There is no doubt that Rwanda, today, is a nation whose citizens are proud to be identified and associated with, more than any other time before.
The pre-1994 Rwanda was hardly known on the world stage and this was largely due to the fact that nothing positive was coming out of it, thanks to a self-serving and fascist regime.
Millions of Rwandans had been condemned to life in refugee camps in neighbouring countries and many others back home had little or no say on how they were governed, and which values their country stood for, on the international scene.
Rwandans, both outside and inside the country, were excluded from shaping and determining the future of their own country. Only members of the ‘Akazu’ (the inner ruling clique) and their western backers decided the fate of the country.
Rwanda had become a personal property. Yet, there was no sense of genuine ownership – not in the ‘Akazu’ members, and obviously, not in the manipulative western powers.
For long, no one was there to fight for the country; to protect the interests of the people of Rwanda, and to nurture and enhance a national pride and dignity. Instead, the ‘Akazu’ clique worked against the interests of the country it ruled over, and conspired against and destroyed the people they were meant to protect.
They plunged the country into the worst human catastrophe of the 20th century, the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. They killed over a million Tutsi and looted their own country. That’s the country we called home 16 years ago. It was, therefore, not surprising for many Rwandans, especially those outside the country, to be ashamed and embarrassed to call themselves Rwandans.
The Rwandan identity simply evoked no sense of pride, dignity, hope or aspirations for the future. Many foreigners looked at us as killers, practically beasts, who could not spare the lives of even the unborn babies! They were justified. And so, being called a Rwandan was the last thing you wanted on planet Earth.
The young Rwandan generation, at least those with no memory of 1994 and its immediate aftermath, will hardly believe that the country they are now proud to call home, was practically a reject, just a few years ago.
They are better off than us, the older compatriots. And, in them, lie the strong hope for the New Rwanda. Luckily, the roots for the New Rwanda are slowly, but steadily taking shape. They have been carefully laid for the past sixteen years. But they remain largely exposed and highly vulnerable.
These roots are in the form of the budding united and sovereign nation, one where all citizens – men and women; Hutu, Tutsi and Twa – have equal access to national opportunities, and where judicial instruments are not used to serve a few individuals; where every Rwandan is free to live in any corner of their country, and to participate in matters concerning their own lives and their nation at large.
Today, a Rwandan in any corner of the world, will be proud to be referred to as a Rwandan, and, in many cases, foreigners will look at as a determined patriot, and not the ‘killer specie’ of yesteryears. Our leaders are now keenly listened to by international audiences, and many ordinary Rwandans are treated with respect around the world. This newly found identity is something we must all promote and jealously guard.