Analysis: MONIQUE MUKARULIZA
THIS year’s theme for this important day in our country’s history is Kwibohora24 – Together we prosper. Indeed, we as Rwandans know pretty well what togetherness and unity or lack of it mean.Divided by the colonialists and escalated by the pre-1994 Rwandan leaders, Rwanda dropped to the worst abyss that many believed would bedevil it for very many decades.
Fittingly on this day, we as Rwandans pay special tribute to the Rwandan men and women who in different ways contributed to our country’s liberation and progress thus far. Like many liberation struggles that Africa is awash with, the case of Rwanda took enormous sacrifice including lives of many courageous men and women some of whom paid the ultimate price.
Armed with unbreakable determination to change the unbearable and desolate situation that Rwandans were in, these ordinary men and women carried out extraordinary acts of courage to save both lives and the country from complete oblivion. Indeed it is important to note that this liberation marked the successful stopping of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi that had run for one hundred days from April 7, 1994.
Rwandans both home and abroad will for many decades remain indebted and eternally grateful for this extraordinary heroism and selfless acts of valour.
This feat by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) and the enormous progress registered under its stewardship since the genocide has emboldened Rwandans with.
The political dispensation occasioned by this liberation of July 4, 1994 is reason for the transformation we see in Rwanda today.
This new lease of life was a result of the heroic sacrifices of these liberators and leaders of today.
Leaders and politics that have cultivated reconciliation, unity of purpose, accountability as well as an urge and vision for total transformation of the country. The liberation we celebrate today marked the launch of a new vision for the country that has set a sure trajectory of transforming the economy and achieving middle income status for Rwanda. A vision that stands for women emancipation and equality of all Rwandans.
A vision that has worked tirelessly to unite and reconcile Rwandans after the devastating genocide. A vision that stands for zero tolerance of corruption and that demands for leader’s accountability to the people.
A vision and leadership that is characterised by an unwavering determination and zeal to build a diversified economy with empowered Rwandans. A leadership that is highly motivated to sustainably contribute towards building a strong, united, integrated and respected African continent.
The liberation struggle launched in October 1990 was necessitated by decades of divisive politics commenced by the colonial administration and subsequently escalated by the post-independence regimes.
It is worth noting that governments between 1959 and 1994 institutionalised ethnic oriented politics and discrimination against own citizenry. They with impunity abused basic fundamental human rights. The entire period was characterised by cyclic ethnic-based massacres climaxing in the 1994 genocide again.
During this turbulent and tragic past, survivors of the massacres and persecution either fled for refuge in neighbouring countries or continued living in Rwanda but as second class citizens.
Further, the country was subjected to regionalism with the home area of each the Head of State taking a lion’s share of the national cake. Ironically though geographically small, Rwandans before 1994 didn’t enjoy free movement within their own country. They had to seek for movement permits for moving from one district to another.
Based on the foregoing therefore, the liberation we celebrate today was born out of an outright necessity and a compelling instinct for survival of national identity. Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans had been made stateless with those inside the country in wallowing poverty and under institutionalised discrimination. It is under these circumstances that a liberation struggle under the able command of President Kagame begun in October 1990.
It is however gratifying to note that 24 years after the devastating 1994 genocide, Rwanda has been transformed from a quasi-failed state to one that is successfully integrated in the global community of nations.
The country’s current stability and increased role in regional and international arena has been made a reality in no small part by the visionary leadership of President Kagame.
This liberation that we pride in today, form an invaluable cornerstone in the rebirth and renaissance of Rwanda. In the aftermath of the genocide, Rwandans made three important choices: to stay together, to be accountable and to think big. These choices remain at the core of the country’s ongoing renewal and concerted efforts to overcome the seemingly insurmountable challenges.
In the last ten years as our country swiftly shifts away from a passive attitude of dependency to one of self-sufficiency, innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit Rwanda’s reliance on financial aid has significantly reduced from over seventy percent (over 70 percent) of the 1990s to 16 percent to-date. This progress towards financial independence has resulted from the many valuable home grown solutions, good macro-economic management practices and the resultant generally impressive economic growth rate that has averaged 8 per cent over the last decade.
Consequently, the quality of life and productivity of Rwandans as measured by core health, education, income and general welfare indicators have greatly improved. Access to basic social services has tremendously expanded.
As an example, between 1962 and 1994, Rwanda had produced less than 1,500 total graduates with overall total enrolment in university having been a meagre 2,160 students. In the last two decades Rwandan children have enjoyed free universal primary and secondary education. To-date over 80,000 Rwandans are enrolled in university.
With 64 percent women in Parliament and having reached the gender parity in primary education, Rwanda continues to champion promotion of women and children’s rights.
Rwanda has achieved universal health care which now covers ninety percent of the population. In turn life expectancy has increased to 64 years in the last decade, thus representing an increase of thirteen years in the lifespan of Rwandans.
This socio-economic rebirth of Rwanda is a major pillar of its holistic liberation. Milestones of this ongoing phase is well documented both by national and international researchers. With her long-term strategic plan known as Vision 2020, Rwanda’s economic growth has led to reduction of poverty levels from 78.8 percent in 1995 to 39 percent in the year 2014 (UNDP).”
And international researchers. With her long-term strategic plan known as Vision 2020, Rwanda’s economic growth has led to reduction of poverty levels from 78.8 percent in 1995 to 39 percent in the year 2014 (UNDP).
Last year Rwanda launched a new National Strategy for Transformation (NST1), which will run from 2017-2024 to further drive Rwanda’s transformative agenda. The NST1 which embraces the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will scale up implementation of home-grown solutions that Rwanda is famed for. This aims at furthering the development of the private sector as driver of Rwanda’s economic growth while ensuring inclusivity for all segments of society.
Worth noting is that good governance and the establishment of legal frameworks that spur economic development and instill fairness, transparency and accountability across all sectors underpins Rwanda’s impressive progress.
Indeed considering the very low base of 1994, Rwanda has been tremendously turned around in different sectors and domains. Albeit Rwanda’s remarkable progress after the 1994 apocalypse however, we as Rwandans remain conscious that the struggle for self-reliance and lasting economic transformation, is but still work in progress.
The relations between Zambia and Rwanda have continued to grow from strength to strength. An upsurge of interactions and exchanges of best practices between both countries and across many sectors is worth commendation.
There is also growing networking between members of the Private sectors, thus signalling growing business linkages.
Most importantly we have in the last two years seen exchange of State Visits by President Paul Kagame and President Lungu.
Seven MoUs have been signed between both countries and across very strategic sectors of mutual interest. There has also been numerous exchanges of visits at senior officials’ level as well as the holding of a Zambia-Rwanda Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation (JPCC) meeting.
I wish to commend Government of the Republic of Zambia for having granted temporal Residence permits to some 1,468 former Rwandan refugees some of whom have been living in the country for 24 years.
We believe this three-year transitional period will help these former refugees make an informed choice as envisaged by the earlier Cessation Clause. The choices at their disposal are two: either to regularise their stay in Zambia and be issued with Resident Permits or repatriate back home. Rwanda remains a good partner in relevant sensitization efforts and continue offering consular support in the implementation process of both mentioned choices.
Rwanda’s journey and positive turn-around in the last twenty four years has been that of healing as well as reconciliation, hard-work, resilience and hope.
We as Rwanda attach a lot of importance in building unity of purpose as well as in cultivating valuable bilateral and multilateral relations. Indeed we are always stronger together. Relatedly, during Rwanda’s Liberation Anniversary in 2009 President Paul Kagame said and I quote:
“The story of our liberation is intrinsically linked to other struggles on the continent because of the commonalities and kinship we share – no country can achieve sustainable socioeconomic transformation in isolation, and without addressing issues of shared concern.”
The author Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Zambia.
Analysis: MONIQUE MUKARULIZA