African Proverbs in African Literature

A Critical Resourcebase


RWANDA [Capital City:Kigali]

The HutuTutsi internecine warfare of 1994 that has created Africa‘s worst instance of genocide makes Rwanda and its neighbor Burundi (populated by the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups) worth remembering.


1. When the leopard is away, his cubs are eaten.

2. In a court of fowls, the cockroach never wins his case.
[Interpretation: Weaklings in society do not ever get justice because of the nature of the environment and the situation in which they find themselves in life–surrounded by those to whom might is right. This proverb is about the social injustice that makes it difficult for people who do not have “connections” in political circles to enjoy their rights and privileges as human beings.]

3. If you are building a house and a nail breaks, do you stop building, or do you change the nail?
[Interpretation: You don’t have to allow one misfortune to prevent you from going ahead to achieve your goals in life. The downfall of a man should not be the end of his life, nor should the loss of one animal in the forest mean the death of all other animals there. You still can go ahead to make progress in life after an initial faulty start if you gather yourself together for the tasks.]

4. You set the trap after the rat has passed.

5. Where there is peace, a billhook (sickle) can be used to shave your beard or cut your hair.

6. From the word of an elder is derived a bone.

7. Every morning in Africa when a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up, it knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better start running if you want to survive.

8. You can outdistance that which is running after you, but not what is running inside you.


The following links will take you to sources that have some important information on Rwanda:

English: A reconstruction of the traditional K...

Image via Wikipedia



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