Please allow me space in your esteemed paper to voice my, and indeed, many Rwandans’ bitter disappointment that President Museveni failed to rise to the occasion at the 15th anniversary of the Liberation of our country.
In his acknowledgement speech, President Museveni once again showed the good old patronising and condescending attitude towards Rwanda, the Rwandan people and the leadership despite the prestigious award that they had just bestowed on him for the part he played in the liberation of Rwanda and the campaign against genocide.
The gist of his speech was that he is the man that conceived the idea of liberating Rwanda and that he is the one who made it happen. No one could fail to see the stark difference between his and Prime Minister Meles’ own speech in which he clearly stated that the Rwandan Patriotic Army, its leadership and Rwandans in general fought and won the battle to liberate their country, notwithstanding the ancillary support they received from him and President Museveni.
President Museveni forgot for a minute that the idea of liberating our country was not born yesterday or else he sought to distort the historical facts in an attempt to portray himself as a pan-Africanist angel of mercy, who made, shaped and tele-commanded the Rwandan Patriotic Army as it waged pitched and protracted battles, day in and day out.
This could not be further from the truth. In fact, President Museveni sought to use the occasion to stake a claim over the ownership of the liberation of Rwanda whereas the course of that struggle was defined, owned, and conducted by Rwandans themselves.
He tried, in vain, to extend the same attitude prevalent in Uganda where he has historically attributed every success registered through the sweat and toil of all Ugandans to himself and his brother.
The struggle to liberate our country started during the colonial era when Rwandan nationalists took up arms and resolved to resist and oust the colonists and also fight extremist, retrogressive and client regimes which were intent on dividing us. In the 1950s, way before the formation of the Rwandan Alliance for National Unity and subsequently the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), as progressive forces within the Rwandan political class were demanding independence from the Belgian colonialists, Gregory Kayibanda declared that he and his PARMEHUTU Party would prefer to have the country split into along ethnic lines and that PARMEHUTU would prefer continued Belgian rule.
In the 1960s Inyenzi fighters led a substained military campaign resisting the PARMEHUTU fascist regime. In 1979, Rwandans created the Rwandan Alliance for National Unity (RANU), the precursor to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), not in Kampala but in Nairobi.
This organisation had the objective of fighting for the liberation of Rwanda. This clearly shows that the desire for a better Rwanda was in the hearts and minds of Rwandans, young and old, long before President Museveni appeared on the scene.
Let me point out a number of misdemeanours in President Museveni’s speech, which left me wondering why he chose to indulge in a dual exercise of self-aggrandisement and false claims, on a day that was slated to be one of shared celebration and joy.
At the outset, he congratulated Rwandans on managing the “bloody events”. President Museveni, of all people, should know that the widespread massacres of the Tutsi that were committed constituted genocide.
To downplay them as bloody events and instead refer to the killings in 1959 as the genocide is dishonesty of the highest order hidden behind a more sinister motive.
Then President Museveni went on and on about his usual rhetoric of those “boys”, citing a few that he met at Ntare School, those he recruited into his rebel army and trained, and a few that he rewarded with military ranks here and there.
The insinuation was that here were a desperate bunch of idle young men and women who needed an occupation and any occupation would do. No, Mr President! These were people who had made a conscious decision to put an end to what seemed to be a condition of perpetual statelessness.
President Museveni’s guerrilla wars were a means to an end and he knows that very well. The fact of the matter is that when President Museveni started the guerrilla war in Uganda a good number of Rwandans took part in the campaign.
And, although it may be true that when the Banyarwanda officers and soldiers decided to start an armed struggle it may have complicated Uganda’s geo-strategic situation, President Museveni should have understood that theirs was a just cause, and that the Ugandan people needed to pay back for those soldiers’ contribution in their own liberation and the many sacrifices they made.
The notable omission in the whole speech was President Kagame, one of the brains behind our struggle and the man who was in the vanguard of our liberation war and the one who brought it to a successful conclusion. There was hardly any mention of his role in the liberation of Uganda and that of his Rwandan comrades.
In conclusion, let me say that no one doubts that President Museveni deserved the award and the honour he received on the 15th anniversary of Rwanda’s Liberation Day, an award that he received in his own right and in the name of Ugandans.
But it should be made clear that the struggle to liberate Rwanda was first and foremost a Rwandan affair and it will remain so. That struggle continues as the leadership seeks to steer the Rwandan people onto the development path.