To monitor the 4th July 2009 Liberation Day, I watched RDF trooping the colours on television with a lot of interest as a student of African history.
I noticed something unique with the formations of the RDF parade that day. As a Kenyan, ever since my childhood I was particularly a fan of our national celebrations back at home due to only one thing; how the Kenyan armed forces’ parade was conducted.
The military used to amaze me as a boy. After I went to university, I lost interest. I instead started looking at things differently, partly due to the doctrines of the Pan-Africanism that I picked up in my studies.
So when I watched the RDF troop its colours on the 4th July, my curiosity was aroused, forcing me to watch the entire parade from start to its conclusion. And these were my observations from a pan-Africanist view.
The parade was different. Completely different and very uncolonial. While Kenya army does its trooping with utmost professionalism, to me as a student of African history, the Kenyan system mirrors itself in colonial setting.
Meaning that Kenya’s military formations have its umbilical cord attached to the Kings African Rifles, that relic of British colonialism in Africa.
RDF’s parade at Amahoro stadium on 4th July 2009 had none of that. I had myself saying this; Yes, this is the force which kicked out in 1994 the infamous FAR, the Genocidal forces, which had been fashioned out of the earlier Rwanda’s infamous security agency the Garde Nationale of 1960s which ultimately had its roots from the notorious Force Publique, Central Africa’s colonial relic.
To me, my studies of African history during my undergrad days clearly enabled me to see Force Publique as a tool of African repression which I can only equate comparatively with the activities of the Kings African Rifles from East Africa.
Thus to me the RDF trooping of its colours that day was refreshingly new and truly African. African in the sense that it did not have any pretence with any colonial vestiges. Even the match past was revolutionary and looked distanced from the European style that we often see on the continent.
I said in my mind as a commentator of African history that the ‘newness’ I saw was probably the reason why RDF has won its wars with valour.
And probably that is the primary reason why Rwanda’s borders are so safe. The RDF seemed to be a creative army, one that does not photocopy from the books of our dark colonial past.
I thus went on to conclude that this parade has a very important place in the annals of African history. The RDF parade on 4th July 2009 confirmed to me the fact that a new revolution was taking root in Africa.
A new home made system, completely African with no linkages to anything colonial. There was no Belgian or French attributions in the formations of that day as opposed to what you would see in Kenya.
Perhaps I could add that the ghost of Major General Fred Gisa Rwigyema also took a salute. Plus a host of the other true sons of Africa such as Jomo Kenyatta, Kwame Nkrumah, Captain Thomas Sankara, Col. John Garang and Patrice Lumumba along with many others.
This parade to me was very symbolic. That for sure a new African state is shaping up. Very African, very new and thus truly revolutionary in the literal sense of the meaning.
I am very sure that such simplicity, agility and hence ‘newness’ is what has actually distinguished the RDF to be regarded as one of Africa’s formidable military forces hence its presence in a number of peacekeeping operations and other related roles in Darfur or Somalia.