4 hours drive from Kampala city is Mubende district, a place I grew up in East Western Uganda, a place dominated by many Rwandans and Banyoro - a minority tribe in Uganda.
As a young girl often identified as ‘Munyamurenge’ nothing ever occurred to me that there was a place I belonged.
I remember my father driving his old carina, every December holidays in the early 90’s to take us to a place I thought was just a city as compared to the village I grew up, to celebrate Christmas with the rest of the family. My father tried so hard to make us love our country;
In fact, I had never, ever felt good to be called a Rwandan, but sometimes, I mean just a few times I thought it was ok to maybe be one….
To the best of my recollection I traveled to Rwanda each year since 1995, but the longest I ever stayed was 3 weeks. Simply because I had a home, a country I belonged to.
Growing up in Uganda, a place many Rwandans took refugee was an amazing experience; meeting people from different countries that identified themselves as Rwandans, Twice, I tried to change my surname to a Ugandan name ‘Nakintu’ meaning something; thanks to my father it never happened, as he always reminded us of where we come from.
Imagine a world, where you meet fellow Rwandans; amazing, right! but also imagine a world where you don’t speak the same language and have different beliefs. It was always hard for me to fit in my peers for I really couldn’t speak proper Kinyarwanda……..that’s the feeling I had for many years.
Now moving into the future, I became the Ugandan girl who was so passionate about her country; I remember sitting in one of the brown couches at home, calling one of my very equally passionate friends, Agaba Bills – a Ugandan social change agent, so that we could run campaigns to inspire the future generations; we might have had over 1,000 ideas on how to transform the young generation. We did run some of them and yes we inspired a few where we could.
There is no single day I felt I was lost, in fact I was at home, little did I know my heart belonged somewhere else, to a place I only visited 10 days in a year. I wasn’t lost in Uganda; Rwanda was lost on me.
Mubende town, the place that raised me.
It was a Saturday morning when I travelled to Rwanda for a one-week holiday as it was the trend; a holiday that turned out to be the return to my home; As a returnee, the first thing I noticed was that the country had changed a lot; even my dad’s house had changed massively in a period of just one year; the road was tarmac, It was cooler than it used to be. The transformation was so phenomenal that I thought to myself that if I left for just a few days I could end up missing out on the bus to development.
You see; as many feel New York is the place to stay, I felt like Kigali was the place to live; and now I really wanted everyone to call me Rwandan. I felt so proud when my people identified me as their own. Well, I still enjoy that.
A one-week visit turned into two weeks, I still found my self in a place I now call home looking for ways to be part of the movement;
One chilly evening my father went like; ‘Look Maggie, there are so many opportunities in Uganda my daughter, I think you can make wayyyyyy much money than you will ever make here in Rwanda’ The fear of his daughter who was established in a different country running successful campaigns and businesses occurred to my dad; he always thought it was going to be a little hard for me to start afresh. Well…he could have been right! But I thought there was more I hadn’t discovered in my country.
Walking by the streets of Kimironko every morning for 2 weeks made me forget that I had abandoned a job, friendships that were so dear to me, and business back in Uganda; but the feeling and the breathe on the clean streets, made me want to get to live in a country I for so long didn’t want to be identified with; You see, at that moment I didn’t even remember I had a job to go back to, my father as well was getting used to the fact that I wanted to start a new life; that I wanted to work in a new country I was getting used to. Fast forward my father wishes I had done that abit earlier.
It's never late though…
I still get question from friends like; ‘Are you used to Rwanda now’ Hell yah! I don’t know if I can live anywhere else, I’m home, Finally home.
In a place where everyone is trying to catch up with the transformation, I wanted to tell the Rwandan story; Get me right here; the story that was not told, forget the clean roads and tall buildings; I wanted to meet the young generation, the people I believe are cheeters of every great nation. I wanted to give them a voice; regardless of how bad my language was; I wanted to contribute to their businesses by putting them out there. I didn’t know how to do it though……..
The business environment at Petite Barrier boarder post between Congo and Rwanda
Trying to realize my purpose in Rwanda through the eyes of young entrepreneurs and business people, I have come to appreciate my continent probably more than I ever did. The passion and love expressed by these entrepreneurs alone can only be compared to our ancestors when they were seeking independence from the colonialists.
Passion; huh? Like my first encounter on writing long stories;
Have I found my purpose in Rwanda yet? Hmmm…Don’t get me started on my new adventure…………