October 1 is Patriotic Day in Rwanda, usually a moment of reflection on acts of patriotism and extraordinary courage that have characterised the country’s recent history. The day falls on the 31st anniversary of the launch of Rwanda’s liberation struggle by the Rwanda Patriotic Army, the former military wing of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF)-Inkotanyi. However, Patriotic Day is not a public holiday although there are usually several events and talk shows around patriotism themes. Tito Rutaremara, the Chairperson of the Elders Advisory Council, told The New Times that patriotism was at the heart of the liberation of Rwanda as well as the campaign to stop the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994. “Patriotism is loving your country and this means loving everyone in your country,” he said. -- READ ALSO: What Patriotism Day means for Rwandans -- He added, “Today, Rwandans are a united and cohesive society. There is a government that teaches people to love their country and Rwandans are proud of being Rwandan, regardless of where they are.” He said that former leaders who sowed division and hatred among Rwandans and the Interahamwe militia that committed the Genocide against the Tutsi were unpatriotic and not dedicated to Rwanda and its people. ‘Love, serve and develop your country’ The former parliamentarian said that, in today’s context, patriotism is about “loving your country and serving and developing it”, adding that it is slightly different from the times the RPF was mobilising people about patriotism with the key message being to “sacrifice yourself and fight and liberate your country.” Rutaremara, who was the first person to hold the position of Ombudsman in the country nearly 20 years ago, observed that many Rwandan youths have a sense of patriotism, hailing their involvement in nation-building. “But not all of them, unfortunately,” he added, noting that some youths are demonstrably short in that area. He hopes that the majority of youth who are dedicated to their country and its development will influence their peers who may not. Jeanne d’Arc Mujawase, an author and poetess, described patriotism as loving your country “even when you live elsewhere”. -- READ ALSO: Young Rwandans reflect on meaning of Patriotism Day -- Comparing the times before the Genocide against the Tutsi and after, she said that the former army joined hands with a militia and killed innocent compatriots, while RPA saved lives. She pointed out that previous regimes used the youth to destroy the country while today young people are actively participating in Rwanda’s economic development, including creating jobs, and are continuously being mobilised to work hard and develop the country. ‘No patriot is lazy’ Mujawase also said that the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) serves and protects all Rwandans equally, contrary to the defunct Rwanda Armed Forces (FAR) that turned on a section of citizens. She also took note of the government’s inclusive policies in education, healthcare and other socioeconomic services, social protection, access to financing, among others. Asked what needs to be done to preserve patriotism, Mujawase said the main focus should be the youth, urging parents and society at large to give young ones good upbringing and to fight vices such as substance abuse. “Parents and guardians shouldn’t sit idly by as youth get destroyed by drugs. They should do more than just feeding them, dressing them, or paying their school fees. They should nurture them to have healthy minds through talking to them about Rwandan values and taboos,” she said. She also urged the youth to work hard and develop themselves and their country, noting that lazy people can hardly be patriotic. No patriot is lazy. “When you love your country, you work for it, you think about it, and you develop it. Youth should strive to make Rwanda a better place,” she said. Mujawase also implored the youth to love each other even when they are abroad, adding that sending remittances back home is a form of patriotism. “They should also build a strong bond (kunga inkokora) that can’t be destroyed by any outsider with ill intention. We should love our country as we do our parents, so it can love us back. “Our leadership should continue to be people-centred,” she added. ‘Walk the talk’ Ismael Buchanan, a senior lecturer at University of Rwanda’s Political Science and International Relations Department, said Patriotic Day should serve as a reminder to Rwandans that they should always seek to learn from the patriots that paid the ultimate price and made sacrifices for the liberation of Rwanda. “Patriotism is about discipline, a high value that you can learn from others,” noted the academic who is also the vice-chairperson, Pan-African Movement Rwanda Chapter. He called on young generations to be ready to receive the baton if the legacy of liberation is to be preserved. “They must be prepared to fight and die for their country if need be, they must be committed to winning because losing means sliding back into our ugly past,” he noted. He said that Rwandan youth should also be prepared to work with their African counterparts toward total liberation of the continent. Buchanan also urged leaders to not forget “where we have come from and always work together as a team to set a good example to the younger generations.” “It is important that we always walk the talk and be humble enough to take responsibility when we fall short,” he added. Meanwhile, the Campaign Against Genocide Museum Friday, October 1, added a new outdoor section to their offerings: bunkers. Bunkers, or indake in Kinyarwanda, were a key part of the strategy that the famous ‘600’ RPA soldiers that were stationed at the present-day Parliamentary Buildings (formerly ‘CND’) in Kimihurura used to defend themselves against enemy attacks and launch rescue operations around Kigali soon after the Genocide broke out in April 1994.