On September 28, 2013 Rwandans across the world gathered in Toronto, Canada to celebrate the second Rwanda Day this year, following the UK editor in May. This event has become an iconic of Rwanda’s celebrations.
The convention attracted investors interested in learning about Rwanda’s progress, business opportunities in Rwanda, Rwandans in the Diaspora, friends of Rwanda, government officials and the guest of honor, President Paul Kagame.
I attended last year’s Rwanda Day event in Boston, UK, and quite frankly I did not know what to expect, except that I knew the President would be there. I went to hear him speak and when he did, his magnetic presence was felt across the hall.
Last year’s Rwanda Day happened at a time when Rwanda was swamped in economic difficulties, caused by international donors who withdrew their aid to Rwanda. On the political front, a league of western and regional nations teamed up against Rwanda following the release of the UN Group of Expert report, which accused Rwanda for supporting M23.
At the convention, some people believed the President would slam the international community for taking action on a baseless report, others thought he had come to encourage people to contribute money to the Agaciro Development Fund but his message really was about standing strong and renewing commitment to Rwanda.
The President reminded delegates that Rwandans are the masters and architects of their destiny and that the country will not fail to achieve its goals so long as Rwandans stand united.
Rwanda Day Toronto was an enormous success. I followed the convention in a coffee house and the ambiance of music and cultural dances at the convention was celebrative.
The moment President Kagame stood on the podium to address the audience and indeed other Rwandan viewers cross the world, I rubbed away goose bumps on my arms feeling his presence thousands of miles away.
Kagame did not speak as commander in chief; he spoke as a father, older brother, counselor and model. It was as though he was talking to his own children, looking them in the eyes, “What Rwandan would you rather be?” he asked.
“Some of you are naturalised American and Canadian citizens.” he said. “Whoever you are, strive to build a better and stronger Rwanda, one that will never die for the second time.”
The echoes of applause in appreciation of what the President and other brave men and women have done for Rwanda made me flinch.
The President’s address was deeply rooted in honesty. “You, young men and women, the youth of Rwanda; some of you are here for school, others are exploring your careers, do all in your power to become better people.”
So quiet the room was, all I could hear was my heartbeat unable to take my eyes off the computer screen.
Kagame told the youth, if you were able to walk across swamps, seas and oceans to come to the United States, Canada or Europe, “Go and gain knowledge to make you better people and your country prosperous.”
His statement reminded me of the words in Mark 16:15 thus; “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all the creation,” Jesus said to his disciples.
When I walk around Dupond Circle in downtown Washington and see how men have chosen to become other men’s ‘women’, and women other women’s ‘men’, I pray the same does not happen in my beloved Rwanda. I pray our Agaciro overcomes these kinds of “rights” of the fast changing world.
As we look forward to many more Rwanda Day events in the future, whether in Africa, Asia or elsewhere, may we all continue to grow and become better people; learning good lessons from our peers and appling the massive experience we have gained to make Rwanda a better and prosperous country.
The writer is a Rwandan living in Washington D.C, US.