Yesterday, Rwandans across the world celebrated Heroes Day - a day when we take time off to give thanks and praise to our heroes, particularly to those who fought for our freedom against tyranny so that our generation and generations to come can live in a nation that gives each one of us equal opportunities with respect to dignity, happiness, and prosperity.
It was nearly three decades now when a handful of brave men and women decided that enough was enough, and decided that it was time to free Rwanda from the shackles of ethnic discrimination, hatred, and poor governance to mention but three.
It is therefore in that respect that I take this opportunity to pay my respectful tribute to those brave souls, many of whom paid the ultimate price to secure the freedom and peace that we enjoy today.
Thankfully, the last two decades are an indication that the efforts of our heroes did not go to waste. For instance, many commentators have frequently noted the remarkable economic development posted by the East African nation, specifically mentioning the steady real GDP growth which averaged about 8 percent per annum between 2001and 2015.
In the same respect, while countries with a relatively more financial muscle and better supporting environment struggled to make improvements, against all odds, Rwanda met most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the end of 2015.
In fact, according to the institutions such as the World Bank, Rwanda’s strong economic growth was accompanied by “substantial improvements in living standards, evidenced by a two-thirds drop in child mortality and the attainment of near-universal primary school enrolment.”
Similarly, Rwanda is reckoned among the front-ranking countries in Africa in various indicators including access to healthcare, access to education, gender equality, security, ease of doing business, and tourism, to name but a few.
Having mentioned many of the achievements however, I would like to persuade my readers that we cannot afford any form of complacency, particularly the type of complacency drawn from the sense of achievement.
This is because I believe that there is always scope for further development. By now, it should be second nature for us to understand that we have to consolidate the gains of the past while at the same time taking effective measures to speed up the delivery of key projects to enable the less fortunate in our society to benefit equally. This is what inclusive growth is about.
Likewise, I would also like to emphasise that, for a country like ours with no great deal of known natural resources, it is absolutely important to continue developing our human capital mainly because in the coming years, people-centred-innovation will not only be key in bringing new ideas to grow the economy, innovation will ensure that we stay competitive both within and outside the country.
In the end, it is clear that this nation is passing through a crucial stage in history. On the one hand, it is beyond doubt that we have achieved peace and stability, installed back our dignity, and to some extent even registered economic growth. However, we still have plenty of challenges that require our candid attention. Many of our people are still living in poverty, others are chronically unemployed, and to some extent, the disparity in income cannot be ignored.
But I take heart from our past; where the brave men and women I talked about earlier decided not to cry about the challenges they were facing, and instead, marched forward to put into action what they thought was necessary.
At present, many of us can draw from the courage shown by our heroes and put our nation first. If you are dragging your feet on an issue that affects the lives of others, ask yourself; what would the heroes make of that?
Collectively and individually, we cannot afford to reverse the efforts of our heroes who went as far as sacrificing their lives so that we may enjoy the freedom we have today. We owe them a lot more than what we have achieved today.
A luta continua, vitória é certa.