When the military wing of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) fired the first bullets on their way to liberate the country, on October 1, 1990, the majority in the rebel army were youth.
They were determined to make enormous sacrifices for the unity and the development of the nation.
Twenty three years down the road, today, the youth acknowledge they are vital change agents who will act as catalysts to further the country’s development considering the history of Rwanda’s liberation struggle and the culture of patriotism.
National cricket star, Eric Dusingizimana, 30, says he learnt a lot including patriotism, persistence, sacrifice and endurance, from the country’s liberators.
What the nation’s liberators achieved over the past two decades, he said, is without an equal in quality or extent.
“Two decades ago, the liberators were mostly very young people. Their self-sacrifice and patriotism is matchless. And these are qualities we draw from and get inspired to reach greater heights,” said Dusingizimana.
The civil engineer who is General Manager of Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation is overseeing operations to officially open Rwanda’s first International Cricket Stadium in Gahanga, a Kigali suburb, later this year.
“We must be inspired to think for the future generation. The liberators gave their all, including life. Our task now is to be patient, but determined. We are happy and enjoying the fruits of liberation but we must be ever vigilant and guard their achievements resolutely. We need to work harder; double our efforts to double their accomplishments. I am always challenged to do more.”
Last year, the Rwanda National Cricket team captain set a new world record for the longest time spent batting in the net.
Eliane Umuhire, another young Rwandan who won the Best Actress Award at the 52nd edition of Central and Eastern Europe’s leading film event, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF), is encouraged by the selflessness of the liberators.
“The liberation struggle has always been a constant reminder of how many sacrifices were made for me and fellow young Rwandans to be where we are now. We are able to dream and achieve our dreams because one day other young men and women sacrificed to give us a free and peaceful country,” Umuhire said.
“It is also a constant reminder of how much strength and capacities we have as young men and women and if used well we can fly high. I am forever grateful for the Rwanda we have now, a home that I always come back to, a home that always inspires me to give the best of myself.”
Umuhire acted in the award winning movie “Birds are Singing in Kigali” which was shot both in Rwanda and Poland.
Dominique Uwase Alonga, the young CEO of Imagine We Rwanda, a social enterprise that seeks to improve the reading and creative writing cultures in the country, suggests that the youth are not unaware of the sacrifices made by the liberators.
She said: “I think what the youth of Rwanda is doing is appreciating the sacrifices of the generation before. We are also using our gifts, skills, talents and passion to liberate the country further. Rwanda still needs to be liberated but from another enemy; poverty. This is where I see the youth of Rwanda standing and leading. We are using the prevailing peace and security to sustain the economy for the generation to come.”
“It is still a fight but a different one. It is the fight of self-awareness and development. It is the journey to learn and grow to ensure that the past evils of Rwanda do not rise again. The young generation of Rwanda has tremendous potential and responsibility because we are the ones to sustain what our fathers and mothers sacrificed their lives for.”
Among other things, Dominique is committed to helping people tell stories. Based in Kigali, her social enterprise, Imagine We Rwanda, empowers young authors in their story writing journeys.
A lot to learn
Patricie Uwase Mavubi, founder of the “100 women Who Will Impact Rwanda (100 WWW-IR)” initiative also admits that the youth “definitely” have a lot to learn from the liberators.
“The liberators truly embody two words: resilience and consistency. If they had not kept up with the fight, and got discouraged in 1990; we would not have the Rwanda of today.
The youthful engineer, entrepreneur and mentor “enjoys solving complex problems,” reading non-fiction books and exchanging ideas with people.
“The liberators have also done everything with consistency; always reminding us that the liberation struggle has not ended. As a young person, I always remember these lessons when things get tough. Failure at first trial is but an opportunity to work even harder for a hard won fight,” she said.
In Rwanda, the age bracket for one to be considered youth is between 16 to 30 years. The youth make more than 60 percent of Rwanda’s 12 million people.
The UN estimates that there are over 226 million people aged between 15-24 in Africa, making it the most youthful continent.
André Bitwayiki, the chairperson of the Private Sector Federation (PSF) in the City of Kigali, agrees that the youth played a pivotal role during the liberation struggle, and he has a message for today’s youth.
“What I can tell the youth today is that the struggle is not all about bullets only and they need to learn from their elders; the bravery of the old should inspire them to fight the war for national development. The youth should fight the abuse of drugs and other unnecessary distractions that can derail their mission so that Rwanda makes fast progress,” he said.
Deputy Speaker Jeanne d’Arc Uwimanimpaye advises the youth to be patriotic and, among other things and emphasized the importance of the latter not using excuses to limit themselves but instead find solutions to problems.
The liberators were young, Uwimanimpaye said, but had showed acts of selfless devotion.
“The youth today need to borrow a leaf by being patriotic and humane.”
Dr. Odette Nyiramilimo, a former member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), senator and Minister of State for Social Affairs, says there are many lessons Rwanda’s youth can learn from the discipline and patriotism of the liberators.
Dr. Nyiramilimo also emphasized the importance of patriotism, resilience, self-sacrifice and self-esteem as key lessons the youth needed to learn from the liberators.
“Key lessons Rwanda’s youth should learn from country’s liberators are patriotism, loving your country like your mother; resilience, altruism, as well as self-respect,” Dr. Nyiramilimo said.
Jean-Marie Vianney Gatabazi, the new Governor of Northern Province, says the youth need to appreciate the importance and value of having and belonging to a country and, as such have the will and resolve to work for, and protect it at whatever cost.
“The youth must understand that working for the country begins at an early age and must be interested in the country’s history and learn from our President, especially his exemplary discipline and consistent hard work,” Gatabazi said.
According to Gatabazi, among others, the youth must at all times be mindful of the fact that lack of unity destroyed the nation in the past and resulted in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and must as such hold close the culture of unity.