National Day in many countries- in Africa, at least- can be a low-key, mundane affair, marked with speeches and military drills. While I would not say these countries are doing it wrong, what happens in Singapore on their National Day is, in my view, worth sharing with fellow Rwandans.
It reflects the very emotion one would hope National Day would evoke in its citizens: one of national pride and sense of unity.
Starting weeks in advance of the holiday, the Government of Singapore embarked to beef up the National Day spirit by hanging flags along the roads, markets and such institutions as schools and police stations.
The media also created a buzz with non-stop updates about the National Day parade previews, ministerial speeches and the reminders of the “arduous journey” Singapore has made since achieving independence 44 years ago.
On the day of the show, people were entertained by death-defying stunts by the Singapore Armed Forces, harmonies from a 2000-strong combined schools’ choir and dazzling pyrotechnics.
Cultural performances to underscore the country’s multi-ethnic mix also filled the ceremonies.
The celebrations were also divided into ten chapters or acts reflecting Singapore’s struggle and achievements to date, each with its distinctive meaning.
Reflecting the meaning that this day has for its citizens, over 27,000 Singaporeans watched from the parade stands, while thousands more caught the show on television and online.
The entire country was a sea of red and white as the nation gathered for its biggest party of the year.
Then, in a special moment for a country which has been through some turbulent times, the entire country turned silent at exactly 8.22 pm for the participants to recite the national pledge.
All Singaporeans, within and outside the country, stopped what they were doing to put their hand on their heart and recite the pledge.
The excitement and nationwide participation in this annual event made it clear to us foreigners the main reason behind Singapore’s accomplishment after only 44 years, and potentially something for Rwandans to emulate: an unbreakable sense of patriotism, togetherness, shared vision and an unmatched sense of urgency to succeed.
This was further underpinned by the Prime Minister’s message, which was one of hope and reassurance, as “we have done it before and we will do it again”.
The Prime Minister’s message was skillfully reflected in the parade, showing the struggles of the past, present and future, while reminding Singaporeans of their greatest strength: its people – embedded perfectly under this year’s theme: one people, one nation, one Singapore.
What to some people may seem like a lot of fanfare and strict planning reflected to me a nation’s excitement and pure pride at having struggled together, and then having succeeded together, despite its citizens’ differences.
Unlike in so many countries, this was a nationwide celebration of their nation and their future together.
It reflected all of the pride and sense of accomplishment I have for my own wonderful country, Rwanda.
Isabelle N. Umugwaneza contributed to this article