After 32 years of dictatorial headship and a leadership that lacked vision, the country got liberated on the July 4, 1994 by what many will call the efforts of the visionary sons of Rwanda.
Many among these had been born in exile and only dreamed of ever having chance to live in a country they called their own.
Many attempts by the refugees to engage the government in power at that time on the issue of letting them come back to their country always fell on a deaf ear.
First was the diplomatic option where talks were held several times. However, it’s on record that President Juvenal Habyarimana thwarted any possible solution.
He summarised his stand thus, “Rwanda is like a glass of water, and if more water is added the one in the glass would run over.”
The state of the Nation before liberation
According to Major General Caesar Kaizari, by the time Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) decided to invade and fight the bad regime, it was the only last option that sober people could take.
“It was a bandit state because if you have a minister importing pangas in the country to be used in killing one section of the citizens, then that government deserves to be called a bandit government,” says Kaizari.
The Minister of Local Government, Protais Musoni, speaks out on why the liberation war was inevitable at the time it happened.
He explains that all liberations start due to major contradictions, and thus the Rwanda liberation war also was as a result of existing contradictions.
“Major among the contradictions was divisionism which had been adopted and nurtured by the government that was in power at that time from the colonialists.”
He says that the colonialists had sowed a seed of hatred and divisionism among Rwandans. This seed was happily taken on by the governments that took over after independence hence creating a lot of contradictions which called for a solution.
According to Musoni, these contradictions led to insecurity within the country.
“If you look at post independent Rwanda, you see a country with no direction, insecurity every where, people’s homes were being invaded and destroyed and yet the leadership at that time decided not to protect the people it had the mandate to defend.”
He also says that the country was characterised by poor governance. The governance here was so poor in that there was no participation of the people.
“It is important to enable citizens participate in governance but the leadership always opted for the one man’s show and did not let the citizens participate in their own governance.”
He continues to elaborate that there also existed ‘state sponsored corruption.’ Musoni says that corruption at that time was encouraged by the state itself and whoever was corrupt could be looked at as a hero and the general population had been made to think that actually corruption was morally right.
Another thing the minister says was the situation of a ‘nation without dignity’. According to him, Rwanda was a nation which was so under looked to the extent that neighbouring nations could do whatever they wanted within her borders.
Here, he cites an example where whenever Soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) former Zaire would want to cross into Rwanda on market day, the Rwandese soldiers would run away in fear until the former crossed back to their country.
“Such examples portrayed a nation that lacked dignity…a nation that was being under looked by its neighbours which highly damaged the values, norms and taboos of our nation.”
15 years down the road and not down the drain
The fourth of July was a starting point of this beautiful country to go into the streamline of liberating itself from all the above mentioned oppressions that had characterised it.
The agenda of the leadership that took over power after genocide, was to create a country which is self reliant.
Fifteen years after liberation, a lot has been achieved and there is a lot to be rejoiced over in all aspects.
Security in the country has been restored. “We have excellent security; there is no doubt on that if you compared us to all our neighbours,” said Major general Caesar Kaizari in a recent talk show.
The government has introduced good governance where it has included citizens and allowed them to participate in their own governance through decentralisation.
The Government of Rwanda defines good governance as: “the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority to manage the nation’s affairs and the complex mechanisms, processes, relationships and institutions as well as leadership behaviour through which citizens’ groups articulate their interests, exercise their rights and obligations and meditate their differences”.
The economy of Rwanda has grown in the last fifteen years up to double digits.
According to the Minister of Agriculture, Christophe Bazivamo, our economy is one of the fastest growing economies.
He attributes this growth to the Rwandan people themselves. He adds that this is part of government’s long term plan to enable Rwandans liberate themselves from poverty.
Being in charge of the Agriculture Ministry, he sighted the country’s increased food security after the liberation.
“Before the genocide, there were areas which were well known as hunger prone and whenever you mentioned them, nothing else but hunger came to peoples’ minds. Such areas included Gikongoro and Bugesera, among others. But now, there is nothing like that in the country. Everywhere people have food to eat.”
Human Rights in the country have also been restored. They (Human Rights) had been violated for a long time but the Government has restored them and put in place institutions to prevent any that might occur once in a while.
The way forward, from ordinary people’s points of view
Now that a lot has been achieved in the last fifteen years, what is the way forward for Rwanda? Should we all sit and feel comfortable that all is well?
A cross section of Rwandans who spoke to The Sunday Times say that despite having registered a lot of progress, there’s a lot that still needs to be done in order to further develop this country and create a good environment for future generations.
“Our predecessors who planned the liberation and ushered peace in our beloved country did a great job. Also the leadership that has maintained and developed our country up to where we are has done a good job, but there is a lot that can still be done especially given the conducive environment we have now,” says Joseph Kayinamura, a trader.
He also says that the country still has along way to go in terms of poverty reduction as there are many people in the countryside who are still under acute levels of poverty.
He however was quick to add that this can end if only the people themselves rise up and work hard.
“I think there is a lot to rejoice over after fifteen years since we were liberated, but the government still has a very big task to accomplish in the education sector most especially in the countryside where pupils are studying under trees,” says Florence Uwimbabazi, a teacher.
She also said that the country’s vision for the future was very clear. She urges all Rwandans to take the Vision 2020 as their own and work towards achieving it.
According to Patrice Nkubito, 23, a student, all Rwandan youth need to unite in order to play a greater role in developing their country.
“I suggest that we as the youth should unite in order to take our country further on in development because it is us who are supposed to be the engine of the nation. We should emulate our fellow youth who liberated this country and carry on their legacy since there is a lot yet to be done,” he says.
Ruth Mukanyirigira, a businesswoman in Kigali, also thinks that the way forward for Rwanda fifteen years after liberation is very clear provided the citizens of this country are ready to take on the mantle.
“Now that peace and a conducive environment for all Rwandans are in place, I believe that it is our responsibility to draw the course of the country and make it to continue shining among other nations.”
Yesterday we celebrated our nation’s liberation. Let us all give ourselves the mandate of taking on the legacy of its planners and fight on until our country reaches where they would have wanted it to be.