In 1994, the State of Rwanda collapsed but the nation remained. What happened in 1994 was as if the State decided to drop an atomic bomb within its own jurisdiction.
This contradiction is the key to understand the modern history of Rwanda.
International public law defines the State as an entity with people, power and territory. All of those attributes were no longer present during the genocide against the Tutsi.
The government had turned against its people; the government later lost control over its territory and went to exile in the DRC.
The Rwandan State used all its national and international resources to commit the Genocide against Tutsis. By doing so, the State embraced the possibility of implosion.
The will to commit the genocide against Tutsi was stronger than the will to maintain the State of Rwanda in existence.
The process of a failed state began a long time ago as Rwandans were incapable to defend their sovereignty in the face of a better equipped colonial army. Since then, a different version of the Rwandan State emerged, one that no longer saw Rwandans as a community of values but a zero-sum game Ethno-cracy.
This new Rwandan State doctrine is what prompted a civil war between the Rwandan Patriotic Front and the then Government led by the Mouvement Revolutionaire National pour le Developpement (MRND). In August 1993, the civil war had come to an end with the Arusha Peace Agreement.
Right before the genocide started, a coup d’Etat happened: the presidential guard killed the Chief Justice, Prime Minister and the entire democratic leaning political class to prevent constitutional continuation, after the President Habyarimana had been killed.
The Rwandese Patriotic Front was then confronted with probably the most difficult political situation of the 20th Century: outnumbered by a factor of 10 and without international support, the RPF had to rescue the very State whose Government it was fighting, against the backdrop of an unfolding genocide.
The MRND led government had opted for the total destruction of Rwanda instead of accepting the implementation of the Arusha Peace Agreement.
It is of utmost importance to distinguish the liberation struggle with the campaign against genocide. While the former had a distinguishable battle field, the later had to stop neighbours from killing neighbours and priests from killing their own congregations.
During this time, as the State had abdicated its responsibilities and all social forces were following suit or could not resist, the RPF became the sole organization able to keep the Rwandan Nation from decay.
This defining moment of a rebel movement turning into a nation building organization cannot be explained by force, resources or fortitude. Somehow, the RPF had found the key to what holds Rwanda together even in the context of genocide, somehow the RPF embodied the Rwandan Nation.
On July 19th 1994, the first post-genocide government was sworn in but the situation was desperate: 10% of the population had been killed by fellow Rwandans and 30% of the population was in exile, life expectancy stood at 28 years old and our GDP had plummeted by 50%.
By any measure, recovery was mission impossible. A new struggle had to begin, one that we are privileged to have seen the results.
Exactly 60 years since Rwanda started the journey of self-destruction, it has been a unique journey but common to all African nations: The encounter with the modern international order was spectacularly violent, alienating and redefined who we are as African people.
Over the last centuries, many African minds have tried to answer the question of why Africa was and continues to be in this situation of vulnerability, despite the self-evident truth of human equality.
The Rwanda Patriotic Front confronted this situation with a simple formula: wherever there is a gap between potential and reality, there is always a leadership failure.
A generation has passed since the Genocide against the Tutsi, and the number of Rwandan patriots is getting closer to the number of the Rwandan voting population.
Not surprisingly, this national cohesion bought about a State capacity that tops global rankings.
Rwanda has not yet reached where it should be, but Rwandans are living out their highest aspirations, while occupying the driving seat. The right to a life in dignity has become the rationale of the State, as evidenced by the socio-economic progress of the country.
The human sacrifices that have made it possible are a reminder of the cost of freedom when things fall apart. Lastly, our history leaves us with a sacred duty. After all, we have 1 Million unaccomplished dreams to fulfil, in memory of the 1 Million lives violently interrupted by a State defined by hate.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.