To Many, it was a day of joy, a day worth waiting for, a day that was ripe to defend a dear cause. To others, it was a day of sacrifice.
It was Monday, October 1, 1990, a day that probably was going to be just like Monday is notorious for; hectic, but it remains a day that engraved a history in quest for Rwanda’s liberation from the yoke of bad leadership.
Many experts relate Rwanda’s history to the epitome of cardinal principles enshrined in ethos of patriotism and heroism, hence the relevance of October 1, 1990.
The dawn of that Monday was the start of the four-year struggle to end social divisions, restore unity, establish a democratic leadership, defending sovereignty of the country, among others.
Former officers of the then Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) believe more efforts are needed in ensuring the current generations, oblivious of that particular struggle, will not take things for granted.
The RPA was the military wing of the Rwanda Patriotic Front, the current governing party.
Col (rtd) Dr Joseph Karemera, who was on the frontline, recalls the strong spirit, determination and morale within courageously joined hands to defend a mighty cause that culminated into a successful liberation.
Speaking to The New Times, yesterday, Karemera said even before the offensive, due to strong mobilisation that had taken place, selflessness and commitment were effective assurances to win.
“You could see young people coming even after hearing upsetting news about their relatives having died in battle, and we could see that, sooner or later, we were going to win,” he said.
Although the second day of the struggle turned out to be heartrending and demoralising after the commander, Maj Gen Fred Gisa Rwigema, was killed, Karemera said the battle still continued.
“Under the command of Adam Waswa, who would later die in an accident, the fight continued. We did not want to tell the soldiers that Rwigema had died, we buried him late that night in Kagitumba and fought until President Paul Kagame, then a student in the US, came back and we reorganised,” he said.
Kagame’s return, according to Karemera, was the biggest boost the army could get since the morale of the soldiers had spiraled so badly within just days as some had started doubting the cause.
Kagame managed to revise the fighting strategy and engaged the gallant liberators in less risky combats that would lead to the achievement of the ultimate goal in the shortest time possible.
However, Karemera said the youth today should not take things for granted after having grown up in asafe and developing country.
“The negative forces are still alive, which means we need to remain focused as we uphold our dignity. When you get strong, negative forces weaken; that strength should be reinforced through unity,” he said.
Although the government decided to merge celebration of the day in conjunction with Heroes’ Day that is feted on February 1, Sports and Culture minister Julienne Uwacu told The New Times that particularity of the day is jealously preserved and honoured.
“Our history does not overlook what transpired on that particular day. These are good deeds that we hold dear to us, they are and can be used towards a common goal of nation building,” she said.
Uwacu said the significance of that particular day will remain in Rwanda’s memories and will provide a unique lesson to each individual on the heroic and patriotic deeds that became a genesis of where the country has reached so far.
The armed liberation campaign ended on July 4, 1994, following the defeat of the regime that presided over the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.