RPF and Rwanda’s long walk to freedom and dignity

TWENTY five years after the birth of the Rwandese Patriotic Front, or its reconfiguration as a militant front for national liberation, you have to give it to the men and women who conceived the idea and saw it through in less than a decade.
Frank Kagabo
Frank Kagabo

TWENTY five years after the birth of the Rwandese Patriotic Front, or its reconfiguration as a militant front for national liberation, you have to give it to the men and women who conceived the idea and saw it through in less than a decade.

Rwandans, and most especially RPF members, are celebrating 25 years of active struggle for Rwanda’s liberation and the ongoing struggle for national dignity. It is worth reflecting on what Rwanda has become; thanks to the sacrifice of the heroes and heroines that actively sought to put into action the minimum political programme that was conceived and written down in December 1987.

When three years after its founding as a liberation movement primarily centred around the Rwandan refugee community in the region, its founders must have envisaged it as a front for all progressive forces among Rwandans both outside and inside the country. Indeed, by the time RPF launched its liberation struggle in 1990 after exhausting other avenues for constructive engagement with the regime of the time, it had attracted among its leadership and membership all shades of Rwandans, in terms of ideology or association.

The fact that RPF was not envisaged as a group that would represent any imagined community or faction among Rwandan’s as would have been expected, is one of the reasons that it was able to take on the monumental task of liberating the country and being able to return the nation to normalcy and enable Rwandans live together in harmony after years of divisionism and the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

More so, the capacity of the RPF to evolve is something worth mention. A close observation of the party leadership at all levels can attest to the fact that the party has undergone changes in leadership, and brought on board new members and leaders who have added on to its dynamism.

The kind of discipline, accountability and sense of purpose that originates from the RPF and permeates Rwandan society, speaks a lot about the future of the political party and the country it leads. The ideological clarity of the RPF leadership can be seen in the nature of politics it engages in with other constructive-minded political groups in the country.

The fact that after it emerged victorious following the defeat of the genocidal forces and has been magnanimous up to this day not to apply winner-takes-it-all politics, speaks to the nature of political responsibility that the party adheres to.  Yet, the greatest success of the RPF, may after all not be its defeat of Genocide forces, and the repatriation of the millions of refugees, but the ability to reconcile Rwandans and put the country on the path to reconstruction and transformation. Conventional knowledge would have us believe that Rwanda would descend into the perennial failed state category.

But that was not the case. Rwanda is no longer the country that used to export refugees, but a country that is now admired on a number of fronts. Who would have predicted that twenty years ago!

Gone are the days when Rwandans had to deny their origin while outside the country. Today the pride and dignity that Rwandans carry themselves with is testimony to the minimum success of the country under the stewardship of the ruling RPF.

Many african liberation movements that took power across the continent have come to a time when the emergence of fresh young leaders is inevitable. The founding fathers are growing old and soon will be in the evening of their lives. Naturally, the mantle will fall into the hands of a generation that may have a different world view.

The ANC has managed that transition well although most of its current leaders have history in the struggle. Nevertheless, they are from a different generation. Ramaphosa, Mbeki, Sexwale, Zuma and others who took over from the Mandela generation have ably steered the party and country with few hitches, though some bumps have been hit along the way.

RPF, like other liberation movements, will in time come to that point. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how the party is able to transfer leadership from its current leaders to the next generation.

The evidence suggests that there is a crop of young Rwandans who have already demonstrated great ability in leadership at different levels. A look at the many young Rwandans occupying the different high level leadership positions and their performance indicates that the future of the RPF and leadership of the country is already secured in a generation that has been inspired by today’s firm and visionary leadership.