Stephen Rwangyezi Speaks on African Issues
AfricaSpeaks.com and TriniView.com
Interview Date: August 05, 2008
Posted: September 05, 2008
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RAS TYEHIMBA: So what you are saying is that people should reexamine their attitudes towards Mugabe?
RWANGYEZI: First of all, personally, I think they have to put up with him because he is not going anywhere. I think, or I hope that in his system he has other people (because he is not young), who still stand strong. Let's look at countries like China and Cuba. These countries have been demonized over the years. Nobody sees anything good coming out of them. But you need to listen to them and then you would say, "Eh, eh, it's actually not true." I have been looking at the trend, even the campaign, the Olympics in China. Oh, the air is very dirty. I remember in one European country where we were told we must not stand outside in the rain because the rain is coming back with so much acidic soot. When you see any rain coming you have to go and shelter. In Europe! So what are they saying about the air in China being dirty? Is air confined on boarders, physical country boarders? I thought air was moving so much so that if the air in China is dirty it's blowing and going to Europe. Does it really matter when you say don't go to China? This air will find you in Switzerland. You will breathe it anywhere. I think the strong people who are doing something that emancipate our race should just continue doing it. The snowball effect will go on, because, as I said, the sedative they put in you, after some time, goes out and you wake up. There was a wave of uprisings in Africa, then the Rights Bills were signed, Independence was given and that became a kind of sedative and we kind of forgot. But the squeeze is becoming tighter and tighter and more and more people are beginning to feel it. So the likes of Robert Mugabe if they are not eliminated too soon will have a snowball effect. A few others will join in.
When our President came into power the Europeans said a new breed of African leaders had come and they thought they would manipulate them. They realized they were strong on the ground and now they are demonizing them also. What was happening in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Ghana; it was a cross wave of new blood who are now steadily being demonized. I hope with the new efforts of bigger regional blocks these African communities, SADC (Southern African Development Community), ECOAS and the attempt to make one African government will create sufficient security. What is happening now is each individual of a small state is scared on its own, each individual leader of a small state and that's a mistake that was done. The balkanization of Africa was something the leaders must radically address. These boundaries are meaningless. You have small weak states and each one of the leaders is scared of taking a stand on his own. I hope that what was originally started by people like Julius Kambarage Nyerere wanting to get bigger states, what is being promoted by people like our President of having a bigger market will eventually give sufficient confidence for leaders who will say, "Wait a minute, we can actually stand on our own." Then they will be able to stand up. I know that internally many of them support the actions of some of the radicals. But they can't dare because what they have been done to those radicals can still be done to them. So they don't dare speak out. But they are using some other subtle methods of cooperation and building. I hope of stage trying to make up a strong network so that they can eventually be able to confidently stand up and say this is the direction we are taking.
A few decades ago, China was a very poor Third World country and now they are scared of it. It's inevitably a world power but basically because they reached the point and locked up, closed of, suffered, worked hard and changed the mentality. I read some of the literature where they had this re-education of the elites that they would see people who were not supportive certain persons and send them to certain rural areas for a number of years for re-education. Mao Tse-Tung was demonized but they stood their ground. Now they are opening up. But they have doors to open. They are sharing because they have things to share. They are invading the markets. Chinese products are just out-competing whatever other products. The labour, the skills of China, in India, everything in America is being done in India, in Asia. Africa has to reach a point and say, "Okay, we are coordinated and coherent enough to say no. To accept to suffer for a period momentarily but come up with solutions that is sustainable."
RAS TYEHIMBA: What I think is important about what is happening in Zimbabwe is that you have a leader who is standing up actively against Western interests and is intent on addressing fundamental issues that is important to the people, that is, the land issue.
RWANGYEZI: Yes, and that is very crucial. But that must also be accompanied by education, by training. Okay, we have the land, so what, use it. To use the land you need this, do it this way, you plan and so on. These are things that cannot be done overnight. They must be part of the education system.
RAS TYEHIMBA: What do you think about connections or linkages between the African continent and those in the Diaspora?
RWANGYEZI: It's not strong enough. The Africans in the Diaspora have got a lot of exposure. I don't know if what I read is correct, but I understand that Japan is just one big rock. It's not a fertile country. It's one big rock that time and again just gets wiped-off by typhoons. What they did I understand was, at one time, to get all the young people and send them out to work and study in the industrialised countries. They gave them five years and said after five years you will come back but come back with the knowledge you would have learned in the electronics, automobiles and so on. But when they came back, they went back to using the same knowledge, but Japanizing it. Today, Japan is a power to contend with. The Africans in the Diaspora, the amount of knowledge and experience they have are not yet put to use on the African continent. At one time, our President launched a campaign of giving dual citizenship to the Africans in the Diaspora. If you want you remain a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago but if you come to Uganda you also become a Ugandan so you can bring your expertise, your business and your connections to Uganda. I think there has to be a deliberate policy to promote these links. At the moment it is not strong enough.
LESLIE: You spoke about your view on the situation in Zimbabwe with regards to Mugabe and the re-distribution of land. But what is the general sentiment of the Ugandan population if you can speak for them?
RWANGYEZI: The general sentiment depending on who you are talking to and where they are getting their information from, those who are on the mainstream media are looking at [Mugabe] as a crook, a devil. Those who are following the African liberation path, those who have taken time to study it, those who have understood the intentions of people who enslaved us and have continued to enslave us in other ways are looking at Robert Mugabe as a hero.
RAS TYEHIMBA: Do you have any last words you would like to share with the world who would be accessing this interview?
RWANGYEZI: For me, coming to perform at this Emancipation Day said volumes. I think that emancipation should not be seen only in relation to the Black race. The people who committed this heinous crime of enslavement and colonialism are the ones who need to be emancipated first and foremost. They need to be liberated from the horrible mentality of thinking that they can satisfy their greed and needs by exploiting other human beings. The African has two principles which other people exploit to the negative. One, he is a very accommodating person. The first reaction of an African when he meets a human being, any human being, is to receive him, embrace him and give him something to eat. They begin from the positive side not the negative side. They begin from the trust, not the suspicion and that has been unfortunately, wrongly manipulated by the greedy world. This human attribute of the African, the second principle of an African which is again manipulated to the wrong side, is the feeling of plenty. While the European economics are based on scarcity, human wants are abandoned, but resources are scarce. Therefore, you have to economize and you have to compete, and the winner takes it. In Africa, it's the contrary because, probably, nature is generous. Everything is available in a ready to consume form; that I go to the bush and I find fruits ready and I just start eating. We believe in sharing. So when you come to me and you ask me for something, my immediate reaction is to give it to you.
These two different life theories: the theory of positivity and receiving people from the positive side, the theory of abundance and sharing as opposed to the European theory whose first reaction is suspicion and everybody is a potential enemy, so guard fast, protect yourself fast then deal with them. The theory of scarcity: things are not enough, grab what you can and whoever you are dealing with you deal in terms of competition for the scarce resources. While we are dealing in terms of sharing whatever we put there to share they grab but they don't bring back.
Emancipation Day needs to be taken further. I would like for these people to know that we are all fundamentally human and we should embrace each other. What is available can be shared and is actually enough for all of us. There are some people who have immoral, obscene accumulation of wealth that they don't need. I have been to one of the European countries which is stock piling mountains of cheese and tins of food. They don't need it for goodness sake! There is enough for humans to share. Recently Nelson Mandela said it, that there are people in South Africa who are so rich that if they distributed what they have, all South Africans would be happy. I hope he has not regretted at his ninetieth birthday that the rainbow nation, he said, "Forgive each other", is continuing to live in obscene inequality. My hope for Emancipation Day is that first of all the people who committed slavery and colonialism should be emancipated and should take up the courage to apologize.
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