Ours is a country that rose from the ashes and has never looked back since

Habyarimana’s oracles must have shown him that his grip over the country was slipping when he saw the kind of reception Kigalians gave his archenemy, the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF).

He saw the end of his regime when a battalion of 600 young people drove into Kigali in December 1993 from the north in the now vintage Onatracom buses to a tumults welcome. It was as if the whole of Kigali had come out to welcome the Inkotanyi.

 

From Nyabugogo, at, the entrance of Kigali, thousands were lined on the streets, welcoming those who wore “mukotanyi” uniform complete with suspenders, new gumboots and shiny AK 47 assault rifles.

 

They had come to protect RPF officials who were supposed to join the interim government in a peace treaty that never was.

 

It was a shock for a government that had spent millions in portraying the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) as a foreign invading army from Uganda, to see the kind of welcome the 600 received.

The government diverted the convoy from the original itinerary from Kinamba, up Kacyiru where most of the ministries were located.

Habyarimana’s government feared to bring government offices to a standstill as government workers were already crowded around their office windows. The last thing the government wanted was seeing the government workers also showing support for the rebel force.

The seat of the National Assembly, then known as Conseil National pour la Développement (CND), would serve as the headquarters of the RPF during the transition.

The government’s delicately woven myth to sway the population was slowly being undone by the mere presence of the RPF in Kigali.

Early at the beginning of RPF’s incursions in northern Rwanda, Byumba, Umutara and Ruhengeri in particular, the peasants had been made to believe that the invaders were not human, had tails and could be defeated by normal household tools such as hoes, machetes.

They were told not to run away from the “Inyenzi” (cockroaches) as their guns fired “amajeli” (green peas) which were abundant in the region.

For a population that had been left in ignorance for many years, one can understand Habyarimana’s, total panic when he resorted to using unarmed villagers who had swallowed his fairy tales as human shields.

RPF’s triumphant entrance into Kigali without firing a shot was the straw that broke Habyarimana’s back. Something had to be done, urgently.

Within two months, Habyarimana managed to overturn the political tables in Rwanda’s fragile political parties. He had managed to split the main opposition parties; some through cohesive tactics others through outright buying them. It was the birth of Hutu power factions in both PL and PSD, the main opposition groups.

The final touches were being put on the macabre plans. A trial run had been done the year before when mass killings of Tutsi took place in Habyarimana’s strongholds in the north as well as in in the east, particularly in Bugesera.

Just as they suspected the international community hardly took notice so it gave the plotters the confidence to carry on the “final solution”. The rest, as they say, is history.

Many have wondered how, the RPF, an organisation of exiles, most of them from different parts of the world could come together with a sense of purpose. To the majority, Rwanda was a myth that they encountered orally when the elderly reminisced of the “good old days”, away from the misery that were refugee camps.

Others who managed to get a foothold in the cities of Africa, Europe or the Americas, something always came up to remind them that however successful they had become, they did not really belong- they were stateless.

For those who had managed to integrate into their host countries, even adopting local names, mannerisms and behaviours, they always stood out like a sore thumb and were occasionally reminded that theirs was but a temporally “citizenship” that could be stripped away at the snap of the fingers.

RPF’s forte was being able to harness all those contradictions among the exiles and reach out to people inside Rwanda who were tired of oppression and injustice. The message was simple, if people wanted change, or to return to their country, they had to take their destiny in their hands.

So when the RPF launched its offensive on October 1, 1990, recruits streamed in from all over the world. It was a melting pot of different cultures that would later prove to be the ideal weapon to fight against discrimination and nepotism.

Three-and-a-half years later, the potpourri of fighters from diverse backgrounds had morphed into a formidable fighting force that grew stronger by the day.

Rwanda’s workforce, even in senior positions, is very young. Most were toddlers in 1994 but they had a chance their elders only dreamed off; growing up in a society of equal opportunities, where merit conquers who-is-who or one’s origins.

It is a generation that is building on a well-laid down foundation that seeped the blood of countless youth their age or even younger. Today’s youth should always go about their duties with one thing in mind; they are in debt to the youth who died for this country.

The only way to repay it is by making sure the country is stronger and more prosperous. Is that really too much to ask?

ndahiro@gmail.com

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