For Mozambique, it may have been the shooting down of a plane carrying the country’s liberation hero, Samora Machel while for South Africa, that unfortunate day when the young anti-apartheid firebrand uttered the words, before being sent to jail for all his troubles.
In the United States, it could be the group of rebellious young men who stood up to British colonialism and signed the famous Declaration of Independence or when the iconic Abraham Lincoln succeeded in defending the union in a tumultuous war-time one-term presidency and lost his life in the process to become one of the greatest presidents in his country’s history.
The price of freedom the world over has taken different shapes and forms.
In Rwanda, a heartrending story of a people’s suffering spread over four decades of ethnic segregation, expulsion from their homeland, complete with not only a threat of extermination but an actual attempt at it in the 1994 Genocide against the Batutsi, is part of such a price.
That storyline resembles the Jewish struggle against anti-Semitism, most marked in history by Hitler’s purinistic attempt to wipe out Jews and other minority groups during the holocaust.
Freedom as simple as it sounds remains an elusive commodity in a world where human rights continue to gain credence as a basis for which sovereign nations can agree without doubt as a standard for fairness and humanity, irrespective of other differences.
Mahatma Gandhi famously advocated for non-violence as a means for getting freedom for India. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than anywhere else, citizens have had to go to extreme lengths to earn the highly yearned for sense of freedom and self determination from colonialists who came and staked their claim on swathes of land, irrespective of their local occupant’s rights and committed and condoned the most horrendous human rights abuses such as slave trade through such selfish methods like divide and rule or indirect rule.
Ethiopia, the only African country that successfully resisted colonialism through a tough rebellion does not offer the freedoms that South Africa which gained independence just in 1994 does.
That just goes to demonstrate how gains made after liberations should not be taken for granted.
Rwanda’s case is a typical example of Africans breaking the jinx of colonial domination only for sectarian divisions, albeit caused by selfish colonial biases, to inflict much more serious consequences in the manner the genocidal Hutu government planned to exterminate a fellow Rwandan people without due regard to the Batutsi’s right to life.
It makes the 1994 Rwanda liberation even more meaningful to the human race as whole. The liberation war of 1994 was not just a mere struggle for political power or for control of natural resources. It was a struggle for the basic human right to life.
Unlike the anti-apartheid struggle which sought equal rights for black South Africans, the liberation war to Rwanda was a struggle against humans who through fellow humans did not deserve to live life right in their own homeland.
In addition the tragic death of Fred Rwigyema which consigned him to the highest echelons of Rwanda’s liberation heroes, can be equated to the loss of Samora Machel to Mozambique, John Garang to Southern Sudan or Abraham Lincoln to the United States.
Fifteen years after the horror of the genocide, now that the world has awoken to the astounding progress that Rwanda has achieved in a short span of time, the world should now begin to appreciate the price of a people’s liberation and freedom that was won by sweat and blood of patriotic Rwandans.