By Augustin RUGUNDANA
From 1959-1994 Rwanda’s former leadership institutionalized a virulent policy of divisionism as a system of governance devoted to separating Rwandans along ethnic lines, which led to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis one of the most indescribable turmoil/tragedy in the history of mankind. The system in place invested in harassment of one group of Rwandans labeled as Tutsis which culminated in torture, exclusion, nepotism, and repression that contributed to massive refugees scattered in all countries of the great lakes region for 30 years. Both 1st and 2nd Republics acted as twins that were briefed to behave in the same way of denying refugees peaceful repatriation and embarked on negotiating with host countries to give them(refugees) nationality depicting that the country is like a glass full of water that if you add extra the water can diminish.
As stipulated by Frantz Fanon “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity”,the generation of RPF/RPA discovered themission of defining the problems that affected Rwandans in different dimensions of life and possible solutions as embedded in RPF manifesto. Having exhausted all means of apeaceful return to their motherland;on 1st October the strong RPF acumen, sons and daughters of Rwanda led by Maj. Gen. Fred Gisa Rwigema(RIP) launched ahistoricalliberation struggle that put to an end the despotic rule and redefinedinclusive governance that transformed Rwanda.
Liberation stuck and the sole role of a dynamic leader
In the early days of the liberation launch, RPA terribly lost some of the senior commanding officers, and the overall commander Maj. Gen Fred Gisa Rwigema was killed on the 2nd day of the invasion and undermined the morale of RPA soldiers and disrupting the way forward. There were a number of casualties, soldiers had no food, no military ammunition, and medical services, and the soldiers were entirely demoralized. After being noticed that late Maj. Gen Fred. Gisa Rwigema has died, H.E the president of the Republic of Rwanda Paul Kagame who was pursuing a military course in the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, left the course and joined the liberation as a new leader of the struggle.
H.E Paul Kagame changed the war tactics from conventional to unconventional warfare to compel an enemy to act on his plan, not on their plan. He maintained the discipline of soldiers, reformed RPA structures, and mobilized resources to cater for the needs of the struggle. As a result of his visionary and consistent leadership, RPA as a military wing was shaped and turned into a formidable force able to resist and completely annihilate the enemy. The decision to join the struggle regardless of incalculable risks by H.E Paul Kagame who has been living in comfortably in the USA and undergoing beneficial military training is an irrefutable fact of extraordinary patriotism for any Rwandan youth could emulate.
The cost of the struggle and lessons to the current generation.
During the liberation struggle sons and daughters of Rwanda demonstrated a high level of endurance, perseverance, patriotism, selfless to die for a genuine cause (liberation struggle) As quoted by Thomas Jefferson “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants”. The majority of liberation martyrs left their good-paying jobs, others left their honeymoon period, and others abandoned their studies to fight for a cause that would benefit everyone without discrimination. In the process of pursuing liberation, many had either lost their lives or parts of their bodies, while others endured scorching sun, heavy rainfall, hungriness, thirst carrying heavy equipment, moving long distances tirelessly, and spending sleepless nights. Despite liberation cost of any kind registered, however, it was an inescapable cause as lamented by the Liberation struggle as a turning point in the country’s transformation.
Liberation gains and the role of visionary leadership
In aftermath of the genocide against the Tutsis, Rwanda was merely here failed state, without state institutions, with the capital city flooded with dead bodies, internally displaced people, massive repatriation of refugees with nowhere to settle, financial bankruptcy, orphans and widows among others. According to General James Kabarebe in his discussion during RPF General Assembly, “the only existing institution existed was RPF and its military wing RPA”.
From ashes of genocide/being failed state. What makes H.E Paul Kagame an extraordinary leader?
Taking into account the horrendous killings that happened during the genocide against the Tutsis, no one could have imagined/predicted that today victims of genocide will leave side by side with genocide perpetrators! However, Kagame has managed to redefine the future of the nation and to give alternative leadership direction that is above the normal personal feelings summarized below:
Ensuring security and combating insurgencies: H.E Paul Kagame who was vice president and the Minister of defense after the 1994 genocide embarked on guaranteeing security in all corners of the country for citizens’ stability. After the genocide, no one was sure of living the next day but RPA soldiers sacrificed to restore hope. In doing so they combated insurgency termed abacengezi war and Paul Kagame addressed the insecurity from the root during Congo wars I and II that led to the repatriation of massive refugees who were being held hostage by EX-FAR soldiers.
Citizen-centered, inclusive, and accountable governance: Recognizing the fact that genocide was caused by bad governance, H.E Paul Kagame instituted inclusive leadership that involves everyone via decentralization policy, citizen participation forums such as elections, Umushyikirano, Inteko z’Abaturage, Umuganda, and Umugoroba w’Imiryango that serves as forums that spur citizen participation. Rwanda has passed a constitution that transcends politics based on divisionism and entrenched the rights of women as full partners in nation-building via 30% seats reserved for women.Unity and reconciliation were central and the foundation for national unity under ndi Umunyarwanda. In doing so ethnic belonging was removed from IDs, and civic education via Ingando/Itorero was reinforced to eradicate the genocide ideology that was institutionalized by both the 1st &2nd Republics. RPF regime recognized that in the context of Rwanda justice required more than just legal approach but also restorative and reconciliatory mechanism. GACACA COURTS were therefore adopted to punish but also forgive as a way of healing the fractured society all within an appropriate timeframes considering the fact that “justice delayed justice denied”.
Introduced additional Home Grown Solutions notably (Abunzi Committees, Girinka, Imihigo, Ndi Umunyarwanda, Ubudehe, Umuganda, Umwiherero, Umushyikirano, Kwita Izina) as unconventional solutions to existing issues based on local opportunities, history, and cultural values that served as b bedrock for Rwanda’s reconstruction. Under the Girinka program, for example, 406,776 cows have been distributed to poor families since its inception in 2006 to combat poverty and malnutrition (MINAGRI annual report 2020-2021).
Rwanda has worked with other countries to provide solutions to global insecurity challenges and is 3rd contributor to UN peacekeeping operations with 5,335 contingents under UNAMISS, MINUSCA, UNAMIS (Source: MINADEF). More so RDF stood in solidarity with Mozambique to combat terrorists. Furthermore. H.E Paul Kagame during the inauguration of the Rweru model village on 4th July 2016, said that “The first phase of the liberation struggle was meant to remove bad leadership that led to suffering and Genocide in Rwanda. The next phase that we undertook is to engage in activities geared towards liberating Rwanda from another evil, poverty, and social distress”. In this regard, RDF is engaged in the construction of schools, model villages, agriculture, and the provision of medical services to citizens in a framework dubbed army week. According to the RDF review magazine in 2019/2020 RDF built 14 model villages, 528 houses for genocide survivors, 20 bridges, and 11 medical facilities that saved 40,615,669,907 frw that would have been allocated in the construction of those infrastructures.
Rwanda invested in infrastructure development and promotion of Hospitality and tourism to attract foreign investors. The Hotels and apartments in Rwanda account for 1172(THE 10 BEST Hotels in Rwanda for 2022 (with Prices) – Tripadvisor). Broadband network is connected in all 30 districts of Rwanda which has allowed Rwanda to enjoy the E-services case of Irembo online platform that integrates various services. The government constructed different roads to connect citizens to effectively conduct their business. Had it not liberation struggle and visionary leadership that animated development all the above achievements could not have been registered within only 28years.For example, we could not be witnessing the construction of Rutsiro, Nyaruguru, Gisagara, and Bugesera roads to mention and electricity access connectivity rate is at 71.92% including 50.61% connected to the national grid and 21.31% off-grid systems (REG Report).
Rwanda on the high table
Rwanda currently has 39 diplomatic missions 1 General Consulate covering 147 countries, and regional and international organizations. In addition, 37 honorary consuls represent our strategic interests in 17 Countries. At a regional and international level, Rwanda is a member of 201 multilateral organizations such as EAC, CEPGL, and Common Wealth, to mention but a few. (MINAFFET). Rwanda is a country known for zero tolerance for corruption and a world record in gender mainstreaming with 64%. Rwanda has become the hub of international conferences/meetings including the CHOGM that was held recently and more still ahead. Despite the tremendous achievements registered, some challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the global economy worsened unemployment, and interrupted the steady growth of Rwanda’s economy. Genocide ideology is also still rampant in the region being spread by negative forces associated with the genocidal regimes and their foreign allies who not only advocate for those groups but also employ more efforts to tarnish the image of the country and her leadership.
However, Rwanda’s flag keeps flying along with the globe despite all the shortcomings. Liberation is continuous that needs the participation of all citizens in all sectors. As we celebrate 28years of Rwanda’s Liberation, we salute the sacrifice of both living and fallen heroes who paid the ultimate price for Rwanda to be free. Special gratitude goes to H.E Paul Kagame who led the social-economic transformation of Rwanda and revived Rwanda’s “agaciro” in the international arena. It is true that the spirit of Rwanda’s resilience is unbreakable.
Happy Liberation Day to all Rwandans and their friends. Aluta continua.
The author is Augustin RUGUNDANA
A political analyst by training, an expert in service delivery, civic education, Governance, and conflict resolution.