Caroline Numuhire

Caroline Numuhire

I am in love with Mr. Pen

The first time Ange heard this term, she thought about an actual shower that was given to a bride-to-be. But bridal shower was a slightly different notion to an actual shower. It was a showering of gifts and affection at a ‘bridal shower party.’ By 2016, these parties had evolved into elaborate events where attendees had to match clothes and look their best. The only think lacking was a legion of paparazzi and a red carpet. Indeed, Rwandan bridal showers have been imported straight from the American culture.

When Ange finally attended her first bridal shower, she knew that it would also be her last. She hated it. What hit her was the way these parties were organized: The gift gathering was coordinated by the bride’s close friend, also referred to in contemporary lingo as BFF. She would snoop around for other young bridal friends, young female family members and would add them to a WhatsApp Group named Bridal Shower – Bride’s name.

In the first days, the messages would be courteous, polite, well-mannered and femininely suave. Then slowly, as if the bridal shower attendants pulled by an irresistible string, would start sharing the most up-to-date, insane, sometimes riotous jokes of Kigali, stolen from other WhatsApp groups. And finally would come the ultimate mission: The Best friend forever who was also the Group admin would share a list of items, as long as the Nile River, to potentially offer the bride.

It was as if all of the bride’s friends dreamt the previous night about offering gifts and they were waiting for an extra push. The list would comprise a mountain of domestic items as if the future Mrs had no plans of equipping her house with stuff she would personally choose. The catalogue would be made of numbers sometimes ranging from 1 to 100, including items like kitchen utensils, bed sheets, dustbins and cleaning soaps. Then the friends would play the friendly game of being a good friend by dividing between themselves different numbers. In order to motivate others, the admin would launch the mission by typing:

Njye, I’ll take number 6, 18, 37 and 65.

Dies were cast. It was very important to pick up your numbers right after in the brief time-lag when affordable numbers were still available. And you would gain a bonus of likability that might push the BBF to recommend you as a faithful friend and a potential bridesmaid. The admin would send polite but gently aggressive reminders that the bridal shower date was coming soon as if they did not know! The list numbers had to reduce, girls had to generously prove that they were true friends.

Few days after the initiation of the compte-à-rebours, the admin would send tenacious reminders, sharing the vacant numbers. That would put too much pressure on the ladies’ purses but they would give up although they had other pressing needs and hadn’t budgeted for this in their tight economical lines. They would create tangible reasons in their minds that would permanently blow away the depressing, gloomy sentiment of guilt:

“We’ve been friends since high school.”

“Yarantabaye papa yapfuye!!”

“Elle ferait exactement la même chose pour moi!”

They were too afraid to dare to show up to the ceremony without an offering. Otherwise, they would be disqualified as friends; no one cared whether they had to borrow money or whatever sacrifice they had to make. No one cared that they had planned to offer a different and more meaningful present to the future bride. The bridal shower admin would never get discouraged which would make Ange believe that she had a real mission. A few days before the actual gathering, which had now become key in Kigali marriage celebrations, the best friend would send at least three reminders:

“Ladies, here are the free numbers, please pick them: No 11: Fridge. No 19: Water dispenser. No 21: Rice Cooker. No 83. 12 kg Gas cylinder. No 92: Bread toaster.”

Expensive utensils that sometimes could be indispensable for a house to function; at least in the African, Rwandan kitchen. That’s why Ange hated Kigali’s Bridal showers; wondering if Kigalians- female Kigalians, did get time to surf on websites such www.WikiHow.com to get an idea of how to organize a successful American bridal shower.

The upsetting part of it that would piss her off was the lack of minimum originality and creativity. was Ange remembered how Melanie Trump had been severely ridiculed for plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech. Yet most bridal showers were similarly guilty of zero originality!

Ange thought how it was much easier to call others duplicators and ignore similar imitation on ones part. But Ange was still open to the idea of offering a financial contribution to a person-to-marry, because this is something that resonated with her values, with her Rwandan culture. That culture that had its own version of pre-wedding gatherings where old women would give marriage tips to young females. If not, Ange would rather prefer imihuro, evening gatherings before the wedding where sometimes young people would devote themselves to fleshy, sensual, immoral pleasures.

As these thoughts ran through her mind, an online survey reached her laptop screen. The question was simple – what do you think about Rwandan bridal showers? Her answer was even simpler. She simply clicked on ‘dislike.’ With no regrets.

Ohh respectful Africa, my mother, my love, my land, my blood, my dust, my vein, my paint, my shape, my home, my comfort, my peace.

Ohh beautiful Africa, my sorrow, my pain, my tears, my nightmare, my war, my fight, my battle, my blood, my unrest, my discomfort, my agony.

I am your child, the blood of your blood, the darkness of your soils, the warmth of your sun and the end of your cries.

I was born here; I hold all my hope in my red hands as my ambition. I work for you till blood stops running in my veins. I dedicate every single thought of my mind to your re-beautification. You are as beautiful as your children are. As beautiful as I am in my blackness, in my darkness and in my shyness. I did not learn how to love you as children naturally esteem their parents. I am among your last-borns, but not among the latest, not among your bastards. I am your child of honor. I inherited your beauty and ugliness.

Mother Africa, I heard from the father you gave to me telling me that your richness is your ugliness. Your golden richness attracted your damnations. You are cursed with plenty of abundance. Such as any beauty, you have so many dredgers. You have been sold, assaulted and raped in front of your noiseless descendants.

Your richness I mean your ugliness is tremendously copious, inexhaustible, infinite, eternally renewable. It unwillingly seduces capitalistic souls who are not necessarily your own children’s spirits.

The 2016 African Union summit Followed 26 other precedents.

Do these Summits offer you Hope, Africa?

Does your whole heart rejoice that the ugliness will be kept inside your territories without reinforcing and creating another format that elects you as a dumping ground?

How do you feel Africa, are you joyfully moved as a newlywed woman?

Are you worried as a sterile female concerned that her husband will search progeny elsewhere? How do you feel Africa?

How do you feel when your children follow the American or European dreams as if you are not an equal continent?

Do you feel betrayed, indifferent or tired of these struggles?

Talk to me Africa, my mother! Murmur in my ear your dream for me, for all your children so I can start dreaming. Comfort me before I worry, talk to me it’s urgent don’t just send me to God, don’t just confront me to my rough present.

My time is running. Gun and racial violence are taking another step in the US, England has exited the European Union and elected a female Prime Minister, France is hit by another attack, there are unending fights in the Middle-East, more and more farmers on your land are suffering from a new, easily overspread, uncountable, uncontrollable, unstoppable disease. Experts call it climate change. My time is running and I can’t catch it. It slides between my fingers; it tears through my black body. My time is rushing as your children drown in the great Mediterranean. Aren’t you tired that their blood dilutes the cold waters of yesteryear warm sea?

Wake up and don’t be lazy, mother. Wake up and share your views. Don’t be a hard-hearted, unpitying, merciless and ruthless mother. Speak for yourself, for your children. What are your hopes for the African Union Summit that happened in Kigali and those that will come in later years? What is the dream you dreamt for all of your children?

Talk to me mother, Mum I want to hear your warm voice in these uncertain times. I can’t hear your nearly snuffed voice. Wake up Mama, talk to your daughters and sons. What is the African dream that your sons and daughters should claw at?

Well, if you dare to remain silent. I will think for you as it is my responsivity, our responsibility as your intellectuals.

I see the African dream at the horizon. The horizon looks like the endless beauty of the Indian ocean from the Tanzanian side. The horizon is a warm sunrise that reflects a smell of magic on this ocean and burns my black feet as they sink in the soft shore sand and darkens my skin color. The horizon is what I want now and not a random promise in the future. I want to craft a contemporary, attainable dream for you, mother Africa. Not the projection of statistics that create false hope in the desperate hearts of your children. I don’t want to dream of the Agenda 2063 because I am not sure if my life expectancy allows me to see the 63 sunrises. I want to dream now because in few hours my eyes will close again in deep sleep. I want to wake up tomorrow morning with a dream painted on the mirror of my soul. I want an African dream made of discernable letters, real words, short sentences and a meaningful paragraph that defines this common dream for African sons and daughters, a paragraph that my heart can easily memorize and above all believe.

Do all of your children feel represented when they observe the High Officials you sent to African Union Summits to discuss important issues, issues that matter for politicians and their political interests? Talk to me Mother Africa. Because I want to know your expectations, your anticipations, your highest predictable outcomes when the whole Africa meets in these summits. I know you can fathom the hope of your children and guess if it’s achieved. Do they impatiently follow the news on TV and await the resolutions from the summit? Or do they sneer in front of the tinted expensive cars carrying the Officials? Do they feel that their taxes are wasted in long discussions without concrete conclusions where satisfied stomachs fall asleep in the afternoons, missing the opportunity of painting the African dream for me?

The ultimate dream is … I sit and hesitate to define it. I want it to be exclusive, I want it to resonate with all of your new-borns. I want all Africans to buy, consume, own, believe and love the DREAM. …those who can still believe in it and build it to its ultimate end. I am afraid that our souls are desperate, hopeless and turned into a new oceans of bitterness. Their horizon has stopped shining in the warm mornings since the time you started breaking your word into sinned, sad, irretrievable pieces.

The African dream: The African dream should be that way of living… hesitation is still knocking on my door. I am tempted to dream of the era of my ancestors where abundance, prosperity and family ties reigned but if I shape such dream for you Africa, will you buy, consume, own, believe and love it? I have in mind all of your children especially those who were born after yesterday’s sunset.

The African dream is a temporary dream, a dream that all of the African children believe. Believe in possibilities, probabilities, prosperities. It’s a dream that our all stomachs are fed by the delight they prefer, all their illnesses are treated, all children are properly educated, all adults get dignifying job opportunities. It’s an Africa of joy, family-country-continent unit, collaboration and celebration. It’s an Africa of dignity, pride and generosity. It’s an Africa where a man from Mali can start a small business and believe it can make a living. It’s an African where a woman from Botswana can make and sell her handcraft items, it’s an African where a Kenyan fisher can catch gigantic fishes, sell them on the market and get enough money to re-invest in his business, buy a Tusker beer and dance Nakei Nairobi in his evening. I can paint dreams for all African nations but I want to borrow their thoughts. I want to paint their own dreams.

It’s an Africa mixed with the ancient and the contemporary. It’s an African where a North African man is not feared as terrorist, where a black child is not only perceived as a wretched immigrant or disdained black poor. It’s an Africa of families with manageable children, I would propose three or slightly four. It’s a land of warm sun, hot music, crazy dances, fried, non-fried food, fertile soils, strong friendships, oral and documented stories, unbreakable spirits, real compassion, social gatherings, happy unions, genuine love, real solidarity, local values. It’s an Africa where all African people dream to develop and sustain so they can see their children growing on their own land because they would have dreamed, created and realized a dreamed place. It’s an Africa where we will have fought low self-esteem, self-destruction, mental and metal barriers. It’s an Africa where traditions espouse modernization but both remain distinct entities, contributing to each other but remaining faithful to themselves. It’s an Africa with its own conspicuous mark. It’s a property of respect. It’s a dream of the African warmth shining from inside and outside of Africans’ hearts. It’s an Africa where blackness is not a weakness just a difference, where blackness is not a source of complexes rather a complementarity to humanity. It’s a dream that we just sow that rare seed of believing that Africa matters. It’s about daring to believe that Africa is home, true home for all of us. It’s taking that scary step and starting to test the beliefs of our ancestors, their vision and hope for this marvelous land.

I dream of an Africa that can inevitably hurt but also completely heal. An Africa that mischievously takes but also generously provides. It’s a dream where all children start thinking about changing what needs urgent attention rather than hypothetical plans of running away from home, from selves. It’s a dream of belief. Belief in the red, soft, African soil. It’s a belief in Africa. A belief in Africans. A belief in ourselves. A belief in myself as an entity. As option. As a choice. As a chance. As a hope. As a gift. As a present. As the only present. As a future. As the only future. As a believer. As a thinker. As a speaker. As a defender. As a guard. As child. As a daughter. As a son. As a mother. As a father. As an ancestor. As a god. As destiny. As a creator. As part. Of Africa.

This is my contemporary dream for you Mother Africa. Can you buy, consume, own, believe and love it? Can the African Union summits buy, consume, own, believe and love it?

Talk to me Mama. Talk to me Africa.

Ohh beautiful Africa, my sorrow, my pain, my tears, my nightmare, my war, my fight, my battle, my blood, my unrest, my discomfort, my agony.

Ohh respectful Africa, my mother, my love, my land, my blood, my dust, my vein, my paint, my shape, my home, my comfort, my peace.

The City of Kigali wakes up and invades the dirty and paved streets. It’s a city that is walking towards the Vision 2020 and its full ambitions. The Rwandan woman wakes up with it as early as the first signs of nighttime fade.

The Rwandan society as many other societies has tailored itself to the modern civilized world. The economy is flourishing. Kigali the main city and capital of the country is growing like a mushroom taking its shape in the sophistication of its Master Plan. The modern Rwandan woman was not left out, she joined the crowd as pulled by an invisible string of the development era. She has learned different skills so she can cope up with this competitive world. She is no longer a house mistress, who is proudly caring for her husband and her children; rather she is a professional. What an intimidating word! This also means she has to wake up as early as 5:30am, every morning.

Before she takes a shower, she thinks about the struggle she has to secure. She murmurs words of prayers and ensures that she is really communicating with her God. But her heart is beating fast trying to remember every single task she must take care of. Although she is praying, her inner mind is making a to-do-list.

She has to wake up her tenderly sleeping children and prepare them for a school day. They lazily open their eyes, try to fall asleep again but she is there such a school matron to ensure they get ready on time. By the same time, she has ensured that the maid has put a bucket of hot water in the bathroom.

-          “I hope she remembered to iron their clothes” she murmurs to herself and her God.

She goes back to her room and tells her husband:

-          I have prepared your clothes for the meeting. Your socks are also in the white box in the closet.

She runs to the bathroom. As she is showering, she thinks about her work. The institution is about to restructure again, which is a polite way of downsizing. She heard some seniors saying that women are more likely to be the ‘beneficiaries of the restructure’. She can’t lose her job! Her job is her pride. Not only she is making money to provide for her children but also her extended family. Her job is a source of pride in her entourage and in her society. It allowed her to gain a respectful place. She is responsible of herself, self-confident and financially independent. Even her church seeks her advice because she appears to be a respectful and smart woman.

As she is reflecting, she closes the tap and the lukewarm water deprives her of its freshness. Her son has called ‘Maman’. He has shouted so hard as if someone slaughtered his stomach. She knows that he has a complaint.

-          Maman, I don’t want to wear this red pullover!”

Honestly, the mother has no time to think about pullover colors but she knows from experience, if she doesn’t handle that right now, it will lead to an ocean of tears till the child reaches the main school gate. And the teacher will call her to ask for an explanation of that sadness.

She sighs and listens. She has not planned to give in to her son’s caprices. She just has to find the magic words to calm and convince him to wear red pullover.

By that time, breakfast is ready. Daddy is savoring his. He has put on a tie that doesn’t match his shirt. The one his wife has not prepared. She knows he means: ‘You pick my clothes but I have the final choice, the final word’. She doesn’t have minutes to discuss about another cloth preference. So far, she has got time to wear her underwear, a bra and a skirt.. She patiently orders her kids to finish breakfast. Dad is there on the other end of the table as a third entity. He doesn’t shout, it’s mom’s role. Maman’s chest is still solely covered by a black bra. As papa and kids are having breakfast, she can rush to the room and get ready. She slips on a colored blouse. She puts on red high heels that the maid has cleared of dust after waxed dad’s black leather shoes.

As usual, she has her make-up box in her handbag. Again she wasn’t able to block off 3 minutes for her beauty treatment. It’s time to go. Her two children have their backpacks. Homeworks were completed last night, all poems repeated and songs sung. They were ready for a successful school day. By the time, they have to get in the car, the second born has forgotten his brand new Mathematics book, he accuses his sibling of hiding it. They find it and finally are ready to leave the family cocoon. The maid opens wide the gate, the car engine hums.

Among other things professional women have adapted to is owning and driving cars. She is driving her kids to school. When she reaches the gate. The maid shouts:

“I don’t have money to buy food stuff”

“I was here since last night, why didn’t you ask me for the money in the evening?”

She is upset. She handles her a 5000 frw note.

“What I am going to cook for tonight?” The maid asks again.

“I will call and tell you.”

She is more upset. Dad has already left with his own car. He has said a hurried almost authoritative “Goodbye kids”. He has forgotten to say nice words to Maman. He didn’t care about food stuff, he knows Madame will handle that. She is an expert. He secretly and unconsciously appreciates she manages such details.

Madame drives to school first. She enjoys the loud but warm screams of the kids in the back of the car. They even sing for her. Her maternal heart is softened, touched. She is instantly forgetting the morning rush. Now, they are mock fighting, prompting her to intervene as a fight is a fight and it should stop.

She has reached the office compound. She is 7 minutes ahead of time. She has time to make up. When she penetrates the office hall, she is a fresh professional woman. None, not even her husband can imagine how many decisions she took for everyone at home to have a good day. No one can guess how many times she ran and came back between her bedroom, the kids’ bedroom, the bathrooms, the dining room and the parking.

At the office, she reads her emails, chats and gossips with some colleagues. She is clandestinely investigating on the restructuring process. Who is going to fall or to stay? Someone close to the human resource manager or to the country director? It’s hard to know, there are so many speculations. It’s so hard to focus on work, the pressure is too high. She should have smiled more to the HR manager but she hates that woman. Although she holds the final verdict, she incarnates a vulgar character.

She heard some women have offered sexual favors to their bosses. She knows some stories are rumors but others are also the truth.

She sighs again. Her phone vibrates, which means that emails are popping up. She touches the sensitive screen and sees a yellow envelope. She opens it and it’s a message from a guy, the one who has never given up on chatting her up. It’s a series of sweet words. She feels flattered and condemns that feeling of pleasure. It’s illegal for a married woman.

She focuses on the work, the red, elegant and tight shoes are torturing her feet. She doesn’t think about removing them. She receives another SMS, it’s from her husband. He is asking for details about their bank loan. It’s message without ‘Hi’ or ‘Thanks’.

She thinks about the restructure at the office, again. She has made effort to improve her English and Computer skills. She should have done a Master’s degree. But when? Between two pregnancies, between two diapers? She has lost that intellectual curiosity. She has another expertise to acquire. The balance between the wife, mother, Christian, community member and professional. It’s as hard as finding the right balance in her high heels.

It’s the afternoon, she has enjoyed lunch and she feels lazy and sleepy but she can’t show that. What would others think? In this restructuring period? There is no room for idleness or snooze.

Her phone snoozes reminding her of the meeting she has in ten minutes. She checks her phone, there are two other yellow envelopes. One is from her telecommunication company, it’s an annoying advertising message. The other one is from her house maid.

Kandi n’amakara yashize! - there is no charcoal at home!

This maid! She never makes one exhaustive list of the house needs. Ok, perhaps the maid is not the one to blame but people should curse inflation. She is still earning the same Rwandan francs but the dollar’s value is increasing. She can’t buy the same thing with the same amount as eight months ago. It’s hard to make the two ends meet. She can’t ask money to Mister. He has bought her a car and he is in charge of big family investments. There is her pride too. She wants to prove to him that she is capable of covering her needs and their home’s. It’s important to her.

She could have got that promotion if she didn’t fall pregnant last year. It slowed her career growth. She blames that pregnancy but she can’t blame her baby. He is such an angel. During the meeting, she is actively participating and she is carefully composing the dinner menu. They have guests tonight and she has to impress them. She has to defend her husband’s honor by playing the role of cordon-bleu cook.

It’s 5:40 pm. She leaves the office and passes by the supermarket, she buys some food and condiments. The traffic jam doesn’t help; she is losing time. The fish she bought is de-freezing in the back of the car. The smell is not very charming.

While queuing, she calls the charcoal shop tenant and asks him to send a sack of charcoal to her place. She receives a call, it’s from a great cousin from the village. He wants her financial support. He has been insisting as he is urged to start a small agribusiness. She repeats to him that she doesn’t have money. He begs, she persists and finally hangs up with a lie:

“I’m driving and I am near to the police, I risk to get a fine”

She is still stuck in the jam. She is sure he is cursing her. Because the cousin knows they own a house in Kigali and two cars. He deducts they are rich people who just don’t wish to assist his agribusiness dream. She will hear this from another cousin in the coming days.

She listens to the radio. They are talking about women’s empowerment. She knows there are a lots of women in the parliament and women rights are very respected. Sometimes, she doesn’t know what it means. She misses the point of how this translates in her busy-and-packed day. There is an imbalance in the emancipation. She knows that there are so many things that her husband is not yet ready to support her on. She has to pay attention so he doesn’t feel disrespected because of her professional status. She knows him. He can be bitter and aggressive. She knows how and when to be submissive to him. For her peace.

It’s the night. The stars are discretely shining in the sky. The guests are enjoying food. Men are channel surfing between Aljazeera, France24 news and a soccer game.

While men are distracted, she verifies if the maid has ironed the children’s school uniforms. She helps them to do some homework.

It’s 21:30pm. Guests leave. She has to keep smiling from the beginning to the end to make them feel welcomed. She silences the pain in her back. She takes all the dirty dishes to the kitchen before leaving the living room. Mister is still washing TV news. He used to help her in the first days of their marriage. He has stopped. She resents him, overtime. It’s true that he bought her the car that adds a portion to her pride but she wishes… she sighs. She wishes he could help her more to handle these day-to day invisible but tiring tiny tasks. She brings him slippers and takes his black leather shoes outside. He omits to say ‘thanks’. It’s a care he earned the day he wedded her.

By the time she finishes to showering, he has come to their room. He asks her to turn to his side. She doesn’t necessarily feel love at the moment. She dreams of a long night of deep sleep. She forgets to dream and turns to him. Tomorrow another day awaits her. But she is always thankful to her husband as he ensures that all the house doors are locked before going to sleep.

The panorama offered by Gisenyi bay beach is a scenic expanse of blue water that ends on the Congolese hillside. Gisenyi town is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Rwanda. In the middle of the Lake Kivu stands a pole. From far, it looks like a giant tree that grew from the deepest lake bed. But it is the methane gas extraction plant.

On the other side of the lake lives a farmers’ community. They raise their children and send them to public schools. Clarisse, 13 years old, is a young girl born in that community. She speaks normal Kinyarwanda tinted with the sweet Swahili accent. She knows the secrets of the water that she has paddled in with her brothers since her tender childhood. But the biggest secret she holds is the marvels of the thermal waters, amashyuza.

When you reach the water source, small children, boys and girls together are taking everlasting baths. The hot vapors that come from underground wrap their tiny bodies like invisible robes. These hot waters provide livelihoods opportunities for Clarisse and her young neighbors. After class, she fervently explains to tourists the curative powers and benefits of amashyuza before offering a massage using local herbs.

From her rural land, she has a picturesque view of the methane gas extraction plant. She doesn’t know the role of that pole in her Lake Kivu but she heard from her big brothers that it generates electricity and that they can’t fish in the 30 meters around it.

With its pacific blue, Lake Kivu itself offers a spectacular sight while its waters provide a meaning as a source of drinking water, for fisheries and a transportation corridor to the livelihoods of more than two million people from Rwandan and Congolese communities, including Clarisse’s family.

The main economic activities of these inhabitants are farming and fishing with the most abundant fish being isambaza, the Tanganyika sardines (Limnithrissa miodon). They were introduced into the lake in the 1960s to fill the obvious vacant niche of Kivu. Currently, only 31 fish species live in this lake compared to 400 species of Lake Tanganyika. This poor diversity in terms of biota is due to the steepness of the banks, age and the nature of the lake’s bottom.

The biodiversity of Rwanda is mainly conserved in protected areas like the three terrestrial national parks but these parks don’t represent the whole biodiversity and ecosystems of the country. For instance even if Lake Kivu’s fauna is poor due to its physical isolation or doesn’t shelter either hippopotamuses or crocodiles; it has several aquatic biodiversity, phytoplankton, zooplankton, more than 200 Afro-tropical superior plant species and vegetation.

Lake Kivu, situated around 100 miles north of Lake Tanganyika is a volcanic Lake of 2370 km2, almost the size of Mauritius or Moscow city, with a maximum depth that can attain 485m. It is located in the East African Rift Valley between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its uniqueness consists of the prodigious quantity of dissolved gases (carbon dioxide and methane gas) in the deep water and far from the mountainous shores.

Kivu is among the 3 lakes in the world with high dissolves volumes of CO2, the two others being Nyos and Monoum from Cameroon. But contrary to them, it contains a considerable amount of methane gas and if not exploited might erupt within a century.

On August 21, 1986, Lake Nyos emitted CO2 and suffocated fauna, flora, livestock and caused a loss of around 1800 human lives.

To shun such a disaster, Rwanda has started the extraction of methane from Kivu. The origin of this gas is not yet very well known and there have been hot debates around the subject. Scientists don’t agree on its origin, some assume that it is caused by earthquakes and volcanic activity. However, according to Dr Klaus Tietze, a German scientist, this gas is a result of bacterial reduction of the magmatic CO2 that leads to methane but along with bacterial fermentation of acetate[1] in sediments.

Currently, there is no imminent danger of explosion in Lake Kivu that threatens Clarisse’s community because gases are trapped below 260 meters. Up till now, these gases are not harmful to the biodiversity although they hinder the development and expansion of numerous species accommodated inside the water. The surface water is totally isolated from deep water where carbon dioxide and methane gas are located. The living organisms and biodiversity, especially fish species, are found in the biozone comprising only between the first 50 and 60 meters from the surface. Biozone is the part of the lake provided with sufficient oxygen to support life.

As the risk of “bang” is relatively low, Clarisse will still be able to earn some cash from amashyuza and contemplate the lonely triple-colored national flag fluttering on the methane gas extraction site. What prevents Kivu’s methane gas from exploding is the presence of several layers with different densities in addition to the fact that the water pressure is twice higher than the total of partial pressures from the gases. The bigger hydrostatic pressures from the water block the methane gas and CO2 from ascending to the surface and to have a calamitous effect on the lake’s biodiversity.

In order to reduce the accumulation of the gases in Kivu, the Rwandan Ministry of infrastructure and the Congolese Ministry of hydrocarbons operate hand in hand to ensure safe, environmental friendly and economically sustainable extraction of methane gas in the lake.

The Rwandan government has contracted private investors to start the degassing process. Since 2008, the extraction work has been ongoing on a government funded pilot project called Kibuye Power Ltd (PK1) under the Rwandan Energy Company. This company is currently extracting methane and produce electricity in Gisenyi, generating 3.6 MW. The KivuWatt is another project that is supposed to start in a near future with a potential of producing 100 MW, almost equal to the current national power consumption. Captivatingly, in addition to its other numerous benefits, Lake Kivu has an opportunity of producing 700 MW of power over the next 50 years.

It’s worth noting that Rwanda has established Lake Kivu Monitoring Program (LKMP) to circumvent negative impacts of a wrong extraction technology to the surrounding environment. This unit is mainly in charge of overseeing the plant inspection, near plants and lake wide levels. According to Mrs Augusta M. Christine Umutoni, the LKMP Programme manager, LKMP ensures public safety by maintaining the stability of the lake and preventing any potential gas eruption, thus avoiding any hazardous impacts on the environment and people as well as maximizing the socio economic benefits.

The effectiveness of Kivu Lake Monitoring Program to prevent environmental hazards will enable the few fish species to evolve in the waters of this small and young lake of East African Rift valley. The local people will keep fishing in Lake Kivu; will continue to offer tourism boat tours and to trade with the neighboring Congo. But also Rwanda has gained another source of power generation that gradually will help to reduce the gap between national electricity demand and supply.

Even if Methane gas is being extracted and averts the outburst risk, the volume of electricity produced under KP1 is still insignificant considering the national consumption and Lake Kivu neighboring communities do not yet benefit from this power that their natural resource breeds. Clarisse is currently using the tadowa, a kerosene traditional lamp, to do her school homework. She is hoping that that electricity produced in Gisenyi and channeled in the national grid, will one day reach her house through the national rural electrification program.

But s long as the methane gas extraction prevents the detriment of the ecosystems, Gisenyi local communities gain from the surrounding biodiversity to earn their livings. Clarisse’s parents will still be able to farm their lands and pay her school fees. Her older brothers income from fishing will allow them to build their future households and she will keep making pocket money from the massage and satisfy her adolescence basic needs.

 


[1] Acetate is a salt or ester of acetic acid especially used to make fibers or plastic.

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

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.

I didn’t choose to be poor. If I had to click, I would have selected to be born by a woman with Aishwarya Rai’s beauty and a father with Aliko Dangote’s richess.

If I had created myself, I would have made a woman who would be as perfect as goddess.

If I had created myself, I would have made a handsome and intelligent man.

If I had to choose a country to be born in, I would have chosen the country of sun, milk and honey. But I was born here.

If I had to choose a house, I would have opted for a palace and not a hut; not that hurriedly built with the help of my neighbors. But I would build a house that I would have taken time to dream about, design and create.

But I was born here

The place where I was born, I don’t hate it. No! But I hate sleeping on the floor, I hate feeling a minuscule stone jammed between my ribs, offering the passage to a gentle but violent wind that penetrates to cause me an illness that the doctor will later on call pneumonia. That wind sneaked into my ribs, created a silent and sharp pain and shortening my life span.

Mr Rich was pissed off and told me:

“But go to the hospital!”

I wanted to laugh because he ignored the fact that I didn’t have enough strength as I slept with an empty stomach. He ignored that last night; I offered my last piece of sweet potato to my son to calm his tears. He crunched it raw with his budding teeth.

Ohh! You call me a lazy and neglecting mother?

Are you kidding me? The forest, where I used to amass firewood, is locked with wire for they have decided to protect the environment! Isn’t it weird? It would be hilarious if the mucous membrane of my stomach were not torn up from swallowing empty air.

We protect the environment! What irony! They protect it against me and they don’t protect it against tycoons who cut its trees yet I am hungrier than them! I desire food but their hunger is for dosh. iBelieve me, no one blurs the hunger of wealth.

Ohh! You need more evidence you say?

The riches, you surround yourselves with necessity, comfort, luxury and then folly.

Ohh! You think I am lying?

Here is an example. You buy clothes to wear and protect yourself against the cold and pneumonia that gnaws ribs; isn’t that necessity? You buy more than a pair of clothes, isn’t that comfort? You buy flossy clothes that match your shapes and liking and appease your moods; isn’t that luxury? And you sink in the folly when you reach marques: Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Prada.

Ohh! It was not a good example? Do you mean I mentioned the caprices of your wife, Sir?

Ah, here is another example for you in that case! You have the right to dream about traveling: Necessity. You can afford economy class flight: Comfort. You realize that the cabin space is too small; I can’t close my eyes in the economy category.

It’s too much, I have to join the business class: Luxury. And then,… there, there is the other guy, the other millionaire. He can’t watch my throat when I am eating! He can’t see me sleeping because he might guess my weaknesses. Why do I have to drink the same wine brand as him while I am at the top of Forbes’ richest men in the current century and him somewhere in the middle of the list? This must change, I need a private jet, isn’t this folly?

Silence.

Ohh! I don’t understand, you say? Yeah, explain to me Sir, because I don’t understand neither why you surround yourself with necessity, comfort, luxury and… folly while I am still struggling for the necessity?

Ohh! I should work harder?

What is the definition of working harder, Sir? From 5 am to 3 pm, I am in the field cultivating my land. I saw the sky thirsting, my land drying up and my harvest disappearing. In the radio, the other day, they said that your corporation contributed to global warming. And it prevents regular rains…

Ohh! You don’t want me to raise the climate change debate? Should we talk about something else, Sir?

OK. Let’s come back on your recent interview? You mentioned it was a shame that I condemn my children to die from non-communicable diseases at the age 19 or 30 years?

Ohh! You are shaking your shoulders? So you still agree with that, Sir? Do you mean I should go on?

Hmm, the only reason why I don’t properly feed my children is because I can’t afford proper food. Organic food is just too expensive. The place where I live offers only junk food! I can’t afford a cab to go finding better food elsewhere although I have coins for public transport. But if your company could increase my honorarium, perhaps I will start dreaming about healthy food.

Ohh! My wages totally fall in the legal range?

Didn’t you know that the systems in place favor your avarice? Ooh, sorry I was thinking loudly, I meant your business? But I was wondering why did these systems forget people like me? Why did these systems forget people who live in the stench? Yesterday after your interview I heard a certain Bryan Stevenson saying that the opposite of poverty is not wealth but injustice. What do you think about this concept?

Ohh! You think that having everything is not a form of injustice?

Do you believe that having nothing is destiny? Because I did not choose this destiny. I was born this way and I don’t know how to exit.

Ohh! Work hard, you say? You amass wealth to ensure a brilliant future for your children?

If I understand well my destitution has to serve the future of your children? Don’t you think you underestimate their talents? If they are your progeny, they should have inherited your genius genes and should therefore build their own empires!

Ohh! It’s not what you meant? I am sorry it is what I thought. You meant you wanted a brighter future for them. That’s all.

But why do you think about their future and neglect my present? Why did you forget your past? The journalist said you were born in miserable conditions, worked hard and became rich? This hurts me more. What did your poverty serve?

Ohh! motivation for hard working!

No I wanted to say what did your poverty serve to people like us who work hard but don’t make a way?

Silence.

Ohh! You don’t know? You fund humanitarian organizations?

This hurts even more. Why does your money have to go through all these complex channels? Why don’t you increase our salaries? Why don’t you pay for our health insurance? Why don’t you invest in our retirement? Why not directly act? Because I believe if everyone contributes something and does his individual good, the world around us becomes noble and several small noble worlds form one unique better world.

Ohh! what do I suggest?

Many things but first of all stop creating a world where I suit for a case study, become a statistic and serve as an NGO mission, just because I am poor.

Then, Sir, come to the poor, us who are ready to help you, to teach you and give you intangible wealth even as we draw from you.

Come and discover our universe of destitution, come with a heart ready to suffer with us, a heart without arrogance or pretention. Come with a soul ready to experience the richness of true poverty. If you were born poor, grew rich, I wish you to die poor as you will have understood the secret of life.

Ohh! Why would you do that?

You are right. For that, the living poor will protect and bless your children. You will have created a bright future for your children. No one will ever hurt them, as they will always remember the generosity of their father.

Ohh! And you? What do you win?

I thought you amass treasures for your children? Brief, If you really help the poor today, you get your margin later on because life is short and I have no idea where we go after it’s over.

Ohh! This conversation ends here, you say?

Ok. Thank you for listening to me, Monsieur.

Ohh! Before I step out, whom do I call a rich person?

Sir, I don’t have a precise definition. It is absolutely not a white, a yellow or a black person. It is not that but everyone who owes and keeps an extra something that could save his neighbor who doesn’t possess it. So, it can be everyone who has something to offer, but it starts by you Sir!

Silence.

Kigali. A Sunday morning, I woke up from a nightmare; my whole naked body was sweating. I yawned while stretching largely my arms. It was a rainy day and I was feeling lazy, I wish I could lay down on my bed and listen to the radio. Instead, I put my hand around my mouth to detect its smell. It was not a rose perfume. I yawned more to let in fresh air. My naked body made the hard choice to remove the grey blanket, wake up and tie up a green and yellow colored kitenge at the top of my breasts in order to cover my body.

I thanked heaven for granting us another day, though it was rainy. I put my bare feet on the ground and felt the cold floor. The chilliness climbed from my feet to my head and gave me goose bumps. The cold reached my heart too. It was not the same cold, but rather a feeling of resentment towards my mother, she had always been emotionless with me and had never loved me.

My mother had conceived me after a night of passion with her first cousin. The whole family cursed her for incest and consequently I was the abominable fruit of that sin. The rumors in my family said that my biological dad either ran away forever or wwalked willingly into an early grave. I have never met him apart from the yellowing picture that auntie Emerance kept in a soapbox under her bed.

“Umwali?”

That was the voice of my mother. I had never called her mum as other normal kids do. For me, she was always Yvette. So I hated to hear her calling my name in the morning. I did not respond. She repeated my name, almost screaming. I felt my body fill with bitterness.

“I want to step on clean floor when I get up.”

I took the broom and started sweeping the yard. Since the floor was wet, mud got stuck on it and made it heavier and harder for me to sweep. I thought that I was not blessed because of the scandalous union from which I was born. I felt sinful. Everyone in my neighborhood, including small children, blamed me for being the daughter of my parents.

While I was cleaning our compound, I was contemplating my future wedding, organized by Auntie Emerance in collaboration with Yvette. I was still in my kitenge and auntie Emerance came to our house. She barely greeted me and walked quickly almost running to Yvette’s room.

I was twenty-three years old and I was going to get married to Ernest. Auntie Emerance, who had been in discussion with the middle-aged man, was now negotiating the bride’s dowry. The two women picked him for his fat wallet. With powerlessness, I had let them decide whom I would marry. That union did not particularly interest me but I knew it will offer me a permanent refuge, far from Yvette. Besides that,…

Ernest was not a poor man. Why not marry him?

Perhaps he would pay my university education. Why not marry him?

Perhaps he will bring happiness to my life. Why not marry him?

I had only completed secondary school where I was living in a boarding school. Living far from my home brought fleeting peace as I was far from Yvette and our neighbors. I was no longer the incest bastard. As auntie Emerence and Yvette planned my wedding, I did not invite my classmates. There was nothing to invite people about. In fact I did not have that many friends. The only good friend I ever had was Noel, a nice guy and only him knew about the wedding.

Few days before the wedding, I went to see the house that I would be living in with Ernest. It was a nice house covered with a red roof, its walls were made up with a beige paint. Its interior was decorated by vulgar luxury furniture that gave the house an aura of pretention and fakeness. I pictured myself as the woman of the house and this simple thought brought a smile to my lips and pride to my heart.

I took time to know the place and get familiar with what would become my new space. Ernest was in town doing a last minute shopping for the wedding. As I was touring, I shyly opened the room that would be ours in few days.

I was impressed by the largeness of the bed. Inside the expansive wardrobe, I touched my husband-to-be’s clothes. In the right corner were his mostly black and brown shoes. On the right side, I saw female clothes and shoes that looked so familiar. It was a strange thing to discover in a single man’s bedroom.

I first thought that they were my surprise gift. But then I saw my mother’s ballerinas and immediately, all excitement disappeared from me, like a deflated balloon. The blood in my veins cruised; I thought I would have a heart attack.   I could recognize the shoes among a thousand because of their color- that of an unripe apple. I opened up the clothes and found out that they were Yvette’s. The stupid question that came to my mind was:

-What could my mother’s clothes be doing in my future husband’s closet four days before my wedding?

I ran out the room and fell into an old woman in the corridor. My left arm hit her left shoulder and she knocked her head on the beige wall. I thought she would not survive and briefly forgot my own emotional shock as I helped her back on her feet. My eyes met hers. It seemed as if her she wore contact lenses that made her eyes looked greyish, bleached and magical. The word witchcraft crossed my mind like a shooting star springing across the sky.

I was wondering who she was and what she was doing in my house to be. Her Kinyarwanda was unintelligible due to old age; I had to double my attention. She told me that she was Ernest’s grandmother. I took her to one of the rooms of the house that I had not yet visited. She was staying there and had specifically come for the weeding. The old woman refused to tell me her name, as culture dictated. It was her first time to travel to Kigali, the capital.

Instead of voodoo items, I found in her room an old Latin book, a lot of Catholic objects and a yellow bottle that used to contain Mukwano, the cheap cooking oil. The yellow jerry can contained holy water. Using some dry grass, she spread it on my hands to purify my heart.

Once she finished, she put a rosary around my neck and started to fervently praying in Latin and then in Kinyarwanda:

Ku bw’ububabare bwe bukabije,

Tugirire impuhwe kandi uzigirire n’isi yose.

Ku bw’ububabare bwe bukabije,

Tugirire impuhwe kandi uzigirire n’isi yose.

Maraso n’amazi byavuye mu mutima wa Yezu, we soko y’impuhwe atugirira, turabiringiye.

After the long prayers, she narrated to me the story behind my arranged marriage.

“I know that this will break your heart forever but as future married woman, you are already strong and you need to know the truth about the pain that awaits you. The truth is…”

Yvette was Ernest’s concubine. That’s why her cursed clothes were in the house. They had been together for more than two years. Ernest’s family has been pressuring him to get married and settle down but they didn’t want him to bring an older and probably infertile woman. As the old woman was telling me the story, I touched my back to feel if nobody was forcefully thrusting a spear in my back because the pain I felt in my heart couldn’t just be emotional.

After realizing that she would not get Ernest into her grip, Yvette decided to offer him her sole daughter. I was in a shock and constantly was shaking my head to confirm that I was not dreaming. The agreement the two lovers had made was that Yvette would give him a virgin bride who would give him children. In return, the middle-aged man would take care of her.

Your mother hates you since you entered her womb. What else can you do?

You will marry my grandson in few days. What else can you do?

He is only interested in your virginity and vigorous body. What else can you do?

Sometimes, I wondered if Yvette was in reality a wicked witch. She knew how to manipulate people, to secretly plot things and get to her ends. I was wondering how could a human mother do such horrible thing to her child? How did she know I was still virgin?

How did she know I would marry Ernest without objecting? I was relieved that I did not invite my school friends; I couldn’t bear to hear their comments after the ceremony. At least I could now understand why Ernest was shy and did not take too much time to talk to me or to get to know me better. Why he had always dealt with Auntie Emerance and Yvette. He was not interested in me.

I stumbled away from Ernest’s grandmother, dizzy and in need of a friend. I grabbed a motorcycle on the roadside, swinging the keys of my new hell. On my way, I asked the motor rider to take me to Gikondo where my only genuine friend Noel lived. I was wondering if he would be home. I did not want to call him, as I was afraid that my voice betrayed the pain I was going through. I instead sent him a short SMS telling him that I was coming.

That night I offered him the only thing I was in position of denying to Ernest, I almost begged him to take my virginity and I knew if he said no, I would go to someone else. Fortunately Noel kept me for the night. He offered me comfort for a few hours, he sang for me for some minutes and he loved me for long seconds.

When I woke up the next morning, my body was hurting but not my heart. It was as if I was now immunized to pain. When I got home, the dark skin of Yvette had almost turned dark blue because of rage.

“I’ve been looking for you the whole night. Where were you?” She asked in a voice she could no longer control.

“I went to invite my friends to the wedding and it rained. So I stayed with them.”

“Why was your phone off?”

“I did not charge it enough.”

“Why?”

“Because you have confiscated my charger, again.”

She inspected me with her ugly eyes searching for signs of a lie. She did not find any. I was amusedly wondering what would happen if she knew I was no longer virgin, what would happen if she knew that the treasure that she bet for my wedding was gone, gone in night time, gone as with the wind? Perhaps her heart would burst and she would spit snakes of her nastiness.

Outside the house, I heard Uwase, our long-term neighbor saying:

“Ohhh God is able. I did not that Umwali could also find a husband!”

On the wedding day, as required, we had a civil wedding, a traditional ceremony and a church service. I saw auntie Emerance and Yvette in shining and bright traditional clothes, umushanana.

They were genuinely joyful and I was wondering how much money each would get for my wedding. Their delight was easily communicable to the guests who came witness my shame.

At the reception, I saw Ernest’s grandmother in white umushanana and felt likeI she was my guardian angel. We exchanged sad smiles but her transparent eyes remained blank. As people were eating, drinking and chatting, Ernest stood up and headed to the microphone. His rich friends clapped for him. He told everyone how much his wife and himself were overjoyed to host everyone. At that moment, I wondered which wife he was referring to: my mother or me?

He cleared his throat and started singing for me. Again, I asked myself which other hypocrite game had he planned to play? As he sang, the silent eyes of my family members ourged me to join him on the stage. I flashed my fakest smile, lifed my heavy white wedding dress and joined Ernest, who honestly not musically talented.

The audience was frenetically clapping for Ernest, which encouraged him to sing even louder. I was wondering if they were more motivated by the delicious food and abundant drinks than by the awful singing.

I had the feeling that as my husband murdered musical notes, the worst DJ of the world was playing the worst song of the world. It was funny because I was feeling no emotion at my own wedding party. I was feeling like another guest in another wedding ceremony.

After the shameful performance, Ernest hugged me energetically and one of my earrings fell down. At that moment, people applauded and I saw Noel in the crowd. He looked elegant but sad. My memory went back to our night and I burst in tears. Our guests thought I had been touched by my husband’s declaration of love.

People liked emotional brides so they clapped more and more as tears poured down my powdered cheeks with more ferocity. Soon afterwards, guests started filing down to the stage to congratulate us. I was still crying and Noel was standing in the hall watching me. People hugged me or Ernest and the only man who could really console me couldn’t. Ernest’s grandmother brought me back to reality.

“Let him go. He is not for your present. A long suffering awaits you my child. But only a scar on a backbone will save you.”

I was too tired to interpret her wise but mysterious words. That night, I escaped from Ernest’s lust pretending to be too tired. The next day, he chased people from our house so we could have intimacy. Even his grandmother went back to her village in Karongi. I had tried to ask her what she wanted to say when she said that only a scar on a backbone would save me. She stubbornly remained quiet.

I was worried about what would happen after everyone left. The presence of our families in the first days of my marriage gave me a feeling of security. But now, I was alone with Ernest and I had to confess that I felt terrorized.

He was a stranger to me and I was already sharing the room and the bed with him. As I feared, once I was in the room alone with him, he took me brutally. I felt an unprecedented pain in every single cell of my female body. I swallowed all of that pain and waited for him to finish. In the middle of his frenzy, he realized I was no longer pure as Yvette promised him.

He smacked me so hard that I saw stars parading in front of my sight. For the first time, I felt bad joy. I felt alive and proud. They thought they played me but now I was proving them that I was also a human soul, with all the good and the bad that comes with it.

During the sunny summer of 2014, my friends and family organized my wedding with Flora. My mother was worried that she was marrying my treasure.

After my secondary school, I didn’t receive any scholarship. I refused to stress out my dad by asking him to sell more of his cows to pay my university tuition. As I was the sole son of my parents, he would have invested in my studies for I was considered as the heir of the family.

I rather joined my uncle in the mine business. We both worked for a German coltan company based in Gatumba mining zone. This job was the chance of my life, especially since I was freely hosted in one of the comfy company houses. It was a colonial house that breathed oldness and wisdom. I wondered how many stories that building had witnessed and how many secrets it kept, including mine.

During leisure time, I loved to seat on the porch and sip a glass of Amstel beer while learning a new language. I started by English.

One late afternoon, I went to Kigali to hang out with my friends and bought P1 English books. People looked at me strangely causing me to claim to the bookshop attendant that the books were just a gift for a niece that I didn’t have.

In the mining company, I occupied an isolated tiny office that smelt mildew where I could hide and learn English words that became a song in my head. I created a melody for them. “ An avocado, a baby, a cow, a dog, an egg, a fish, a goat, a house, an ice, a jug, a king, a lion, a mango, a nurse, an ox, a pen, a queen, a rose, a snake, a teacher, an umbrella, a vehicle, a woman, a yam and a zebra. That was my morning anthem.

Simultaneously, I was learning Swahili from Assuman, the company’s driver. He was a middle-aged Muslim man from Nyamirambo. On his forehead, he had a black star-shaped spot, proof that he had prayed over and over. He was always wearing takiya, the Muslim hat. He looked totally different once he removed it, perhaps due to his baldness. Although he was a respected Muslim man, his hidden sin was an addiction to a bottle of Primus. So after each Swahili lesson, I would reward him with a bottle of this popular Rwandan beer.

My English was also improving although I lacked occasions of practicing all the sentences I learnt to compose till the daughter of my German boss came to visit the family business. Her name was Grete. She was a pretty brunette. She enjoyed jogging with all village children and the kids were crazily shouting:

“Muzungu, muzungu, muzungu.”

During the holidays, she spent most of her time, in the mines, only travelling to Kigali during some weekends.

“I live in Berlin, why should I spend my holidays locked in another city?” she would say.

During her first days, she occupied a desk in her father’s office. Mr Müller was often upset that Grete always forgot to lock the office in his absence.

Most of my colleagues enjoyed socializing with the boss’s daughter. They liked to ask her how she could help them to go to Europe or if she could help them find wealthy European families to support their further studies. As for me, I just half-smiled to Grete whenever I ran into her in the corridor. However, she became my problem when her papa asked her to occupy the vacant desk in my small office as a punishment of not locking his office.

Her presence in my office was not an issue but she was too talkative for my liking, often posing many questions in halting French. Unlike her, I loved to work quietly, focusing on my finance-related tasks. I really didn’t know how to make Grete understand that I needed silence.

She would ask, “Benjamin, do you think, that I should ride a bike to Gisenyi?”

Or

“Ben, basing on your experience, do you think I should trust Assuman?”

She would really make me think.

The first days, I listened to her stories; and one day, I fell asleep in a middle of a story about a place she had visited in the Philipines. When I woke up, she was in a South American village. I saw my productivity sinking during Grete’s presence in our shared office. I would breathe deep sighs of relief whenever she was touring the mines with Assuman. As time progressed, I got used to her stories, usually surprising myself guessing what the next story would be about.

What surprised me with Grete was that she had a deep respect for people from all the countries she had visited courtesy of her rich dad. Even when she was telling me a story of local children in Gatumba, she genuinely expressed kindness.

One day, when I was out, Grete found my English books. I thought that she would naturally laugh at me but she offered me her kind help instead. Gradually, Grete and I became friends and people started gossiping. Her father became a little bit concerned that she spent more time locked with a male accountant in an office.

He thought it was more appropriate to take her back in his main office. Rumors circulated around the mines that I had seduced the boss’s daughter and my uncle came to talk to me.

I was astonished at his fury. I had done nothing wrong apart from learning English with Grete. The next morning, she came to greet me and we were both embarrassed because of the rumors. She shyly smiled and apologized for any inconvenience. On my side, I was just praying that she disappears before her father appears. She however made dropped by my office on subsequent days armed with many reasons:

To say Hi…

To ensure that your English doesn’t regress…

To bring you a cup of a tea during a rainy day…

I was actually missing her stories. I couldn’t tell her of course! I didn’t want to create more tensions between us. Apart from those morning visits, the rest of my days were calm. I could refocus on my work. Till…

One weekend, I had chosen to stay in my house because of the gloomy weather. I was curled in the sofa watching Prison Break when I heard a knock on the main door.

Who could it be? I wondered. Since my houseboy Fils was out watching a Manchester United game, I dragged myself from the sofa and walked to the door to open it. My baggy shorts were scant protection from the cold that instantly assaulted me. As I let her in, my mind was full of questions.

Why would she come to my place in pouring rain?

She didn’t volunteer an answer and we instead found ourselves in a very stupid conversation. I was afraid that my uncle or her papa would suddenly appear from anywhere.

“What were you up to?” She asked in voice softened by the chillness.

“Watching a TV show.”

“Ohh!! Which one?”

“Prison Break, season three!”

She was sitting next to me, her eyes fixed on my laptop screen. I could see the reflection of her blue eyes on the screen. I was nervous wondering what would happen if her papa and my uncle found us like that. I implored God to save me from that situation. Since she had come in the rain, she was wet and her dark curly hair was glued on her head, making her skull look smaller. I got up and opened my wardrobe. I took the blue pen towel and gave it to her so that she could dry herself.

“Do you have a t-shirt?”

I nodded and went back to the same compartment in my wardrobe. I took a grey cotton polo and handled it to her.

I dropped it down when I saw that she had removed her light dress, revealing a small red underwear. Her body was tinier than I thought. In my head, I saw the image of Mr. Müller’ face red with anger. Grete’s eyes were transfixed on me. She looked like a roman statute. I tried my best to prevent my eyes to from descending to her breasts but failed miserably. They were firm and pink. She made a step forward, I moved back. She was damn beautiful.

We went back to Prison Break but my heart was cruising at 120 km per hour. I resisted the temptation. For God’s sake, Grete was my boss’s daughter. I didn’t want to lose my job. So I had to resist. But when her soft hands touched the back of my neck, I collapsed.

She played Weus’d A Herz Hast Wia A Bergwerk, a romantic German popular song by Rainhard Fendrich. She murmured into my eye that the rumors in the mines were true, that she was crazy about me.

That night, she taught me love. She was the first woman that I touched and I was the first black guy in her life.

Grete Müller stayed for the whole weekend. She tired me out…

On Monday, everyone in the mines knew that the boss’s daughter spent three nights in my house.

Mr Müller’s face was as red as I had predicted. That Monday, he bought a KLM air ticket. On Tuesday, Grete flew back to Berlin without saying goodbye and giving me back my grey cotton polo.

Mr Müller did not fire me but we had a man-to-man agreement that was witnessed by my uncle who had worked for his company for more than twenty years. Mr Müller knew that his daughter was attracted to me and would only give up on me if she ever knew that I was married. Mr Müller gave me a three-month deadline to get married or he would fire me.

The only problem was that I wasn’t dating any girl and I didn’t want to lose my job. I was the one providing for my whole family and had started building a house in Kanombe, a neighborhood near the Kigali international Airport. I didn’t have a university degree so I couldn’t apply for jobs. I didn’t want to lose everything and I didn’t want my family to lose in the game. I took the decision of getting married.

My friend Eugene told me, “Nowadays, it is easier to find a bride than a job. We will find you a beautiful girl worthy your wealth.”

This is how they got me Flora. The woman I married in the sunny summer of 2014.

Bélise se leva, déplia sa jupe kaki et alla demander la permission de sortir de la salle de classe pour aller se soulager. À vrai dire, elle s’ennuyait de son cours de chimie, qui devrait durer deux heures. Elle avait l’impression d’y avoir passé une éternité. Mais Mr Cyuma, son professeur de chimie lui refusa la permission.

« Tu dois attendre la récréation ». Argumenta-t-il.

Ses camarades de classe se moquèrent gentiment d’elle. Ils la connaissaient bien pour deviner ses intentions. En retournant s’asseoir, la jeune fille bailla sans retenue. Elle n’aimait pas la chimie, elle n’aimait pas les sciences enseignées en classe, elle préférait les découvrir de sa propre manière, à travers les livres.

Bélise s’asseyait au troisième banc en rangée du milieu. Sa classe de 5e secondaire était constituée de trois rangées qu’occupaient 28 élèves. Elle contempla sa classe peinte d’orange et blanc, les autres élèves étaient concentrés. Elle ne voulait pas papoter car le dérangement en classe était sanctionné et la punition était le balayage de la cour de recréation. Bélise partageait son pupitre avec Mahoro, une jeune fille de 17 ans tout comme elle. La seule différence entre les deux adolescentes était qu’au contraire de Bélise, Mahoro était une passionnée de sciences.

Bélise rouvrit le roman qu’elle lisait ; Marc Lévy l’entraînait dans un univers de fous. Elle voulait changer de distraction mais elle avait peur de prendre une bande dessinée de Tintin car vu sa taille. Le professeur la remarquerait plus vite qu’un roman. Bélise mâcha machinalement le chewing-gum en comptant les minutes qui n’avançaient guère. Mr Cyuma se retourna du tableau où il notait la leçon du jour, ses mains étaient salies par la poussière de la craie. Il annonça d’une voix nette :

« Aujourd’hui, je ne vous donnerai pas une interrogation improvisée, mais je ferai un contrôle de cahiers de notes ! Chacun sera côté ! »

Un murmur se fit entendre dans la salle, le professeur leva sa main pour imposer le silence et arrêta le brouhaha.

« Ça, alors », pensa Bélise, paniquée par le fait que ses notes étaient irrégulières.

Mr Cyuma fit la ronde de la salle de classe, en notant individuellement chaque cahier. Bélise n’osa même pas présenter le sien, tellement il était plus vide que rempli.

- Monsieur, commença-t-elle, je l’ai oublié à la maison…. Au fait pour être honnête, on me l’a volé.

De sa main tachetée par la craie, le prof de chimie colla un zéro bien rouge à Bélise. Il ne goba pas les mensonges de la jeune adolescente. Sous la menace d’être définitivement suspendue du cours de chimie, Bélise présenta son cahier.

« Est-ce un cahier de notes ou juste un brouillon ? » demanda Mr Cyuma en montrant le cahier de Bélise au reste de la classe. Va m’attendre à la porte.

«  Ca craint ! » commenta Thierry Muhire, un élève de la même classe. Chauffe-toi car une fessée t’attend.

Sur le pas de la porte de la classe, Bélise guettait dans toutes les directions craignant que le directeur du Lycée ne passe et l’interpelle. À la fin du cours, elle fut amenée dans le bureau du préfet des études. Elle était avec Bosco, le footballeur et Marine, la fille qui sortait d’un congé de maladie. A l’exception de Marine, les fautes de deux autres élèves furent jugées graves. Le préfet convoqua leurs parents.

«  Foutaises de foutaises » Se lamenta-t-elle, n’osant pas imaginer la fureur de ses parents. Ils allaient la tuer!

Sa mère Véronique se présenta à son école le lendemain. Le comportement irresponsable de sa fille l’avait surprise et choquée.

« Tu es en 5e année ! Pense un peu comme une fille de ton âge ! »

Bélise se sentit incomprise. Sa mère ne voyait donc pas qu’elle n’aimait pas étudier !? C ‘était pourtant simple comme bonjour. C’était à peine si elle réussissait ses cours ! Il n’y avait que les langues où elle excellait. Ce qui désenchantait profondément ses parents. . Ils la voulaient scientifique, elle se rêvait artiste.

Son père décida alors de la prendre en main. Chaque jour, il rentrait plus tôt pour surveiller ses heures d’études ainsi que ses devoirs et il contrôlait ses cahiers. Petit à petit, ses résultats s’améliorèrent. Elle remonta la pente, s’efforçant d’aimer les sciences et le plan marcha ; même si au début, c’était comme boire umubirizi, une plante médicinale reconnue pour être particulièrement amère. L’année suivante, Bélise réussit son examen national et obtint une bourse d’état pour aller à l’université où elle brilla sous l’œil satisfait de ses parents.

Les années passèrent ! Les unes après les autres. Belise se remémorai de ces instants en souriant mélancoliquement. Elle avait fini par suivre la voie que ses parents avaient choisie pour elle. Elle avait fini par s’entendre bien avec eux. Grâce à ses études en gestion de projets, elle avait décroché un boulot en gestion de petites et moyennes entreprises. Elle avait appris à ignorer cette petite voix qui, incessamment lui rappelait sa passion pour l’art. Son cœur rebondissait à chaque fois qu’elle entendait parler des noms des femmes artistes. Elle enviait les peintres, les chanteuses et les écrivaines car elles, vivaient leurs propres rêves. Un rêve qu’elle avait seulement caressé du bout des doigts, puis enterré sous l’effet de la pression familiale. Elle avait toujours senti un sentiment de culpabilité l’envahir et avait appris à se raisonner.

«On est à Kigali , ma grande ! Lui conseillait Marlène, sa meilleure amie depuis l’enfance. On est pas à Paris, il ne faut pas trop rêver. Tu as regardé beaucoup de films, c’est tout.

Ce soir-la en rentrant Bélise ouvrit un vieux carton où elle avait gardé toutes les nouvelles et histoires qu’elle avait écrites. Elle toussota sous l’effet des résidus de poussière que les vieilles pages dégageaient. Elle sourit tristement en époussetant ses cahiers de poèmes qu’elle avait tellement chéris dans le passé, et qui désormais sentaient la moisissure. Une larme s’échappa et un doigt l’arrêta au beau milieu de la joue. Elle ne comprenait pas. Elle ne se comprenait plus. Pourquoi pleurait-elle alors qu’elle avait un bon travail et du talent que les autres lui enviaient ? Pourquoi cette soudaine tristesse face à un sentiment d’absence ? Elle passa la soirée en nettoyant soigneusement ses anciens cahiers. Elle les relut et se sentit revivre. Elle admira son innocence d’antan, sa pureté et sa naïveté. Elle sourit encore et son cœur se remplit d’apaisement. Elle écouta enfin sa petite voix, celle qui lui chuchotait d’oser. Elle prit une feuille et les mots se déversèrent tous seuls.

De cet instant, elle décida de raviver cette flamme. Elle fut surprise par les cloches de trois heures du matin. Elle avait encore vidé son cœur, couchant son contenu sur un arbre transformé en papier. Elle savoura ce simple plaisir de la vie. Tant pis si elle avait tord ou pas. Durant les jours qui suivirent, l’élan restait toujours présent comme un amour retrouvé. Elle écrivait, écrivait et écrivait. Son boulot devint secondaire et sa performance chuta.

Finalement, Bélise prit la décision de démissionner. Mais elle s’avisa et prit d’abord son congé annuel : Le temps de réfléchir. Durant ce temps, elle nourrit son esprit d’histoires car elle lisait et écrivait. Quand elle lut le roman de Callixte Béyala, « c’est le soleil qui m’a brûlée », elle éclata en sanglot. Elle ressentait un tel immense bonheur de découvrir ce qu’elle appelait son semblable. Au bout de ses jours de congé, elle décida de ne pas abandonner son travail car il lui inspirait à écrire. Elle décida de le conjuguer avec sa passion. Elle ignorait si un jour ses écrits seraient partagés au reste du monde, en tout cas, en attendant, elle écrirait encore et toujours !

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