Rwanda into a middle income country with a knowledge based economy.    The pragmatics of the plan calls for investment in education and business.The images the Western media creates of Rwanda many times negatively affect the implementation of this vision.    Long-term investors in business and education are most stirred by images of hope.   Rwanda has many and these images are the ones that should be most seen.
 
If we from the United States feel compelled to address the Congolese refugee situation in Rwanda I offer two suggestions.   First, it is time to cease enabling the Congolese conflict (For further reflections see http://hekimagreatlakesmessenger.blogspot.com/2013/08/pastoral-reflections-on-congo-stop_30.html.)   Second at the risk of rumor mongering, I have been hearing persistent rumors that some of the Congolese refugees in Rwanda may soon be resettled in the United States.   We should be praying about this rumor.   If it does happen we need to rally American good will to match the hospitality and kindness of Rwanda.

Thank you Ms. Aguilera for displaying compassion to the Congolese refugees in Rwanda.   I ask that People Magazine correct the inaccuracies in their story on Ms. Aguilera’s visit to Rwanda.

4 comments:

  1. Hey Dave, thank you for such a great article. I was so shocked watching that video at first, but you brought down the expression of my emotion in such a precise way. Truth needs to be told even when trying to do good. We are not denying the fact that poverty is still an issue we are trying to overcome hand in hand as Rwandans, but what is displayed on that video is crap to my eyes. It's time people start learning the truth and stop swallowing from people with personal motives. We are a nation and that's how we want to evolve, if one needs to join, come learn the truth and then get involved.

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  2. Well said Richard,
    God bless Rwanda and its Friends!

    Janvier

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  3. all whites are equal,they get sick to see Africans move

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    Replies
    1. By equating race with motive we promote prejudice.

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