CHOGM VISITORS, again welcome to this land of more than a thousand green and clean hills, even if the end of your visit be nigh. You may not get the time to visit the hills of the country to confirm that the number of a thousand hills is a colossal understatement but no worry; hilly and clean Kigali is a microcosm of the country.
The clean hills high or low are more than you care to count. And all are there to feed your eyes in between your marathon meetings.
Today the hills are not at their greenest, this being the beginning of our dry season, but you’ll definitely trace that very-green-has-been. Green hills are doing battle with rising concrete and glass that represent unceasing constructions, sure, but the green knows how to put up a good fight and will end up the victor.
Besides, our green is in good company because this government is on its side.
And also, wherever you ascend a hill, so do you descend another or the same one. That necessarily means many hills and an equal or maybe bigger number of valleys that are wetlands. It means that whichever way you turned during your breather, you saw spotless green.
But as US President Reagan once quipped: “You ain’t seen nopin’ yet!” Because Rwanda is a work in busy progress, going lots greener and cleaner is only beginning. Which calls upon you all to press your decision-making powers that be to turn CHOGM2022 into an advocates platform to call for all to create a green world and punish climate destroyers. Down with all carbon dioxide emitters!
Given chance by equal-minded Commonwealth members, Rwanda can give her little but vital support to all who care to walk with her on the way to halting the adverse effects of climate change. Because here, the way the hills and wetlands are in unending design, only Mother Nature knows how greener and cleaner you’ll find them when next you come calling.
In the life of a country, it’s only a while ago that, among these green and clean hills and valleys, the green spotlessness sprouted out of dirty scarlet red.
Those of advanced age must’ve glanced at that red on TV screens in 1994 and averted eyes or switched channels. The young ones may have read that gory story about the Rwanda of then. She is still a work in progress, yes, but your acquiescence to gather in a country that’s only 13 years in the Commonwealth, having seemed a misfit in this body, is a vote of confidence.
Esteemed CHOGM visitors, I dread the thought of having seen you being hosted here in 2009, just after the country had become member of the Commonwealth!
That green that flanks or divides clean lanes of the roads and streets you’ve so far travelled was nowhere to be seen. Everywhere was parched land at best, dust, at worst. The scattered, unkempt trees that flanked these streets were wizened mango trees whose shrivelled fruits were for feeding citizens while waiting to cheer their “father leader” on his journeys out of or back into Kigali!
Today, you’ll know that Rwanda’s leader is headed outside or back by a lone siren as his small convoy jostles for a squeezed way through heavy traffic. Green and clean mean no disturbance.
Green apart, however, the thought of trying to accommodate you alone would’ve been a herculean task or, rather, an effort in futility. In 2009 only one hotel worth its name existed: Kigali Serena Hotel. The rest were things called ‘homes’ and a few dingy, unliveable lodges.
All of which called for the government to rely on the mercy of well-heeled Kigali residents with executive mansions. For none-too-meagre fees, the residences would kindly be freed for government’s convenience.
As for conference halls, your different forums would’ve been hard put to find a place to convene. Only the small Serena Hotel conference room existed, which means it’d have been reserved for Royals and Heads of State and Government. For the rest, it’d have been to whom it may concern!
Which would’ve meant open-air stadiums and playgrounds. Depending on whether you’d have assented to the idea of Rwanda hosting CHOGM, in the first place!
So, today is a far cry from 2009, as you have attested. Rwanda is bursting at the seams with green; neatness; order; protected biodiversity and land regeneration; modest economic progress unimaginable then; a multiplicity of world-class hotels, resorts; arenas; conference halls; ask for them, they are at your service.
That’s why the theme for CHOGM2022 resonates well with this country. There must be an action for delivering a common future. We must connect, innovate, transform. Together. For equality.
Together as a family of 54, from here let’s remove this “Commonwealth” from our mouths and put it on the ground, across borders seamlessly. For the benefit of young, old; female, male; and all that breathe as we do.
Rich (especially) or poor, all can contribute to making that wealth truly common for every single individual. Without forgetting to green and protect our home: our earth and our climate.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.