When Late Tanzania President John Pombe Magufuli assumed office in Tanzania in October 2015, his first foreign visit was to next-door Rwanda in early 2016.
The arrival of Magufuli was a sigh of relief for Rwanda that had plunged into frosty relations with President Jakaya Kikwete whose style of leadership was dangerous to Rwanda’s interests in the region.
President Kagame hosted Magufuli at his private home on the banks of Lake Muhazi and gave him five cows. This ‘cow giving’ is only reserved for a person one values highly, according to the Kinyarwanda culture.
For Kagame gifting cows to Magufuli meant that there are qualities he admired in his personality and friendship.
According to this culture, one that is given is expected to give back although no specific time frame is given but children or grandchildren of the recipient always hold this gesture seriously and have to give back even generations after.
It also means the two families are solidly bonded and non is expected to renegade on this bond.
Kagame may have offered these cows to Magufuli as a private person or as head of state or both.
It therefore means that either families of Magufuli and Kagame or the governments of the countries they lead shall remain friends.
By deeply thinking about this African cow giving culture, a cow is a symbol of love, expressed to a trusted and reliable friend.
In August 2011, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda drove to Rwanda accompanied by his wife Janet Museveni and daughter Natasha Museveni. They were hosted by President Kagame at his country home at Lake Muhazi.
Kagame gave Museveni 10 long horned cattle, commonly known as Inyambo.
And in a return visit to Uganda, Museveni also gave Kagame 20 long horned cows of the same breed, but known as Ankole cows in Uganda.
The cows were ferried to Kagitumba border in January 2012 and were received by the head of the livestock department in the Ministry of Agriculture.
Also in March 2018, President Kagame traveled to Ethiopia and was given a cow by Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed and described it as a great symbol of the culture both countries share.
When families have given cows to each other, they consider each other as reliable friends.
Since Kagame has given cows to Museveni and Magufuli, it means these are reliable friends.
Therefore in such a culture, whenever a friend is in problems, the only reliable friend to help is the one that received or gave a cow.
In the ongoing discussions between Kagame and Museveni’s son Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, to resolve the crisis and other thorny issues between Rwanda and Uganda, the only possible assurance that the Kagame-Muhoozi talks can deliver positive results is the cow giving gesture.
When Kagame drive to his Muhazi home, he went with his children, a sign that the two families are bonding. It should be remembered that this comes after Kagame made very strong statements during the wedding of Teta Gisa, daughter to Late Fred Gisa Rwigema.
Insiders close to the two families tell Taarifa that Kagame’s speech during Teta’s wedding sent a bad taste to Museveni’s family. It was hurting and unfortunate. How could the two families reach a point of hurting each other that much?
Muhoozi, who has not officially declared his Presidential ambitions when his father leaves power, has been discussing and courting strong African leaders to support his ambition. Of all his allies, he cannot afford not to not have Kagame’s family on board. Recently, Muhoozi began publicly calling Kagame “My Uncle.”
And indeed Kagame could not disappoint or embarrass him. With several telephone conversations between the two families and two visits, ending with cow gifts from his home, Muhoozi can comfortably go back with assurance of his Uncle’s blessings.
During his time in Rwanda, Muhoozi has been receiving special attention, including being driven in one of Kagame’s favorite cars, the armoured Cadillac Escalade. He had time to interact with Kagame’s family too.
If there is any questions regarding normalizing relations between the two countries, answers are in the gestures through cow gifts.
Museveni and Kagame still have a couple of issues to iron out, but Muhoozi’s insistence on healing the relations has cooled down the tempers. The tides are calm now, the dust has settled, but the debris is yet to be picked and disposed of.
Earlier today, President Kagame received General Muhoozi Kainerugaba at his farm where he gifted him with Inyambo cows. pic.twitter.com/BmXHadPZap
— Presidency | Rwanda (@UrugwiroVillage) March 15, 2022