Shima Charles

Memories Of A Father’s Dedication (Part I)

In one of my favorite Television Series - "The Last Kingdom", the main character Uhtred says"destiny is all" meaning that everything is down to fate.

My father – Shikama Emmanuel, an accountant, founded one of the first modern accounting firms in Rwanda – Societe Rwandaise d’Audit and de Comptabilite (SORAC). He passed away in 1991. However, I was curious to see if his legacies had survived. As you will read below, he was a man who loved technology. One I asked myself, did technology do him justice?  So I googled him. By the miracle of the internet, I found one of his last projects online. It’s in French.


My father's work found online

As I reflect on my life journey, I can’t help but feel that fate has caught up with me. My family has a rich history of entrepreneurship and innovation. My grandfather, Shikama Joel, was a renowned shop owner in Gikongoro, a town located in Southern Rwanda. His success earned him a spot as one of the five most successful businesspeople at the time. One can say that I inherited my entrepreneurial skills. At 11 years old, I opened a small shop and cinema with my father’s investment. I cherished every moment of running my business, especially when I walked to the bank to deposit my first profit. I realized the positive impact of entrepreneurship, particularly job creation. While at school, I would hire someone, usually a friend, to help me with the business.

During a recent visit to Rwanda, an old family friend shared this information with me while pointing out the street where my grandfather’s shop was. The street was home to early modern houses in Rwanda, and they still stand today. I discovered an old picture of the street that shows the houses.  My grandfather’s former house is now a patch of grass. Sadly, the Interahamwe Militia demolished the house during the Genocide Against The Tutsi. The militia came to the house to hunt down a young man they had seen at the house. That young man was me, and I had gone to visit my family during my Easter holiday.


Gikongoro, Southern Rwanda

When we moved to Rwanda from Kinshasa, our father noticed his kids missed their favourite TV shows.  One, my dad had us climb on the roof to place an outdoor antenna. We rotated it until we found the images. It was a significant achievement as we could remain connected to the world. We had two TV sets, one on top of the other, with one displaying channels from Kinshasa and the other from Burundi. This setup was necessary because Rwanda did not have a national TV station. All of my father’s properties were stolen after he passed away. But I never stopped looking for whatever remained. Today, I have recovered his Lenco stereo and record player.  


My father's stereo

 My father was obsessed with modern technology, especially computers, cameras, and televisions. I vividly recall the day he brought home a computer in the 1980s, and he proudly proclaimed, “Son, this machine is going to change the world! The work that used to take me a month, I can do it in one day.” Looking back, I realize that my father was a visionary. Computers changed the world, and our family was among the first to witness its impact. I wish he had lived long enough to see the internet. When my father discovered the laptop, his life changed even for the better. He was one of the first digital nomads!  The laptop’s mobility meant he could work from anywhere in the country or abroad. This became useful during his last months. When he fell ill, we took him to the hospital, and he whispered in my ear, “Son, can you pass me my laptop? I need to work.” This was in 1991, and I often wonder if he was working on the project highlighted in the previous paragraph.


My father and my siblings

From a young age, my father taught me many valuable skills, such as creating a signature, designing an invitation, making a business letterhead, auditing expenses, and organizing files. He also taught me time management, problem-solving, analytical skills, networking, customer service, etc. Most importantly, he taught me the value of time. He was obsessed with time and believed being late was a mortal sin. Our shared admiration for punctuality brought us closer together.

In the next article (Part II), I will share how the loss of my parents and the Genocide Against The Tutsi drastically changed my life.


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