On this October 1st, 2013 Rwanda marks the 23rd anniversary of the launch of the Liberation Struggle. This date also coincides with the Patriotism Day. It is a golden opportunity for all Rwandans to remember all patriots who have sacrificed their lives to free Rwanda and unite all Rwandans and those who tirelessly continue to combine their efforts in the reconstruction of Rwanda as a model nation-state with sustainable development. It is also an occasion to evaluate what Rwanda has achieved because of the foundation laid by its patriots and plan for a better continuity.
The concept of patriotism has a complete meaning when it is placed in social, political and ideological context in the lives of any society. According to Schoar (1981) and Virroli (1985), patriotism is defined as one’s love of one’s country, one’s birthplace and its landscapes. It is an affection stemming from feelings of a deep, almost biological connection resembling kin relationships.
Patriotism is very important for all nations. According to Ben Amos and Bat Tal (2004), the lack of patriotism jeopardises any ability to sustain social forms and without it societies are bound to fall. Patriotism can be a result of combined cultural values and constructed attitudes. Behind patriotism, there are always drivers.
To be patriotic, one has to forget their own interests and consider their country first. In addition, patriots have to be visionary leaders who are able to predict and see first what ordinary citizens cannot observe at present time.
This is what happened on October 1st, 1990 when a group of sons and daughters of this country decided to put their lives at high risk with the intention of freeing Rwanda from a dictatorial regime and rebuild a new Rwanda for all Rwandans.
Many of these patriots accepted to lose their jobs, some in high offices, others in senior military ranks in a country that had hosted them, others dropped out from good high schools, Universities and Academies far away from home, while others left their successful businesses. They had all one and common aim to free Rwanda of all forms of injustice, discrimination and exclusion.
The aims of the above patriots, as set in the political programme of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) were satisfactorily achieved. What Rwandans are enjoying today are the fruits of heroic actions of our heroes and heroines, during and after the Liberation Struggle.
The first fruit is the restoration of unity among Rwandans. Rwandans today coexist peacefully. According to the 2012 Rwanda Reconciliation Barometer, Perception Survey, the adherence to Rwandanness (Ubunyarwanda) performed very well, at 95.38%.
If one remembers the destruction of human capital and disarticulation of social ties that were characterising Rwanda in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi, this is a great achievement. It was possible because of the visionary leadership of the new Rwanda after 1994. In this new Rwanda, all Rwandans enjoy equal chances as regards access to national opportunities like access to education, economic and political freedom.
Legal frameworks like the Constitution of June 4, 2003 promote inclusion of socio-political and economic development in Rwanda. The National Unity and Reconciliation Commission and other commissions that were set up after 1994 such as the National Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman help in strengthening the unity of Rwandans.
The second fruit is safety and security. Security across all Rwandan borders is well maintained. Rwandans and their guests enjoy maximum security and safety. The 2012 Gallup research found Rwanda as the safest place on the planet. In this research, 92% of Rwandans who were interviewed felt safe and protected.
The third fruit is the establishment of democratic leadership. Rwanda’s new leadership restructured the nation and engaged all socio-political forces regardless of their identity differences. Several strategies have been adopted which mainly include the establishment of the rule of law, democracy and decentralisation, as well as efficient mechanisms for the management of state affairs through power-sharing, respecting socio-political groups and the country’s historical background.
Specific groups like, women, youth and disabled people participate in the socio-political life of the county. As an example, today Rwanda has 64% women in Parliament (Lower House).
In addition, the country has a new law on media which involves major figures in publishing and broadcasting. The media is now structured to enable self-regulation. The civil society was empowered and it is now playing a key role in developing the country.
The fourth fruit is the promotion of economy which is citizen-centred and based on the country’s resources. Rwandans now have the culture of relying on what they have and using efficiently support from different partners. In the 2013/14 fiscal year, for the first time in the Rwandan history, the domestic revenues will contribute as much as 60.2% of the national budget.
Under Vision 2020, the aim is to increase the GDP per capita to $1240 with average GDP growth of 11.5% from the last year’s 8.3% economic growth. Needless to say the GDP per capita which was less than $185 in 1990 rose exponentially to $644 by the end of 2012 and in last five years, one million Rwandans were helped to move above the poverty line.
The fifth fruit is the elimination of corruption, favouritism and embezzlement of national resources. Due to the creation of independent and specialised institutions responsible for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government services like the Rwanda Public Procurement Authority, the Office of the Auditor General, the Rwanda Revenue Authority, the National Public Service Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman, corruption, favouritism and embezzlement of national resources are no longer a threat in Rwanda.
Because of these efforts, The 2013 Global Corruption Barometer by Transparency International ranked Rwanda the least corrupt country in Africa.
The sixth fruit is the promotion of social welfare. With the introduction of the system of health insurance, Rwandans now easily access health care. This contributed to sharp decrease in maternal mortality deaths and the mortality of children under five.
In vaccination, Rwanda is the first African country to roll out countrywide Pneumoconjugate, Rotavirus and HPV vaccines. The children vaccination coverage rat,e according to the last 2010 DHS is 90%, which is among the highest in sub Sahara Africa.
Rwanda has also put in place mechanisms and programmes like Ubudehe and Girinka that assist vulnerable people. In education, Rwanda has introduced free twelve year basic education, courtesy of which the number of pupils increased drastically, not only in primary, but also in secondary schools.
The seventh fruit is the elimination of all causes for fleeing the country and the returning of Rwandan refugees back into the country. Since 1994 more than 3.4 million people have been repatriated and helped to reintegrate in their communities.
Since June 30, 2013, the Cessation Clause to end the problem of Rwandan refugees went into force and there are mechanisms in place to help those Rwandans wishing to stay abroad to get involved in the national life.
The eighth fruit is the promotion of international relations based on mutual respect, cooperation and mutually beneficial economic exchange. Internationally, Rwanda’s image which was tarnished by the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi is now valorised. Rwanda participates actively in regional and international organisations like the EAC, COMESA and the Commonwealth club among others.
Rwanda is, since April 2013, a member of UN Security Council. The country participates in different peace-keeping missions in different countries and President Paul Kagame co-chairs the UN Millennium Development Goals’ Advocacy Group and the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development.
The last fruit is the mechanism to fight genocide and its ideology, where, in the aftermath of the Genocide, Government introduced Gacaca courts that tried 1,958,634 cases.
Under conventional courts, trying genocide cases would have taken more than 100 years and the Gacaca significantly boosted the reconciliation drive.
The National Commission for the Fight against Genocide was also set up and a law to punish genocide ideology was promulgated. All social, political and ideological forces who adhered to the Rwandan unity policy, decided to promote the Rwandanness culture and accentuate the culture of partnership among Rwandans irrespective of their differences.
In a nutshell, the above is what Rwanda has achieved because of the efforts of its the real patriots. Through what Rwandans can testify themselves, the aim of Rwandan patriots under the nine political programmes of RPF that motivated, led and continue to inspire today’s patriots, was achieved.
The journey that Rwandans embarked on after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is the right one, and we must continue to work hard to sustain what has been achieved.
Rwandans must not value what is being said by few negative forces who, because of their bad intentions, cannot recognise the progress that the country has made.
All Rwandans must bear in mind that Rwanda won’t die again as President Paul Kagame usually reminds us. For a better continuity of the patriots’ legacy, there is a need to continue to transform our youth through Urugerero-the National Service, to enable them to consolidate the fruits of the Liberation Struggle.
Happy Patriotism Day to all Rwandans and friends of Rwanda.
The writer is the Prime Minister of the Republic of Rwanda.