Kwibohora25: Nation marks liberation silver jubilee

President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe greets top government and security officials yesterday upon his arrival at Kigali International Airport ahead of today’s liberation silver jubilee celebrations. Courtesy.

All roads lead to the Amahoro National Stadium in Remera for the 25th Liberation Anniversary, which is running under the theme, “Together, We Prosper’.

At least seven foreign Heads of State from across Africa and other high-profile government delegates and international icons are expected to grace the main celebrations at the 25,000-seat arena.

President Paul Kagame, who successfully led the liberation struggle between 1990 and 1994, is expected to deliver a keynote address at the event, to be characterised by a parade by the Rwanda Defence Force, performances from the national ballet Urukerereza and several other artistes.

Two major ‘liberation concerts’ are also scheduled in Kigali later today while the movie ‘The 600’ is expected to be premiered Friday.

Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe, President of the Republic of Togo arrives in Kigali for the 25th anniversary of Liberation

The movie is about the heroism and bravery that characterised 600 soldiers of the RPA that were stationed at the current Parliamentary Buildings in Kimuhurura where they were protecting RPF politicians designated for a unity government under the Arusha Accords.

However, the peace deal collapsed when the regime started to implement the genocide agenda and the liberators launched highly risky operations to rescue people across Kigali.

Meanwhile, across the country citizens are expected to gather at designated areas to reflect on the liberation struggle and exchange views on how the country can best consolidate the gains hitherto made and to overcome emerging challenges.

Events are also planned abroad, especially in cities with relatively large numbers of Rwandans.

Liberation Day marks the day when Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF)-Inkotanyi stopped the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and effectively liberated the country.

Over a million people lost their lives in a genocide perpetrated by the then regime backed by then army (FAR) and Interahamwe militia. Some of the remnants of the genocidiares remain holed up in DR Congo under various splinter groups, the main of which is FDLR.

Faustin Archange Touadera, the President of the Republic of Central Africa arrives in Kigali for the 25th anniversary of Liberation

Most of the perpetrators have been tried through Rwanda’s semi-traditional Gacaca justice system, while dozens of architects were tried by the United Nations Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Nonetheless, some of the key fugitives such as financier Felicien Kabuga remain at large, with many of them believed to be living in African countries.

Twenty-five years later, however, Rwandans have made significant strides in such areas as peace and security, unity and reconciliation, reconstruction, socio-economic development, analysts say.

President Kagame has previously said that, following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the people of Rwanda chose to ‘stay together, think big, and hold each other to account’.

Hilary Butera, a civil servant, told The New Times on Wednesday that today he’ll be celebrating “having a country I call home.” He said that growing up as a refugee in a neighbouring country he was denied an opportunity to attain university education because he was from Rwanda, but now enjoys equal opportunities as other citizens.

Alice Kirezi, country director for SPENN Rwanda, said Rwandans have a lot to celebrate, including the fact that the RPF delivered on its pledge for a country that embraces all of its citizens and inclusion, which, she said, was not the case under previous regimes.

She cited the universal community-based health insurance (Mutuelle de Santé), the Girinka programme under which hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Rwandan households have received cows, anti-poverty and malnutrition efforts, financial inclusion, among others.

“We are celebrating liberation from ethnicity-based politics, genocide ideology, illiteracy, poverty,” she said.

‘A celebration of principles’

James Ngarambe, the chief executive, Genesis and Gilgal Group Ltd, hailed the country’s leadership for bringing citizens together and inspiring them to actively take part in efforts to rebuild and develop thwe country.

“I have never been prouder to be Rwandan,” he said yesterday.

Aimable Twagilimana, a Professor at the State University of New York College at Buffalo, said Kwibohora25 “is a celebration of the principles that underpinned the 1990-1994 liberation war and shaped the rebuilding of a nation. Those principles include leadership, courage, resilience, and resourcefulness at all levels.”

“Watch ‘The 600: The Soldiers’ Story’ and you will understand the extraordinary courage of the RPA, the creative bravery of the soldiers who launched daring rescue missions around Kigali, and the humanity of the survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi.

“As President Kagame once said, these (survivors) were probably the only ones left with something to give: humanity and forgiveness, which contributed a great deal to unity and reconciliation. Without unity, it would have been impossible to continue the journey that led us where we are today.”

For musician Alyn Sano, the liberation anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on the values that helped Rwanda to bounce back from the brink, overcoming a myriad of challenges that looked insurmountable.

“We have become a resilient people and this should help us overcome challenges that lie ahead of us and to continue making progress,” she told The New Times. “We have an ambitious development agenda as country and it is our duty to leave behind an even better country.”

Egide Mutabazi, a Genocide survivor and researcher, said that most Rwandans have learnt from the country’s tragic history and were committed to continue on the path of working hard and liberating their country from economic-related related challenges with view to making Rwanda a self-reliant country.