African culture binds President Kagame and General Muhoozi | The new times

The recent visit to Rwanda by Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Keinerugaba, senior presidential adviser on special operations and commander of the Ugandan ground forces, had a big story that the media ignored. The cow handover ceremony by President Kagame to Lt. Gen. Muhoozi was just mentioned in passing, but it had much more significance.

Insofar as the events highlighted by the media were important, the untold big story was the essence and significance of Rwandan and African culture where President Kagame gifted cows to Lt. Gen. Muhoozi. I realized that journalism schools have taught us to tell stories from a western perspective, thus influencing the African journalist to move away from his native culture, hence the failure to tell the story African “infused in an African pot”.

When Kagame hosted Lt. Gen. Muhoozi in his private home, they had time to discuss a number of issues regarding Uganda-Rwanda relations, personal and family matters. It goes without saying therefore that there are qualities which President Kagame appreciated in the personality and character of Lieutenant General Muhoozi which prompted him to offer cows to his special guest.

President Kagame gave his visitor a shepherd’s staff and the two proceeded to a kraal where Kagame selected up to ten of his beautiful cows as a gift, in keeping with Rwandan tradition. Kagame’s sons, Ivan and Brian, were present as witnesses to the special bond between their father and General Muhoozi. This gesture is symbolic not only in the relationship between the two, but also in Uganda-Rwanda bilateral relations which have been at an all-time low for the past three years. Uganda-Rwanda relations were the focus of General Muhoozi’s 1st and 2nd trips to Rwanda.

The gift of the cow by a Head of State is African cultural diplomacy – establishing a stronger interpersonal and interstate bond rooted in African traditions and cultural values. President Yoweri Museveni in 2011 and the late Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli in 2016 are other visitors who received a cow gift from President Kagame. Muhoozi can be counted among the lucky few that President Kagame considers special friends.

President Kagame and Lt. Gen. Muhoozi come from the ‘cow culture people’ and the significance of the cow giving ceremony has a much deeper meaning for both the giver and the receiver. . A cow is the most precious and precious gift of Rwandan culture that one can give to a friend, the intrinsic and cultural value of which has no monetary equivalence. A cow is a symbol of love, expressed to a trusted and reliable friend. Through this cultural gesture, Kagame and Lt. Gen. Muhoozi concluded a peace pact based on African tradition, symbolizing a new relationship, which binds Rwanda and Uganda not to get involved in any form of conspiracy the against each other, but only to be defined by peaceful relations. and camaraderie. Since our ancestors, the act of giving a cow establishes trust and mutual trust.

Lieutenant General Muhoozi appreciated President Kagame’s gesture through a post on his twitter account. “In our interlacustrine culture, especially among pastoralists like the Banyankore, Banyarwanda, Karimojong, Dinka and Masai, there is no greater show of friendship than someone giving you a cow. Afande Kagame ampeire enyana ikumi zempano omunte ze ze’Inyambo.» (… Afande Kagame offered me ten heifers among his Inyambo cows).

President Kagame did not choose to give his host the coveted foreign and imported cattle breeds like Friesian Holstein, Jersey, Brown Swiss and others; but chose to give him the pure long-horned African cattle. In Rwanda, this breed, traditionally known as the Inyambo is very adorable and belongs to very few breeders. These purebreds were traditionally bred through a process that involved a three-tier crossbreeding process between high-quality cows, a process that was carried out by ordinary Rwandan cattle herders who knew no vocabulary of genetics.

The gift of cows says a lot according to the Rwandan culture. President Kagame gave the best of his cows because that is what his beloved host deserved. Each cow had a name implying the attachment the donor had to each of the cows. According to the Rwandan culture, the recipient somehow recognizes the great gift that is offered to him. General Muhoozi can always let his friends know with an exclamation- (Kagame wampaye inka / Kagame who gave me a cow!), thus appreciating the special gift and admiring the giver. This is how special the gift of the cow is in Rwandan culture.

Western domination in almost all spheres of life has alienated us from our own culture to the extent that we do not value it, but it is more meaningful in defining who we are and how we behave as African people. . Since the days of colonization, there have been deliberate efforts by the West to destroy and kill our cultural heritage because they know that our culture represents high moral values ​​and keeps us united to safeguard our interests. .

In 1835 a British colonial governor, Lord Macaulay, addressing the British parliament about their colony of India, said: “..I do not think we shall ever conquer this country unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is its spirituality and cultural heritage”. This colonial philosophy was applied even in Africa and indeed it succeeded.

Lord Macaulay continued his speech by making a proposal to the British house, to replace the educational system and the culture in order to change the thinking of the colonized so that they hate their own and like what is foreign. “For if the Indians think that everything foreign and English is good and superior to them, they will lose their self-esteem, their original culture and they will become what we want from them, a really dominated nation “, concluded Lord Macaulay. This deliberate strategy used by the colonialists to poison and kill African education and culture is what makes us lose the appreciation of what makes a great story in the African cultural setup.

Diplomatic practice requires that all concepts of diplomacy be integrated, including cultural concepts. The cultural practice means a renewed chapter with an unwritten peace pact reached during the talks between President Kagame and General Muhoozi. Rwandans and Ugandans are very confident that their countries are well on the way to regaining their lost glory as allies and ready to support each other when needed. This was the practice in our cultural relations in African society.

Valuing our culture as expressed by President Kagame can be a great opportunity to cement a friendship that results in good relations with a common understanding, for peace, security and development not only for Rwanda and Uganda, but also for the East Africa region, Africa and the world.

Gerald Mbanda is a retired veteran journalist and former Head of Media Development Department at Rwanda Governance Board.


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