Sunday last week, October 1, was National Patriotism Day. If anybody mentioned this at all on the very day, it was an odd person who posted, on social media, a morale-boosting song that accompanied a ragtag group of young wo/men in odd bits of clothing, on their march forward. The young wo/men on YouTube were in their teething steps on the liberation journey that was launched on October 1, 1990, to prise this land out of the stranglehold of oppressive and divisive rulers and place it on the road to sanity and wholesome progress. They met many ups and downs but, certainly, many ‘downs’ before they could attain many more ‘ups’. It’s thanks to the launch of this struggle that today Rwandans freely move with heads held high. Let’s reflect on why a day like October 1, 1990, which birthed the Rwanda that everybody is happy to be associated with, is not celebrated with ceremonial splendour. My two cents worth is that a luta continua. This opinion is informed by what I witnessed at midnight of December 1994. I was blowing the breeze with friends at a watering hole in a part of Kigali when a shot rang out, followed by another, then another and then, total silence. By the third shot, we’d all calmed down, though. Somebody had explained the shooting in the air as a celebration of ending the armed liberation struggle by our liberators and as a way of ushering in the new year. And, indeed, we remembered how ‘new-year-welcome shots’ were common with soldiers of our various countries of exile. What puzzled us now was: how and why were the shots by the RPA liberators so abruptly halted? Only on the following day did we learn that the RPA overall commander himself, then Vice-President and Minister for Defence Paul Kagame, had in that middle of the night personally visited every commander’s house to order them, with stiff sanctions, to stop their soldiers from shooting. That one incident, in its small way, demonstrates what has marked the character of the RPF government to this day. The serenity of every Rwandan (man, woman, youth, child) is sacrosanct. No Rwandan should be disturbed by anything in this world, which is why the end of the armed liberation was but a small step on the liberation journey. So, no ‘shooting celebrations’ about it. If 29 years hence Rwandan leaders are talking about today being only the foundation of building the country, you can imagine how celebrating armed liberation then must have sounded absurd. Found in total ruin, during the first years, Rwanda was surviving on a wing and a prayer. She had to be grown into a country that all Rwandans are proud of. Being proud of which, they would love it and be patriotic. You cannot love the country without feeling one with your countrymen or women, thus, a people united by their patriotism. Patriotism in turn means people working together to build their country, all in an open linkage. Therefore, envisioned were a people linked together by working in a symbiotic partnership, cherishing transparency and accountability and in an environment of free-flowing intercommunication. A people sharing a vision of reaching for the top; for “a seat at the high table”. When you are thinking that big, you cannot allow the matter of who was armed liberator and who was not to invade your collective vision. Our armed liberators are recognised for their sacrifice, no question about that, but the liberation struggle is still in motion. They have sacrificed, too, who bore the excruciating pain of surviving the Genocide against the Tutsi and forgot it all to forgive their tormentors. We thus have heroes who survived or succumbed to the armed liberation struggle; heroes who survived or succumbed to the Genocide against the Tutsi; heroes who survived or succumbed to despotic rule; on and on. They are sacrificing, who struggle against hunger, disease, squalor, destitution, division – I can go on. Heroes and heroic occasions are a dime a dozen in this land. Patriots and patriotic demonstrations all, we must give them their laurels as we should. But as somebody said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Now, think of the wo/men who said “No!” to evil. Wo/men who laid their lives on the line that the pride of all Rwandans, without exception, be restored. They bore the elements, hunger, the disease of the trenches. They braved bullets and bombs. Many met their deaths. And have cleaned this land of all the evils that bedevilled it from the time of colonialism: the evils of oppression, division, genocide, corruption, nepotism, impunity, bankruptcy of thought, short-sightedness, economic stunting, social malaise, wallowing in cheap trappings of power, opaque and poor governance – we can go on till cows come home. For that launch into the sacrifice of October 1, 1990, all these evils have been put aside and this land has been placed in the fast lane to development. All self-effacing aside, the truth must be told. In spite of myself, therefore, deep down in my heart, I feel that October 1, 1990, should be celebrated with pomp and circumstance!