Items filtered by date: May 2016

The Writer is Sierra Leone's Minister of Finance and Economic Development (Governor, Bank of Sierra Leone during the Ebola Crisis)

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, May 26, 2016/ -- Crises of all sorts, from conflicts to natural disasters to health emergencies, are happening at unprecedented rates around the world – so much so, that the United Nations is convening the first ever World Humanitarian Summit this month. There is increasing recognition that the sheer scale of the humanitarian challenges facing the world today means that governments like ours have to be prepared for future shocks, by laying the groundwork for more inclusive and resilient economies.

In our experience battling the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, one solution saved lives, delivered major cost savings, and continues to help the economy rebuild and recover. For many, this solution is so simple and logical it is almost unexpected: digital payments.

When we digitized Ebola Response Worker payments, we reduced payment times from a month to a week, as a new study by United Nations-housed Better Than Cash Alliance has revealed ( Getting payments to workers on time reduced fraud risks and increased efficiency and transparency.

Prior to the deployment of digital payments, our Response Workers often had to travel long distances out of treatment and holding centers and spend scarce financial resources to access payment. Beyond addressing these challenges, digital payments broadened financial inclusion and enabled more citizens to participate in the formal economy, build up their own savings, invest in their business, and access new markets.

The significant lesson is that government is leveraging on the 95 percent mobile phone access and coverage across the country coupled with a robust national network to intensify action and support to payment agents. This infrastructure proved essential in deploying digital payments during the crisis.

Notwithstanding these advantages, we realized there is more to be done, and these lessons offer insights to us and others for future crises.

Building partnerships with the private sector and development organizations is key for us to succeed. These networks, infrastructure, and expertise can help deliver digital payment solutions much faster and help sustain the adoption of digital payments platforms after the emergency ends. As a member of the G7+ countries, Sierra Leone is committed to engaging in partnerships.

It is critical to start building resilient response measures now; therefore, we must put in place the policy frameworks, infrastructure, and public education initiatives necessary for a digital payments solution.

By working collaboratively and proactively, digital payments can help build resilience in the face of challenges such as those we encountered in the Ebola crisis, can contribute to greater financial inclusion of citizens, and can drive economic opportunities throughout the country in the aftermath.

“This op-ed was originally published in Devex”:

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Sierra Leone Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.

Sierra Leone Ministry of Finance and Economic Development

Imagine if President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Ali Bongo of Gabon, Ian Khama of Botswana and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda formed a club known as the ‘People Club.’ Imagine if this club sought to ensure that millions of poor people in these four countries were empowered economically through new jobs, new markets for their products or new capital for their enterprises. After all, 2.5 billion people in the world remain mired in poverty with millions of these in Africa.

Imagine if the foremost goal of this ‘People Club’ was as follows:

“The People Club is an exclusive forum that brings together African Heads of State, global business leaders and livelihood enhancement experts to secure and enhance livelihoods for Africa’s increasing number of poor people especially those who live near elephant populations.”

In order to make a bold statement about the need to slay poverty once and for all, imagine if the four presidents then burnt things that are vivid and symbolic depictions of abject poverty in Africa. Things like farming subsidy policies that keep fresh vegetables from the US market; symbolic bank statements containing the billions that have been stolen from Africa and stacked abroad; court rulings from across Africa that confirm prosecutions of corrupt officials who embezzle millions from public coffers; statistics papers that show how tribalism trumps competency in public appointments, and many such contributors of poverty on the continent.

The US 2014 farm bill paved way for subsidies that have been harmful even to America itself. Between now and 2018, when the Football World Cup will be played in Russia, US peanut farmers will have reaped as much as $1.9 billion in subsidies. This is more than the approximately 1.74 billion that Kenya spends to pay its teachers. While no one should begrudge the US for spending its money as it wishes, this isn’t a level playing field for African farmers to compete with their American counterparts holistically.

Indeed, American farmers were incentivized to grow crops like peanuts so much that last year in 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture ended up with a surplus of 16,000 metric tons of peanuts. How on earth is a peanut farmer in Kenya or Malawi supposed to compete with that?! You may say that the Nairobi Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation in 2015 addressed this issue. Sure enough, the Nairobi Package called on an end of all farm export subsidies. The challenge now will lie in educating the masses about both the new global trade opportunities and lingering challenges.

Imagine if the public burning by the four presidents dramatized unfair global trade practices so much that ensuing public pressure ends up impacting local national elections. Wouldn’t that deal a decisive blow to poverty (to an extent) by enabling farmers in Togo and Namibia to sell their agricultural produce to a much wider market? It might also open the floodgates of capital to flow into Africa’s agriculture and make it more technologically savvy.

Imagine if this public burning was preceded by a ‘People Club’ Summit that resulted in commitments that these four countries would have to adhere to. Commitments like: Ensure that at least 25 percent of tourism revenue goes back to communities living next to national parks and game reserves in the form of employment opportunities, investments or loans. This way, local communities would have a seat at the table and not just benefit from the tourism revenue crumbs that fall their way. Kenya’s Tourism Act of 2011 is sadly silent on such innovative ways of investing in communities.

Interestingly, Kenya has in the past enacted innovative legislation that impacted the tourism sector significantly. The 1972 Hotels and Restaurants Act, Cap 494 established Catering Levy Trustees that collected a 2% training levy from hotels and restaurants towards Utalii College’s financing, training and operation. Without the said legislation, we may never have been the proud owners of East and Central Africa’s premier hospitality training institution. Because of the more than six billion it has received from the Levy Fund, Utalii College has been able to produce at least 50,000 highly trained students whose human resource has catapulted Kenya’s hospitality sector to the next level.

Imagine therefore that there was legislation entrenching community-centred investment into the law of the land. Legislation that would greatly minimize human-wildlife conflict by aligning wildlife and communities on the same side as allies, not adversaries competing for finite resources.

Imagine if yet another commitment from this ‘People’s Club’ Summit called on billionaires like Richard Branson to provide venture capital funds not just for enterprising individuals from national park adjacent communities but also for ventures that specifically ensure the sustainable wellbeing of both communities and wildlife.


Everything you have just imagined happened in Nairobi in the last week of April 2016. The only difference between what actually happened and what you have just imagined lies in the fact that instead of people, elephants were the focus of the Summit. I support this focus 100 percent.

I only add the there should be similarly renewed focus on the poor people of these countries, especially those who live near the amazing gentle giants. They deserve not just a regular meal on their tables, but also a reliable, wildlife-enabled means of producing this meal. Wildlife-enabled in the sense that the millions earned from wildlife end up not just in wildlife conservation efforts but also in human wellbeing efforts.

As we keep our hands off our elephants, let us join them to kick poverty out of Africa.

Not many people know that Rwanda has an island. But it does. Nkombo Island, which sits squarely in Lake Kivu.

Located on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lake Kivu is delimited by five districts from North to South: Rubavu, Rutsiro, Karongi, Nyamasheke and Rusizi. Nkombo is one of the multiple islands of the Lake with merely 22 km2 and around 18,000 inhabitants living on the one spacious and two smaller islands. Felix is a young boy from Nkombo Island. He sees Rwanda as another country, a country where he would love to live. He has recently started primary school and is learning Kinyarwanda language at Gihaya, one of the four primary schools on the island. Before joining school, he only used to speak amashi, the native local language in his neighborhood.

For 40 minutes, a semi-traditional motor boat transports, from Rusizi town back to the island, local Nkombo men and women who came earlier to sell fish. During the ride, they intone songs in amashi accompanied by a stench of decomposing fish from their baskets. On the other side of the strand, Felix and more other kids are excitedly waiting for adults to return from the city with nice things, maybe.

Just like many other Rwandans, farmers on the island plant soybeans, climbing beans, cassava, banana plantation,….and their soils slowly run-off in the Lake.

Felix was born in April 2008, just after the earthquake that ravaged the island. He has experienced Nkombo’s transformation over the years. He has seen engineers installing electric cables. Every night, he has light in his house and he has seen adults map out the roads even if no car has yet driven there.

In his free time, the young boy imitates men by fishing and capturing fishes from Lake Kivu. Afterwards, he hides the breathing fishes in his jacket pocket and tries to sell them to strangers who come to his land. With other boys of his age, they bargain and set the prices in amashi language so that visitors don’t understand. The fishes that these boys sell are among the 40 species of fish that were inventoried in Rwanda but only 4 are of economic importance; the Lake Tanganyika sardine Limnithrissa miodon (locally called isambaza), the Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus, the African catfish Clarias gariepinus and Haplchromis sp. .And today, Felix’s catch is of course isambaza.

This Tanganyika Sardine is a small pelagic clupeid living in Kivu as a non-native species. L. miodon was voluntarily introduced in 1959 into Lake Kivu, where no planktivorous fish existed before. Adults live in the pelagic areas while reproducing populations and juveniles inhabit bays and shores. This species becomes omnivorous at the adult stage, feeding on diverse preys: zooplankton, insect larvae and adults, other small fishes and their own young stages.

Since its introduction in Kivu, it has slowly been delivered on the Rwandan and Congolese fish markets with other species. According to Rwanda Development Board, the fish market demand consists of 90% of tilapia, 5% isambaza, and 5% of other spcies like cat fish.

Nkombo island inhabitants supply isambaza to Rusizi town and cook the rest with peanut oil in their households that are densely settled and scattered on the island.

As in any other part of Rwanda, Nkombo’s biodiversity is also threatened by population increase, land use changes, destruction of habitats and natural disasters. In Africa, while Rwanda has one of the biggest population densities, Nkombo’s demographic pressure is even more alarming as 818 people live on just 1 km2 compared to the national level of 450 persons living on the same surface.

This large population on the island is using natural resources at an alarming rate. They were used to cultivate all land till the banks of Kivu, overfish isambaza for market supply and family consumption as well as using various trees for fire wood.

The Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) calls for the protection of Lake Kivu’s shores as well on Nkombo islands. This denotes that 50 meters from the lake shores and 10 meters from the river banks have to be protected from human exploitation.

Nkombo islands have already started to implement the EDPRS target of planting 320,000 agroforestry trees and tonkombo2 creating 50 hectares of progressive terraces to prevent soil erosion. A special tree nursery has been established on the island and more than 140,000 seedlings of different species have been produced.

And to valorize the biodiversity, a hotel is under construction at Nkombo as a way of developing tourism potential of the area that local community can economically benefit from. As the beauty of the nature attracts an increased number of tourists, local people will be more motivated to protect their source of revenues: biodiversity. According to REMA, Rwanda Environment Management Authority, Kivu islands are not hotbeds of island endemics because nearly all species found there also exist in the mainland. However, in a recent study, 14 islands [1] of Lake Kivu were surveyed and the results clearly showed that 142 plant species, 80 species of birds, 52 invertebrates, 6 mammals, 6 reptiles and 5 species of amphibians exist on these islands.

Additionally, these islands shelter 3 migratory bird species namely cossypha natalensis, milvus migrans as well as bulbucus ibis and some endangered species like marsh mongoose, water birds and snakes. It’s worth noting that half of birds registered on Lake Kivu islands are on the IUCN[2] red list. Furthermore, this research for the conservation plan of Kivu Lake islands clearly shows that these islands comprise the key zones in Rwanda for biodiversity conservation, tourism and recreation.

Felix notices several inquisitive sightseers coming to Nkombo; although they don’t usually buy his fishes. They give him hope that the island has something particularly unique to offer that attracts people from Kigali, the capital, and other countries. Local kids always shout to those visitors, in either amashi or Kinyarwanda:

Ompe ehyo hicupa hyaminji ,wampaye agacupa. Give me the water bottle, Give me the water bottle.

The belief is that tourism development with all associated facilities will create and generate more jobs and income for Nkombo residents and local children will get a better access to clean water and more water bottles. Currently, they mainly fetch the Kivu water for domestic use.

Nkombo’s residents desperately need new opportunities. Most of them fish in a lake with poor fish reserves with the national fish production from Rwanda’s 24 lakes estimated at only 13,000 tons, annually. According to the ministry of Agriculture and animal resources, the low fish production is generally caused by increased fish pressure, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and increased unmonitored fish movements, all driven by higher fish demand, inadequate fisheries and aquaculture management framework. This fishery sub sector has potential of contributing to 2.7% of the GDP if a total of 115,000 tons is produced by 2017.

In the Rwandan Kivu, which consists of 48% of the total Lake surface, Nkombo fishers are not allowed to fish all the time. They have to stop one week in a month and they are not allowed to fish on the Congolese part of Kivu. During their free time, some cultivate their lands but this year kirabiranya (Xanthomonas wilt) has invaded their banana plantation and this disease constitutes another whack to the island’s agro-biodiversity already menaced by overpopulation and climate change.

In 2014, agro-biodiversity has contributed to national economy with a share of 30.5% of the GDP. But Rwanda being reliant on rain-fed agriculture is still extremely vulnerable to climate change. This phenomenon is not only a threat to the agriculture industry but also the biodiversity of the Lake Kivu islands and little is known about the economic cost of biodiversity loss.

Apart from the worst worldwide water hyacinth, there are other invasive species that affect the Lake Kivu islands biodiversity and these led to the extinction of some species in the past and threaten more that are endemic. But again, even if invasive species are the core current menace, climate change is predicted to be the key threat to islands in the future.

To prevent the detrimental consequences of the degradation of ecosystems, Rwanda has set 16 new major policies, laws and strategies to promote biodiversity conservation and socio-economic development. Despites the existence of these, the value of biodiversity is not yet reflected in broader policies. However, the first needed step which is to recognize the importance of conservation has been made and established measures help to raise awareness about the protection of the country’s natural capital.

With this national will, Nkombo hopes that the biodiversity conservation and tourism expansion will contribute to the sustainable socio-economic development of the island. so that while Felix and his age mate friends grow up, they will be able to understand that there is a future on their native area, that they can conquer the rest of Rwanda or neighboring Congo or any other broader land. But above all, Nkombo residents dream to have a young generation that always remember that their beautiful Nkombo have choices to offer to its children. To achieve this dream, they first have to grimly preserve, conserve and protect their biodiversity so that natural resources keep providing them a source of economic, social and nutritional benefits.


[1] Mapfundugu Islands Complex, Karugaruka, Nyanamo, Karinga, Nyamunini, Mbabara, Mukondwe, Shegesha, Amahoro, Nyenyeri, Mpangara and Nyarugaba, Ishyute and Ireba Islands

[2] International Union for Conservation of Nature

The Kenya Climate Change Bill 2014 has finally made a vital transition into an Act of the Parliament thanks to President Kenyatta’s assent to the Bill on 6th May.

It is telling that that the Press Release announcing this historic achievement was titled, ‘Revenue allocation Bill signed into law,’ almost as if the signing of the Climate Change Bill was an afterthought. This observation is not meant to cast aspersions to the crafters of the Press Release. Rather it is meant to spotlight the indifferent and dismissive attitude that most people adopt when it comes to climate change. We cannot afford to accommodate this attitude in the implementation of this historic Act.

Kudos to President Kenyatta for assenting to the Bill. Two big pats on the back to the Kenya Climate Change Working Group which steered this process pat and Hon. Ottichilo the Member of Parliament for Emuhaya who midwifed the Bill in parliament during its first dispensation.

Clause 3 (1) of this Act forcefully states that, ‘This Act shall be applied for the development, management, implementation and regulation of mechanisms to enhance climate change resilience and low carbon development for the sustainable development of Kenya.’

Climate change resilience and low carbon development are the key phrases in this clause. It is time for Kenya to roll up its sleeves and completely up its game in these two areas.

“This is Ksh 800 while this leather one is 1,200.” She says of some awesome brown African shoes to a white woman who looks more interested on the beautiful woody African bracelet on a rack.

“How much is this?” The tourist asks with a Spanish accent to the amusement of the seller.

“That’s Ksh 500,” she says putting it on her thin hand to fit perfectly.

Amina happily takes the new Ksh 500 note while talking to her husband who sits on an old bench at the corner. Her husband gets up to pick the money from her to put it in a drawer nearby.

Halayan is the name of the shop. So what does it mean? Heavenly or somewhere peaceful that’s what we call this beautiful shop full of African attire, shoes and accessories that Amina and her husband owns.

She is tall slender and beautiful with a young shy face that would shock you when you hear that she has 4 kids.

“Ha ha of course I have 4 beautiful kids, 3 boys and 1 girl,” anyway that’s not a big deal from a lady who was born in a big family.

“We were 9 kids and my mum worked hard to see us through school after our dad passed on.” Amina remembers.

Being second born and the first girl in her family to a widowed mum was hard, but Amina can’t hide her praises for her dear mum who became the bread winner and a rock to all of them.

“Mum was always there for us and I can’t forget the big sacrifice she did for us and that’s why I am here today.” She says gratefully.

She is her sister and at the same time a great friend. She has always been there for her all her life. When Amina is down, she always knew what to do to bring back happiness to her face. Esha is her name, and Amina loves her to death.

“I love Esha so much, and since we were young, we have been so close save for the usual squabbles between siblings.”

She doesn’t remember having a close friend apart from Esha, that’s really weird.

“To me, that’s not weird because I believe that my sister knows me more than anybody else, and growing up with her makes it easier to deal with our weaknesses.” She says beaming.

A friend comes by to invite her to a wedding. She gets excited and makes phone calls to friends in Mombasa to bring her some jewellery and something that you wouldn’t expect her to order given that her face has nothing on apart from maybe some face cream.

“I do make- up yes, but only when I am going out to weddings. Anyway I can’t lie that I love putting on make-up. I do it occasionally.”Amina explains that too much make-up though is just a turn off.

She jumps up with a start as if she had remembered something. Oh! So that’s it…. It is almost lunch time and Amina remembers that she has to pick her last born from school. She gets out hurriedly to pick up the person who might one day inherit Halayan while her quick strides make her long white dress cling to her tiny legs desperately.

This story was written by Irene Ougo as part of Sasafrica's Binti Lamu (Daughter of Lamu series)

It was a calm afternoon with a cool breeze blowing away the hair of women. It was around 3pm in Kigali and the sun was still gently shinning and sliding towards the western mountains.

Nina, a 32 year young woman took time to feel the signs in her womb, she knew that she was going to go through the same monthly pain, as other women in the world. That afternoon, Nina was still at the office.

She checked her handbag and found what she was looking for: a tablet of Ibuprofen. She swallowed the pill without any liquid.

‘Sheet!’ Nina hissed at the wrong timing of her periods.

She cursed in her heart of hearts. As if this wasn’t enough, she was also pissed off because their office neighbor displaced a beehive from one tree to another, unintentionally allowing all the bees to escape from it. They were violently rioting outside, suspended in the air like dozens of military helicopters and everyone was bothered by that crazy bee agitation.

Nina was working for one of USAID projects in Rwanda; she had landed in the country seventeen months earlier. This new job was her dream-job because she had always wanted to work in the development sector, preferably on the African continent. However, the job had separated her from her fiancé Jim in Minnesota leaving her suffering from loneliness, sultriness and painful periods. Although Jim was not the kind of man to make women heads spin, the American young woman had fallen in love with his charming personality and soft blond hair.

She was so attached to him that her friends didn’t understand her choice of taking a job that would consign her to a long-distance relationship. In addition, how could she leave her comfortable life in the US and go to fade in Africa? Although Jim had supported her decision, Nina could read silent incomprehension in his magnificent blue eyes. At the airport on the day of her departure, he had hugged her for long seconds and swept tears from his eyes with the back of his hands before saying:

“I am happy for you, sweetheart.”

They had promised to call each other every day and meet at least four times a year somewhere on the planet. They had kept that promise till daily calls started delaying, sometimes due to different time zones, other times due to impossible work schedules. Nina could call and wake Jim up in middle of a deep sleep, apologize, and murmur a hurried ‘I love you’ that she wasn’t even sure he heard. Such situations left her with a constant feeling of guilt that she could no longer narrate her day to Jim as she used to.

Living on the other corner of the city was Kathleen, a Rwandan nurse. She worked at Kibagabaga hospital, one of the referral hospitals in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

On this particular night, she was on duty, assisting Dr Mujeyi at the emergency wing of the hospital. While waiting for emergencies, she sipped a cup of sweet tea. Then, she heard the siren of an ambulance and stood up rapidly, causing the small spoon to fall down from the teacup. Its resounding noise as it hit the tiled floor disappeared under the loud siren of the white ambulance.

Kathleen slipped on latex gloves and ran to the emergency main door. Dr Mujeyi joined her just a paramedic opened the ambulance’s rear doors. The patient was a small boy hit by a crazy motor rider who was driving at breakneck speed. The skull of the boy was injured and he had a serious hemorrhage. The nurses transported him on a stretcher. Sadly, the young life passed on before the medical team could stop the gushing blood that had already turned the stretcher’s white sheet into a bright red.

Though Kathleen was a well-experienced nurse, every death affected her differently. She had never learnt how to recover from a child’s passing. And there was something in the look of that boy that broke her heart.

She resented accountants, agronomists, tailors and everyone for not experiencing the pain of an Emergency room. She resented them for dealing with their own lives while she was struggling to save others lives. But mostly, she resented Pascal for being away in another hospital, in Europe. She had dated the young man for five years since the time he was in medical school at the University of Rwanda. They had met during an international conference on Kangaroo Mother Care that was held in India. It was a special gathering for the couple-to-be because both were Rwandans and they were in a foreign country.

Now, Pascal had obtained a scholarship to specialize in cardiology at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. It was a golden opportunity for him so she couldn’t be happier for Pascal. Around the time he was about to fly to Bruxelles, her friends started telling her that if the young man was going to Europe, he would surely marry another woman and forget Kathleen. They advised her to trap Pascal with pregnancy, which would oblige him to marry her before moving to Belgium. Kathleen told him the whole story, they had laughed and then kissed.

As Kathleen was poking around sweet memories, the pain and the solitude of Nina were worsening. She couldn’t wait to be home in her bed. When she reached her expat house in the fancy neighborhood of Kimihurura, she parked her car outside, ran into the house and took a hot shower. Right after, she drunk a burning soup prepared by her housemaid Rose then slumped into her large bed.

Although she knew it wasn’t fair, Nina resented Jim for not being around to hold her in his arms. She wished she could revenge by inviting another guy to comfort her. If she ever cheated on Jim, would it be with Todd that she met at Soleluna Restaurant while playing Trivia Games on Monday evenings or would that be with Gasana the attractive Rwandan researcher who also working for another USAID project? Instead, she read again the Diary of Anne Frank. It was 2:48 pm in the US, so she couldn’t call because Jim was still at the office.

At Kibagabaga hospital, together with the nurses who worked in the mortuary, Kathleen brought the dead body of the young boy who had perished in the moto accident. She felt sick. She went back in the nurses’ office; her foot hit the small spoon that she had dropped down a couple of hours before. Tears ran down her beautiful face. She missed the comfort that Pascal gave her during tough moments. Yet she couldn’t call him because he was in a tough exam period and she knew he needed to focus. She couldn’t dare to disturb him.

The next morning, a Saturday, she lazily woke up from her bed, showered and put on tight dark jeans, a bright blouse and leather jacket. She carefully applied make-up and went to Liza’s house in Kimironko. She had promised to help Liza prepare snacks for guests. Kathleen had met Liza during a primary healthcare meeting in Kigali. Since then, the two women had stayed in touch.

“Thanks for coming Kat, I don’t know what I would do without you!” Said Liza as she openined the gate with one hand and held a glass of white wine with the other hand.

She then thanked Kathleen for stuff she bought from the nearby Kimironko market.

“You look tired, Kat” Liza observed after spending few minutes with her friend.

“We lost a child last night!”

Liza took time to listen to the story of the child who died in a moto accident. She consoled her friends and then made a small joke. They laughed and Liza took that opportunity to ask:

“My sixth sense tells me that something worse is happening! Am I right or wrong?”

Kathleen sighed and confessed:

“ Nothing but…I just miss being with Pascal or just being with someone”

“ I have the feeling that you had a very interrresting night, last night”

“ Don’t Joke about this Liz, it doesn’t mean that I cheated on Pascal and I wouldn’t forgive myself! When I think that I was the one worrying that he would find another doll in Belgium! Shame on me!”

She sighed again. Liza’s eyes were turning red under the influence of wine. Liza could make fun of her friends because she had decided to be an independent woman. She knew it would be heartbreaking to leave a serious relationship and fly all over the world as her job obliged.

She couldn’t remember the last time she had a stable relationship, perhaps at high school! That was the price she paid for working in the development world. In her younger days, she had already played the role of mistress for married husbands, one-night-lover for single, immoral and independent men and kisser for some women.

“It was just a feeling you had, nothing to dramatize about!” she said emptying another glass of wine. I am sure you will be able to wait for Pascal. He is a great guy. Don’t give up easily.

Kathleen sighed again.

“It’s hard, Liz…. It’s really hard!”

The gate bell rang and Liza ran to open. Nina who had promised to mix the cocktails arrived with several bottles of alcohol that she took from the trunk of her USAID Ford.

“Kat, meet a new friend of mine: Nina. She is in charge of cocktails and all beverages!”

She smiled at her two friends.

“Nina, meet a person dear to my heart, she embodies the Rwandan beauty and she spends her life saving lives. She will be preparing all snacks for tonight. And… she is wondering if she should replace or cheat on her fiancé. Don’t be shocked, it was just a thought!”

Kathleen wanted to strangle Liza for telling her secret to Nina but her friend was already a little bit drunk. How could she blame her?

“And I will be in charge of jokes and hooking up with all handsome men at the party, while the two of you will be serving guests and crying for your men who are not around to offer you a dance!”

Kathleen and Nina looked to each other and laughed. A new friendship was born as the women could share their international love stories.

That night when Kathleen talked to Pascal, it was with a sweet and soft voice, full of love and remorse.