ANALYSIS – ABEL BUHUNGU
ON JULY 4, 2019 Rwandans, both inside the country and abroad, will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Rwanda’s Liberation Day.
For some reason, the Rwanda High Commission in Zambia also accredited to Malawi has organised to celebrate Liberation Day or Kwibohora25 on July 5.
The day is very comforting and offers opportunity to remind ourselves how far we as Rwandans have come since the heroic stopping of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi and total liberation of Rwanda on July 4, 1994 by the men and women organised under the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF).
A day that marks the beginning of a holistic transformative journey of Rwanda and Rwandans. It is also a day Rwandans are reminded that the best way to honour the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice in fighting for Rwanda’s Liberation is to continually work hard to achieve a country that Rwandans are proud to call home.
The 25th Liberation Day will be observed countrywide and among Rwandan Diaspora under the theme: ‘Together we prosper’. This theme underscores the importance of unity of all Rwandans in the country’s development process.
During the last three Liberation Day anniversaries, the government of Rwanda has embarked on building affordable homes for vulnerable citizens in every district’s designated model village. Completed houses are handed over free to vulnerable citizens.
In the years leading up to Rwanda’s independence in 1962 from Belgians and subsequent years after, leadership initiated and institutionalised ethnic discrimination against Tutsi leading to cyclic killings and mass movement of Rwandan refugees into the neighbouring countries.
That subsequently reached its apex that is represented by the 1994 genocide against Tutsi. As the immediate post-independence governments of Rwanda continued to promote and ingrain divisive and genocidal ideologies with impunity, the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) was formed with the key objective of liberating a traumatised nation.
This liberation struggle among other things aimed at: bringing back the dignity for all Rwandans; granting equal rights to all; and re-building an all-inclusive Rwanda.
The liberation war against the dictatorial and extremist regime in Rwanda, which began on October 1, 1990, came as a last resort for the RPF after all peaceful means for causing sanity to prevail in Rwanda had proven futile.
The oppressive regime amplified its genocidal efforts by training and arming its militia wing called Interahamwe (literally translating as: those who work as a team).
Unfortunately when the genocide began in April 1994, the reaction of the UN forces (UNAMIR) of 2,500 troops which were in Rwanda at the time was to withdraw immediately. Withdrawal of the UN force left Rwandans in a perilous situation and at the free hands of the genocidal regime.
The RPF thus took on the mammoth task of fighting these killers to save lives and finally defeated them hence stopping the genocide on 4th July 1994. For the RPF and Government of Rwanda, the values that informed waging of a successful liberation struggle continue even today. This is informed by a vision and urge for self-reliance and having a dignified and prosperous Rwanda.
Based on the extremely low base that Rwanda began from in July 1994, and when contrasted with the progress registered thus far, Rwanda is only a miracle come true.
Indeed July 4 is a very important turning point in the history of Rwanda and myriad achievements since 4th July 1994 include: (i) successful stopping of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi and removal from power of a dictatorial pre- July 4, 1994 genocidal regime; (ii) return and reintegration of the millions of Rwandan refugees some of whom had been made stateless for over thirty years; (iii) facilitating reconciliation and rebuilding of unity among Rwandans; (iv) fending for the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Rwandans not least: the injured, orphans and widows resulting from the genocide; (v) fighting impunity that had led to the 1994 genocide against Tutsi; and (vi) ensuring sustained economic development, averaging 8% in the last 15 years; (vii) instituting democratic dispensation and women empowerment where 61% of Parliamentarians are women and Cabinet is 50% Women; and (viii) ensuring dignity and reincarnation of hope and confidence for Rwandans.
As prioritised by Government of Zambia through the country’s 7th National Development Strategy, Rwanda has intensified efforts of diversifying sources of revenue for her economy.
It has widened the scale and quality of production of goods and services, including in manufacturing whilst creating both local and export markets. With the different innovations and focus on the economy, Rwanda is poised to attain her target of developing into a knowledge-driven economy and a middle-income country by year 2035.
Under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, Rwanda has repeatedly been ranked among the safest, cleanest and the fastest-growing economies, not just in Africa but globally. With economic growth of 8.6 percent in 2018, Rwanda is among countries that have consistently been reforming their business regulations to motivate investors and drive economic growth. The 2019 World Bank (WB) report ranks Rwanda as the second easiest place to do business in Africa. In 1994, nearly 100 % of Rwanda’s total budget was externally funded whilst in 2018/2019 budget, 67 percent of National Budget is funded by domestic resources. In the World Index for effective spending, Rwanda Government is globally rated among top five most effective spenders (Spectator Index, 2018).
Twenty-five years after Rwanda’s devastation in 1994, this 25th Liberation Day is worth the celebration for Rwandans and friends. We as Rwandans and without any iota of discrimination, now have a nation we proudly call home – a country with leadership that is working closely with her people to maintain the most secure environment and sustainably achieve inclusive economic growth and social transformation.
The author is a counsellor at the Rwandan High Commissioner in Zambia.