On 28 January 2021, the UK government announced that it was starting to refuse entry to people who have been to or transited through different countries including Rwanda, in its efforts to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Rwandans were outraged by this announcement because it defied all logical explanations and scientific evidence. In response, the government of Rwanda issued a statement requesting clarifications on the motivations behind this decision since, as the Rwandan government argued, ‘Rwanda’s overall response to Covid-19 including testing, surveillance, contact tracing, containment, treatment and reporting has been consistent, transparent and corroborated by third party entities.’ Rwandans had all reason to be angry, considering that the UK is one of the countries with the highest number of confirmed cases per capita, and according to Lowy Institute’s Covid Performance Index, Rwanda at this period ranked 6th while the United Kingdom ranked 66th. More paradoxically, it is during the same period that Rwanda was named among the six countries allowed entry to Europe. In view of these factors, it is tenable to argue that this decision is a good explanation of how several other policies made against African states are rarely ever based on facts and contextualization of what is truly happening.
However, the big question that continues to beg for answer is how and why we have allowed ourselves to be treated like this, how we can free ourselves from this psychological and mental capture, and start seeing ourselves for who we are, without reference to the West, without bending through a Western prism. For how long should we accept the things that make us less us? Why should we continue to welcome, encourage and praise being less us? According to Africa’s foremost writer Chinua Achebe’s Africa’s Tarnished Name, this is Conrad’s kind of ‘Africa, where nothing good happens or ever happened. […] The center of all the problems [the West] has had in its perception of Africa lies the simple question of African humanity: are they or are they not like us?’ There is no better area where you find this mental capture than in matters of governance, and to a certain extent, we have allowed it through our bad leadership systems. It is expected that our opposition and human rights activists will call upon the international community to intervene and help us govern ourselves. It is also true that we all subconsciously understand that that ‘‘international community’’ in the call is not directed towards China, Russia, India, or Indonesia, but towards the West.
We have blindly reached this consensus, that the West is a model against which we should measure ourselves on everything, when we know for sure that those countries too have issues of their own. We are well aware of their situations in matters of racial injustice and discrimination, or how primitively they go after those they perceive to undermine their interests, but we continue to allow them to be judge and jury of our justice and human rights systems. If it was not mental capture, we should have understood that those who pay for you to drown in the Mediterranean Sea than reach their shores cannot be (at the same time) the ones that love you the most when you are still here. How—why—we have come to believe this scam is beyond our comprehension. It is difficult to understand that we have accepted that a country which has adamantly refused to prosecute or extradite 5 prominent genocide suspects on its territory is capable of judging a justice system that has tried about 2 million cases, opening up a path to reconciliation.
This is not to claim that wrong things are not happening in Africa or in Rwanda, but as Chinua Achebe argues, ‘we should strive to understand our failings objectively and not simply swallow mystifications and mythologies cooked up by those whose goodwill we have every reason to suspect.’ In October 2015, L. Mushikiwabo, the then Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, had to explain to DW’s Tim Sebastian that Rwanda should not be seen as a different species; it is a government like any other, dealing with the same problems as other governments do. This explanation seems to be common sense, but sometimes the obvious is not that obvious.