Etymologically, according to Larousse French dictionary, the word patriotism is coined from the Latin word “pater”, meaning father, and patriotism can be defined as follows.
A sense of belonging to a country, which strengthens unity based on common values or a state of mind/spirit that pushes someone to feel love and pride for their homeland (country) and to defend its interests.
However, do not confuse patriotism and chauvinism, which is its excessive, even aggressive expression, and patriotism should be distinguished from nationalism which is a political ideology.
Based on these clarifications and knowing that all divisions, exclusions, massacres, more than once, devastated our country Rwanda, and finally, the Genocide that was perpetrated against Tutsi, all of these horrors were mainly acts of some Rwandans against their compatriots (without ignoring or minimizing the involvement, direct or indirect, of some foreigners), then we may well enjoy this choice of rehabilitating and insisting on the value of patriotism.
Post-Genocide Rwandan authorities and the whole society have, indeed, good reason to include patriotism in the list of fundamental national values to strengthen sustainably.
For this purpose, we may point out that education, viewed in its broad sense (formal and non formal), is seriously called to contribute to the achievement of this task.
In fact, one could say that the education of the Rwandan citizen to patriotism should be easy, because patriotism was a reality experienced in the traditional Rwandan society before the colonization and evangelization of the country.
Thus, the resuscitation of patriotism will be a kind of rehabilitation that recreates this consciousness of unity, solidarity, revives reflexes and psychological dispositions of a family.
Every Rwandan citizen must regain his/her pride as when all citizens were shelted under the same shield, behind one leader to provide useful lessons to our aggressors.
Today, the most dangerous aggressor is one who believes that the happiness of some Rwandans implies the exclusion of others (Cf. B. Muzungu, in Cahiers Lumières et Société, n°17, March, 2000).
If Rwandans recover that sense of love and pride of their beloved nation and their compatriots, without exclusion or segregation, Rwanda, as a nation, will revive, the strong unity and cohesion that have, for a long time, lacked or were trampled either by foreigners (colonialists) or by some Rwandans (authors of the various massacres since 1959 to the genocide of 1994).
Furthermore, in Rwandan society, assets for rapid revival of the value of patriotism abound: in all, the entire Rwandan population shares many things: the national language (Kinyarwanda), a centuries-old history, culture, national territory, occupied by Rwandans without any distinction, etc.
In my own opinion, with the political will of the current leadership, as I mentioned earlier, no doubt that Rwandans will restore durably their secular national unity and social cohesion.
Indeed, as sociologist Edgar Morin states (in the book: Pour entrer dans le XXI° siècle, Editions du Seuil, Paris, 2004), the concept of society is sociologically thought in terms of “gesellschaft”: system made by material interactions, technical and by interests. But, patriotically, society is seen as community or “gemeinschaft”.
Of course, some people, in their everyday life, do not take into serious consideration that reality of the community. They rather consider community as an illusion or a myth, just because a national scene is routinely dominated by the clash of various individual interests and egocentrisms.
But, as the above-mentioned scholar stated, those people forget that it is the community myth that gives to society its cohesion.
Although in everyday life of a nation this mythical fraternity is recessive and repressed, it becomes, for example, real when the nation is threatened by the enemy.
Currently, in the Rwandan society 21 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, we may say that the most terrible enemy of the Rwandan people and their nation should be one who has intention to plant the seed of divisionism and exclusion among them.
Meanwhile, given the various evident positive and extraordinary accomplishments in such a short time (since the Genocide) and the country’s commitment to its future, it is very realistic to be optimistic about the future of Rwandans and that of their State as a nation.
The author is a lecturer at Institute of Agriculture, Technology and Education (Inatek)Kibungo.