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Police action on the stadium couple leaves everyone a winner

Leave a comment / By: manifel / 07 April, 2021 11:13:16AM
Police action on the stadium couple leaves everyone a winner

“Civil and religious weddings will continue but should not exceed 20 persons and must comply with all COVID-19 preventive measures. Receptions are not permitted.” This is rule ‘q’ of the most recent Rwanda Cabinet Resolutions of the 29 March 2021 meeting. This is where we need to start from as we examine whether it was right or not, first to arrest and later parade to media the bride and the groom who along with their entourage broke the rule. They were found at a wedding reception with 57 guests. That as we all know is way more than the acceptable number.

Various people have been arguing in favor of the newly-wed couple since their pictures started circulating everywhere on social as well as in main-stream media. Most voices are alleging lack of empathy on the part of Rwanda National Police to have acted in the way they did. The amount of logic you might end up assigning to this argument will mainly depend on how narrowly or broadly the angle you decide to view it from.

Some aspects of the tale are not even debatable at all. For example, it is true that the young couple’s plans were to ensconce themselves in a bedroom somewhere, on the first night after making to each other their historical matrimonial vows. But instead, they spent it in open view of everyone inside a cold stadium. Even then I want to think that it was right to hold accountable these two youthful citizens who were understandably consumed in their single-day VIP status thereby forgetting that COVID-19 does not respect romantic moments. My question is: if ABAGENI deserve police mercy, what does a mistake as grave as aggravating the risk of spreading the killer virus deserve? I hear voices lamenting that the act was highly controversial. For me, the real controversy has instead been slowly unfolding before our eyes every weekend. That in a country like Rwanda known the world over for strictness in observance of COVID-19 protocols, with a police force renown for efficiency in law enforcement, wedding receptions still took place openly in public places.

As a country Rwanda long resolved to fight the virus in a certain way and authorities made it categorically known to everyone through a relentless media campaign and other fora that all shall abide. There is no doubting that the path chosen in the fight against the pandemic has greatly served the purpose and still does. The result has been a solid commitment to keep the vigilance high for what it has been worth. Nevertheless, somehow folks will time and again create a false impression in own minds that Cabinet somehow did not exactly mean what they decided on and wrote down. And that by extension police also will likely not be bothered much with enforcement of these resolutions. 

 

Yet this is Rwanda, so surely, I will remind them now that they will care more. Are people taking this long to notice that we fight in Kinyarwanda? Haven’t we had enough examples to show that our language for fighting the scourge of corona is not Swahili, with due respect? Or should it not have been clear by now that the killer virus shall not be fought in that kind-toned lingo which almost sounds like, but is not exactly our language? In this country authorities make rules and relevant organs enforce them. There is zero pretense and little time to waste, because Government means business – Imvugo ni yo ngiro. The opposite is laxity, which will not take far a people still far and need to go far very fast.

Impunity, a product of laxity, is not something we need to grow. Succinctly put, impunity nurtures crime. There is no better time to resolve and recommit to shunning impunity, knowing only so well who we lost, these whom we remember today, owing to impunity.

Compliance with laws and rules, the opposite of impunity, gives a lot. It ensures freedoms, breeds peace and lasting happiness, saves lives, protects property, creates wealth, and endears the created to the creator. See where Rwanda is and where we want to go. Technologically we are an infant nation, and our level of industrialization is nowhere near up there. Besides, the geographical territory does not favor extensive agricultural farming. And remember the country’s mineral deposits are not yet confirmed to be present in amounts to brag home about. 

Nonetheless we are a hopeful lot. We got something to sell to the world, and the world has been increasingly flocking to this country to buy it. That commodity is SERENITY. That Kigali is now the second most important center for conferences in Africa after Johannesburg is invaluable. The country already enjoys top position as a destination for mountain gorilla viewing. This tourism resource follows a remarkable conservation success story that is the recovery of the only great ape species living. To this add the bustling meetings industry, traditionally known as Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions, then you realize that we can thrive. Because minerals are not the only economic gem. In Rwanda’s case before COVID-19, MICE had been proven to have the potential of racking up upwards of USD 100 million annually, with a possibility of at least doubling the figure in three years.

Rwanda has become an oasis of security, an iconic symbol of law and order where good citizens and visitors enjoy a rare state of living free from trouble, in a clean environment with an atmosphere personifying peace and calmness amidst a bustling region. The essentials took time to put in place but in place they are now firmly put. It took consistency and a strong resistance to the ever-present pull from the human spirit of readiness to compromise the ingredients. Key among these ingredients is tough love, no one being above the law and sacrificing sentimental feelings, all for the gain of promised sustainable economic growth and the social security good which comes at its end. 

The most recent victim-cum-beneficiary of this famed tough love is this good newly-wed couple nabbed for breaching the COVID-19 rule on receptions. Seeing the bride and the groom in regalia proudly of their choice but seated in a place they were only dragged into evokes emotion. But that is when one conveniently, if not carelessly, ignores the regrettably severe effects of lockdowns. In the past whenever the country has been forced into a lockdown, it is the poor who have suffered most. Come to think of it, these vulnerable masses always must bear the brunt of unnecessary and avoidable excesses of their well-to-do fellow countrymen. These people who afford finely decorated wedding receptions complete with several layered cakes and gowns lazily trailing several meters behind the bride, will be belching inside their comfortable homes during lockdowns as the disadvantaged miss out on their daily subsistence incomes. It is mainly these whom Cabinet has in mind during deliberations. These are primarily in the mind of Rwanda National Police as the force passionately goes about their noble cause of ensuring human security.

Having said that, those labeling the wedding a complete fiasco need to reconsider their conclusions. Let people be reminded that much as there was an unwanted side to the events, the wide publicity freely obtained does not in any way hurt the couple’s chances of living well here after. Gaining instant celebrity status for the wrong reason can spectacularly boost popularity. I can bet that the empathy the couple did not get from RNP will be recouped from several other sympathetic sources. There is a likelihood that adequate recompense in form of goodwill might as a result pleasantly flock in.

And when that happens everyone will end up a winner. First, through wide publicity of the action, the police will have achieved the desired effect of deterrence and raised compliance. Never mind the random sacrificial lamb. Second, the public benefits by erasing any lingering doubts regarding the rule prohibiting receptions. Thirdly, from the unintended appearance in the stadium at night on their wedding day, the couple will have gained unsolicited national attention which they can even capitalize on to start an empathetic charitable work. Before that stage, I can see potential employers, particularly among the NGO and development partners world falling over each other to have the chance of recruiting these two young people. I foresee World Health Organization taking the lead on this. 

In the end it becomes possible to feel differently now, about the whole story. See the police action as plausible on one hand and on the other feel empathetic to the stadium couple. I personally feel good about it all.

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