I can boldly say that I would not have become a real Diaspoman if RPF was not born! In 1987 when RPF was born, I was a teenager living in the western part of Uganda. I recall vividly how the information filtered through about the birth of a unifying movement that would eventually see us free ourselves from being refugees.
If you lived in these parts of the world during the early 80s, you would understand what I am talking about. We were unwanted at both sides of the border. Whereas we were being chased away from the land and thrown across the border into Rwanda, we were received with severe hostility and often bounced back like a ball of tennis. This was a problem that we could never tolerate and indeed when the birth of RPF was announced in 1987, a new sense of belonging emerged.
The word spread across the region and across the globe. Rwandans living in exile embraced the coming of RPF. People coordinated and contributed heavily towards a strong and unifying movement that would not only free us exiles but also free the Rwandans trapped in their own country under a dictatorial and divisive regime. As a young lad in Uganda, I was always very excited whenever RPF convened meetings and fundraising functions. How can we ever forget the very last mega fundraising function that took place at the Lugogo indoor stadium! This saw hundreds of thousands of Rwandans get together for a memorable party in which musicians sang out patriotic songs. Among the performers were Masamba, Samputu and the late great Kamaliza who performed “Naraye Ndose!”
“Naraye Ndose” means “I had a dream last night” – and the dream was about meeting our long lost relatives in Rwanda! How nice it would be! As patrons hugged, laughed, danced deep into the night, very few people knew that it would be the last mega feast before the young and old elegant men and women would zero down to the last option on the table; the option for an armed struggle. All other avenues had been exhausted and RPF resorted to this option in a bid to free the wonderful people of this wonderful nation.
A lot happened along the way. There were ups and downs. There was determination. There was resistance from the dictatorial government supported by some superpowers. But this did not deter RPF from pursuing its mission. With very scarce resources, RPF learnt how to survive on very little and yet achieve massive ground. The mobilization drive was on! People from Canada, USA, Europe, Britain, Asia, Australia, Africa and of course Rwanda itself contributed in terms of cash, clothes, equipment and prayers! The spirit of a people was not going to be destroyed. The movement was sweeping and indeed within 4 years, RPF was in control.
The Genocide devastated everything. RPF took a step back to try and shape out a path amidst such tragic events and chaos. The spirit was at breaking point but the will to recover was at its highest. Civil servants hit the ground running. There were no salaries, no electricity, no water and pockets of insurgencies everywhere. With the central bank looted to its very core, RPF resorted to its own coffers. These coffers had accumulated thanks to the generous giving of RPF members. The funds from the RPF coffers were used to address serious situations including health services as numbers of injured people were on the increase.
While the world had abandoned Rwanda; RPF stood firm. RPF stood tall and tackled problem after problem. Today, the transformation of Rwanda leaves everybody agape! Even for us who live in Rwanda, we just get continuously amazed by the speed, efficiency and efficacy of RPF as it rolls out its programmes to ensure economic growth, good governance, proper justice and good health for everyone. All I can say to RPF and its leadership is congratulations upon your 25th anniversary and may RPF continue to shine and share the lighting torch to neighbours near and afar!