Tito Rutaremara is a face and voice that most people associate with RPF-Inkotanyi and the struggle to liberate Rwanda. He was present and a participant when the idea to start the liberation journey kicked off in the 80s.
He has served as Secretary-General of RPF-Inkotanyi, he championed the process that led to the promulgation of the 2003 Constitution, he has been Ombudsman, a Senator and he is currently the head of Rwanda Elders Advisory Council. He sat down with The New Times’ Nasra Bishumba to shed light on the journey to liberation and the critical role young cadres could play.
Where does the story of the liberation of Rwanda begin?
Any liberation journey doesn’t begin just like that. First, you must collect ideas. Then the ideas had to be given a political ideology. After that you need people who fully understand these ideas and it is them that then begin the process of mobilisation.
That’s the first stage of any liberation journey. Rwandans had always wanted to come back but the ideas didn’t really come to anything because there was no clear political leadership.
Tito Rutaremara during the interview last week. / Photo: Willy Mucyo.
There were other attempts but it wasn’t until 1979 when Rwandese Alliance for National Unity (RANU) was formed in Kenya and Uganda that the platform for ideas really came to life. RANU had intellectuals and in 1981, 1983 and 1985, we had general congress meetings.
RANU provided a platform with a structure, providing Rwandans with an opportunity to debate ideas collected from different people. It is in 1985 that we started thinking about expanding RANU from a group of intellectuals to something bigger and open to everyone.
A task force was set up between 1986 and 1987 and it is that same team that came with the idea of a dynamic mass movement that included youths, women.
It is then that RPF-Inkotanyi was born.
What was RPF-Inkotanyi bringing to the table that was different?
The difference that RPF-Inkotanyi came with was that there had to be individuals who could make the sacrifice to do nothing else but commit their time to mobilisation.
There were political schools where youths were sent to be political cadres and to be given tools of analysis, methods of work, code of conduct, history of Rwanda and much more.
The cadres would then go out there and start mobilisation. Mobilisation continued even when the liberation war was ongoing.
People were contributing money, medical supplies, clothes, contributing on the diplomatic front and others.
People must liberate themselves. No one else can do it for them. A long time ago, some Rwandans used to say that they will be liberated by King Kigeli, others thought that the United Nations, China, or some countries in the East.
That was the challenge. Every liberation war has its phases; collecting ideas, putting in place an ideology, then cadres to spread the word, the liberation war and after that was done, we started building the foundation.
We started rebuilding the economic fabric of the nation. Liberation continues. It will be over when every Rwandan easily access affordable medical services, they can study whatever they want, when they can enjoy their life but also be able to save for comfortable retirement and many more.
We are not yet there but we have things like Vision 2050 that we hope can by then fix all this.
Do you think that the journey ahead is going to be easier or harder for today’s cadres?
You must consider that during our time, we were working in a much less conducive environment. We were not on our territory. The environment was complicated. It is that environment however that made us more determined, that built our resolve.
Today’s youth are in a much better environment. They have a government that is taking care of them, paying for their education, giving them medical care and slowly involving them in leadership roles from the village level up to the cabinet level, equipping them with leadership skills.
Their environment is different. However, they also have their struggles. It is easy for them to relax and feel like they have everything.
They can also feel that they have guarantees that it will always be like this, and forget that they need to work hard to sustain what has been achieved.
Then there is a challenge that we are in competition with people who are way ahead of us. We had no competition. They must compete with countries that are 100 years, 50 years ahead of us.
We must run and be on their level or even ahead. This is a very big challenge. We had our challenges, they have theirs. What we need is sacrifice and commitment.
What tools are you equipping the younger cadres with for them to be able to deliver?
Giving them in leadership roles. We never had that opportunity during our time. We remind them through programs like Vision 2020, 2030 and 2050 that they have a mission.
Then give them the right education, finance their projects, connect them to others and since they have the tools and means, and then give them these leadership roles when they are in their 20s, 30s….All these Generals were once very young.
They are ready but of course that’s relative. They can build leadership within themselves. If they are lucky and do that, the process will be faster.
In what areas should younger cadres put more emphasis?
They don’t have a lot of stress the way we did. They don’t have to worry about the next move. Everything is there. I would advise them to be forward-looking, to look at the targets that were set and be determined to hit them.
By the way, they are doing better than we did. In our time, you would get like three or four people who were always available to pull people together because others had other commitments.
For those of today, they are comparing themselves with other African countries which are also looking at them and admiring what they have achieved. They are better than we are really. I wish I was young during this time.
There has been talk of drug abuse among Rwanda’s youth. How do you feel about that?
It is heart-breaking to have made these sacrifices so that young people can build on them only to see a part of them go down that road. It is terrible. We keep asking the youth to fight this.
Don’t allow drugs to take over. It is their responsibility to stop this, not the Police’s. It’s their war and they should win it because they have the means.
Looking back, did you ever think that RPF-Inkotanyi would grow into something this big?
Absolutely. When you start a struggle, you always think that you will win. If start with self-doubt, you won’t achieve anything. You must believe or you won’t achieve anything.
We knew it would be as big as it is today because that was our wish.
Are there things about Rwanda that surprised you?
There is no way I would have thought that Rwanda, that most people under-look because mostly of its size, can have a President that everyone wants. That’s something that you would never have imagined ten years ago.
You had a dream to come back home and achieved it. What now are you looking forward to?
My dream now is to see Rwanda join the likes of China and the US when they go to Mars. They could say that they have a rocket and perhaps give us an opportunity to for instance make the wheels. It’s a dream.
We already are using a satellite here and we can start teaching nuclear science. It is attainable.Follow https://twitter.com/Africannash