On January 9, 2016, students of Senior Command and Staff Course at Rwanda Defense Force Command and Staff College (RDFCSC), Nyakinama in Musanze District, celebrated a Cultural Day as part of their course program.
On this occasion, different nationalities represented at the College, namely Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, showcased the specificities of their respective cultures.
Culture was reflected mainly through traditional dances and songs, wearing national attires, preparing various cuisines and the exhibition of homemade products, both traditional and modern.
Expressing the rationale behind the Cultural Day, the Commandant of the College, Maj. Gen JB Kazura, informed that it is meant to “better know each other, appreciate each other’s culture, values, traditions and practices as Africans; so that tomorrow when soldiers meet in multinational environment, they don’t have to face any cultural bias or misunderstandings”. “Soldiers should therefore know how to behave in the face of a different culture or practice”, the Commandant stressed.
During the time of visiting the exhibition stand of each country, invited guests could taste and appreciate various food delicacies such as caterpillars offered by Zambian Senior Officers, mices prepared by the Malawians and the well-known Nyama-choma from the Kenyan cuisine and Oruombo from Uganda.
Rwanda, the host nation greatly represented at the College, was also well prepared. The usual richness and diversity of its culture was reflected through the traditional warrior dance Umuhamilizo and other traditional dances and songs. Various traditional meals such as Impengeli and Isogi, as well as dressing styles were showcased by Rwandan Senior Officers who were all dressed in national attire (Imishanana). Backed by cultural troupes and local brands, the officers exhibited Rwandan products especially those reflecting the Rwandan culture. “Everything is simply perfect!”, observed one of the visitors.
Burundi’s famous drumming by Abatimbo, Uganda’s cultural dance using Engarabi drum, as well Malawian Zulu-like warrior dance, attracted many viewers. In all these cultural exhibitions, the message from the students was the same: “Every country has its own culture and no nation can exist without a culture. So, people should respect others’ culture and the cultural diversity within their own country to achieve stability”, said Col Sam Baguma, the Course Senior. In states where people disrespect one aspect of their culture, this can be a factor of conflict”, he added.
The same can happen where leaders want to impose one aspect of their culture to the detriment of others. The best example is the Sharia law imposed in Sudan; which provoked the secession of South Sudan. Also Boko Haram’s cultural narrowness has recently caused havoc in a number of West African countries.
In the military, the knowledge of other people’s culture is paramount. According to Major Desire Manirakiza from Burundi: “no country nowadays operates alone. In all AU or UN peacekeeping operations where our soldiers are now serving, awareness of a different culture helps them better carry out their mission since they know each others’ culture, habits and values. They know for instance what their colleagues like and dislike; what they eat and don’t eat, and thus behave accordingly. This facilitate interoperability”.
In short, all speeches on the day stressed the importance of being aware of cultural differences. Such awareness not only allows eliminating cultural biases, but also helps soldiers operate with others in order to discharge their mission successfully especially in a multinational set up. Without this awareness a peacekeeper is likely to fail in his mission.
This being the first time, the RDF Senior Command and Staff Course will continue to celebrate the Cultural Day every year.
Lt Col Gerard NYIRIMANZI and Maj Richard CHIDZUNGU
Students of Senior Command and Staff Course 04
Rwanda Defense Force Command and Staff College